A young boy must sew his beloved stuffed elephant back together after his dog gets hold of it; Gillingham uses this as a metaphor for mending broken hearts.
Unfortunately, the analogy does not work nearly as well as the gardening one in her previous book, How to Grow a Friend (2015). Children, who are literal by nature, will likely not see beyond the sewing of the stuffie at all to the larger point that lies beneath. To mend a heart, one needs gentle hands, the right tools, patches, and plenty of thread. Stitch by stitch, a heart can be mended, but you may need to fix it more than once, and if you hit a snag, look for helping hands. In the end, Gillingham writes that “the more patches and seams there are… // the bigger and stronger a heart can be,” a dubious claim whether one is talking about children’s hearts and feelings or a stuffed friend who has been repaired multiple times. Round-headed, rosy-cheeked, racially diverse tykes are the helping hands surrounding and supporting the redheaded boy at the center of the tale. Sewing implements, many of which may be unfamiliar to young readers, abound.
Heartbreak is a tough concept for young children to comprehend, and this metaphor doesn’t make it any easier. (Picture book. 4-8)