In BearDen’s debut children’s book, a young boy remembers his recently deceased grandfather while visiting a ranch.
Six-year-old Jeff, along with his mom, dad and friend Maria, goes on a two-hour car ride through Texas Hill Country to his family’s ranch. The trip is bittersweet, however, because Grandpa Bud won’t be there. Jeff grapples with big questions as he tries to understand what it means when someone dies: Where did Grandpa go? Will he come back? Jeff’s parents and Grandmother Rene gently help Jeff understand and remind him to remember the happy times with his grandfather and all the things he taught them. The family members drive around the ranch’s pasture looking for cows, go fishing and watch Dad train a new colt, all the while sharing memories of Grandpa and his silly sense of humor. Jeff teaches Maria how to feed cows and watch out for snakes, and Dad explains how longhorns are raised. At the end of the day, they spend time with Uncle Joe at the campfire, where they eat dinner, roast marshmallows and sing a song about Grandpa. In this book, BearDen uses simple, authentic language to describe the grief and confusion that children feel after the death of a loved one. She also captures a young boy’s viewpoint regarding everyday life events: “Maria could run as fast as Jeff even though she was only five.” The story includes many engaging details about ranch life, including the real reason that cowboys wear bandannas. Sensitive readers should be aware, however, that the author doesn’t shy away from the more gruesome aspects of working with cows, including the painful practice of branding: “ ‘Does it hurt?’ cried Maria. ‘Yes, and the calves are scared because they’re away from their mothers and being held down.’ ” Occasionally, some of the ranching terminology in the story is unclear, and more illustrations might have helped young readers visualize unfamiliar items, such as a sand pile inside a giant rubber tire and a stock tank used for fishing. The basic illustrations that do appear are colorful and effective, though some have grainy outlines that detract from their overall quality.
A matter-of-fact kids’ book about coping with grief and working on a cow ranch.