“Mama, me, and Pepper, / always been this way. / Never been without him, / even for a day.”
A young African-American boy sure loves his big cat Pepper, but one day Pepper won’t play. The next day Pepper won’t drink or purr. After the inevitable occurs, mother and son bury the cat in a flowerbed. When the boy asks if Pepper will be scared down there, Mama responds, “No, sugar, no, / I’ll tell you why. / His spirit is forever— / it can fly, fly, fly.” The boy doesn’t understand until one day he holds still: The grass tickles his ankles like Pepper’s fur, and he hears Pepper’s purr in the wind. The boy’s heart opens up, and he knows Pepper will always be with him. Castillo’s mixed-media illustrations of a rural, single-parent family are smudgily warm and comforting.
The entirely secular explanation of death and the fact that there is no substitution pet added to the family in the end make this a very worthwhile addition to bibliotheraputic literature for the young. (Picture book. 3-8)