National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Blessed Are the Little Ones Who Mourn

Children's Book Picks

BY Kerry Crawford and Patricia A. Crawford

November 2-8, 2008 Issue | Posted 10/28/08 at 2:49 PM

 

Just a few months shy of 5 years old, the little girl lost her mother. “After Mamma’s death, my disposition changed completely,” she wrote years later. “I, once so full of life and so open, became timid and retiring, sensitive to the extreme.”

The boy’s mother, remembered as the “soul of our home,” died of heart and kidney disease a month before his ninth birthday. Several years later, scarlet fever took the life of his older and only brother, a young physician.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Pope John Paul II, the girl and boy of these stories, experienced grief at an early age. Many children we know will do the same. As the Church remembers the souls in purgatory with special focus on All Souls Day — and throughout the month of November — we are also reminded how deeply loss can affect children.

Here are some books to assist parents as they help sensitive children deal with the unchangeable reality of Hebrews 9:27: “t is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment …”


THE SADDEST TIME

by Norma Simon

illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers

Albert Whitman & Company, 1992

40 pages, $6.95

The author reminds young readers that each year on their birthdays people celebrate the day they were born. Just as this life has a beginning, she says, it also has an end. When someone dies, it’s a time for feeling sad because that person is “no longer alive to talk to, to play with, to love.” Three stories recall the deaths of a favorite uncle, a young boy killed in a bicycling accident and an ailing grandmother. The presentation is reassuring (“Most people live long lives”) but also realistic (“Once in a while, someone dies much too young, much too soon”). Ages 4 to 8.


WHAT’S HEAVEN?

by Maria Shriver

illustrated by Sandra Speidel

Golden Books, 2007

32 pages, $15

Kate wonders where Great-Grandma has gone after dying. Her mother explains that she is now in heaven: a peaceful place where God will love her forever. She prepares Kate for a visit to the funeral home and the burial. Kate’s mother reminds her that, while Great-Grandma’s body will be placed in the ground, her soul is already in the company of God and the angels. Knowing this helps to take away some of the sadness Kate feels in no longer having Great-Grandma to sing to her and to tell her stories. Shriver’s presentation of how souls get to heaven is incomplete at best, so parents could use this book as a springboard to explain the Church’s full teachings on salvation and sanctification. Ages 5 and older.


I REMEMBER MISS PERRY

by Pat Brisson

illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

Dial Books, 2006

32 pages, $16.99

Students are grief-stricken when Miss Perry, a favorite teacher, dies in a car accident on her way to school. Parents, teachers, counselors and the principal all try to comfort them. Healing begins when the children remember how each day Miss Perry had a “fondest wish” for them, from planting daffodils and square dancing, to being kind to one another. When the counselor asks what Miss Perry’s fondest wish might be for them now, the young students come up with ideas that give them hope and help them heal. Ages 4 to 8.


GRANDMA’S SCRAPBOOK

by Josephine Nobisso

illustrated by Maureen Hyde

Gingerbread House, revised 2000

32 pages, $8.95

A young teenager pages through her grandma’s scrapbook. At the beginning, Grandma had hair as “black as crows.” The girl remembers this as she looks at the snapshots and finds a braided lock of Grandma’s hair and wisps of her own baby hair. Another snapshot shows Grandma pushing her in a stroller in the garden. Pressed and faded flowers make the memory all the sweeter. With each scrapbook page, the girl recalls the summers spent with her grandmother, whose hair grows white as the years pass. Now gone, Grandma retains a place in the girl’s heart as she holds her treasured book of memories. Ages 9 and older.


HELP ME SAY GOODBYE

by Janis Silverman

illustrated by Laurie Duren

Fairview Press, 1999

32 pages, $9.95

This workbook, subtitled Activities for Helping Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies, helps children use words and pictures to express their grief. The text guides children as they prepare to visit a seriously ill or injured friend or family member. It gently explains that some people don’t get better, and it’s important to say good-bye before they die. Following the death of a special person, children can respond to a variety of prompts to help them communicate their feelings, needs and wishes — and to honor those they have lost. Ages 4 to 8.


SAD ISN’T BAD

by Michaelene Mundy

illustrated by R. W. Alley

Abbey Press, 1998

64 pages, $5.95

“A grieving child needs to know that the world is still safe, life is good, and hurting hearts do mend,” the author writes in a foreword to parents, teachers and other caring adults. Directed to the grieving child, each short section of this book (“It’s Okay to Cry,” “It’s Not Your Fault” and “Trust That You Will Be Taken Care Of”) goes a long way in accomplishing that goal. References to talking to God, going to heaven, asking God’s forgiveness for wrongs committed against the loved person, and praying for those who have died add an often missing and comforting spiritual perspective. Subtitle: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing With Loss. Ages 4 to 8.


THE OLD DOG

by Charlotte Zolotow

illustrated by James Ransome

Harper Collins, 1995

32 pages, $16.99

Many children first encounter death when a cherished pet dies. In this story, Ben’s old dog didn’t open her eyes or wag her tail one morning. Ben’s dad quietly tells his son, “She’s dead.” Throughout the day, Ben learns what that means. His dog can no longer greet him at the door, run with him down the hill or fetch the stick Ben likes to toss to her. “Death,” Ben realizes, “means someone isn’t there.” Oil paintings capture Ben’s feelings as he comes to understand that his dog is gone forever. Ages 4 to 8.

The Crawford sisters

write from Pittsburgh.