Though many parents tend to shield their young children from the realities of terminal illness, this picture book looks at death through the concerned and loving eyes of a child who begins to understand the concept behind the "circle of life."
When Zayde comes to live in Rachel’s house, it is “because he is dying.” Watching him sit and sleep day and night in a sleeper-chair with an oxygen tube, Rachel instinctively knows that he is close to death and begins to question where he will go after his last breath. Megan says he will go to heaven, and Hakim says he will go to Paradise, but Zayde's Jewish; is there a place for him? Through this question-and-answer text, listeners are told of the inevitability gently, with Zayde’s acceptance and feelings of “shalom,” peace and completeness, and the rabbi’s explanation of “Olam Ha-Ba,” the Jewish belief in the “World to Come.” Most importantly Rachel learns that memories carried in family stories will keep her grandfather alive in her heart. Sinykin does a commendable job of dispelling fear with empathy and tenderness through some very direct yet positive answers to a child’s uncertainty. Linoleum prints created with watercolors and colored pencils in muted tones reflect a spiritually calm and sometimes whimsical ambiance, matching the text’s gentle tone.
Though Rachel's quest takes place within a Jewish context, her emotions and situation are near universal, and this artful book handles both well. (Picture book. 5-10)