A debut book steers young readers and their families through experiences of loss.
Twin stories in rhyming verses gently treat the death of a pet dog and parental divorce. The language is simple, often lilting, and should be attractive to grade school readers. Adolphe’s list of definitions at the back of each tale welcomes children to the pleasures of learning more words. Some entries seem a bit surprising, such as “Die/Died,” given the obvious subject matter of the volume, but others are both charming and important: “Embrace” (“to put arms around someone”), “Grief,” “Love,” “Embarrassed,” and “Ashamed.” The list encourages readers to accept the truth of their feelings. “Skipper Can No Longer Play” tells the story of a beloved dog who ages, still eager to see his boy, Oscar J, but is slowing down in his activities and agility. One day when Oscar comes home from school, Skip is gone. Mom explains that this disappearance is difficult but necessary: “Just as each year green leaves age, / Turn brown and fall dead from a tree, / All that is now living one day will die.” At first, Oscar thinks it must be his fault, for not minding his mother or not eating his vegetables, but she reassures him that something more mysterious is at work, and that Skip can be held in the memory. “Memory” and “Imagination” would have been useful terms for the definitions list, as they name the abstract concepts the book works hard to illustrate through narrative and dialogue. Oscar’s resourceful mother tells him to picture Skip frolicking and running, even misbehaving. As the mental images add up, some with humorous memories attached, the pain lessens. “Daddy Can No Longer Stay” likewise reaches for a comforting, positive outcome; Oscar is still not to blame, and he can look forward to seeing his father often, just in a different house. “So,” asks Oscar, “does this mean you both still love me and want me as your son?” His dad answers that they were the “proudest parents on earth!” the very day he was born.
A compassionate guide that can help parents and kids with tough questions.