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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cry, Heart, But Never Break. Written by Glenn Ringtved and illustrated by Charlotte Pardi. Translated from Danish by Robert Moulthrop. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2016. $24.95 ages 5 and up

"Time passed.
Finally, Death was ready. He
placed his bony hands over his
cup to signal "no more." Then
Leah, who had been watching
Death all night, reached out and
took his hand.
"Oh, Death," she said, "our
grandmother is so dear to us,
why does she have to die?"

The four children live with their grandmother, surrounded by love and kindness. She has been their caregiver for a number of years and their life is good. When a visitor comes to the door - a tall visitor dressed all in black and carrying a scythe - they know that their grandmother's time has come. Death is upon her.

The children look on in great sadness. Death does not seem any too happy either - stooped over the kitchen table and evidently not pleased with the task at hand. After accepting their offer of coffee in an attempt to forestall their Grandmother's demise, Death assures the children that they have nothing to worry about it concerning his demeanor.

"Some people say Death's heart is as dead and black as a piece of coal,
but that is not true. Beneath his inky cloak, Death's heart is as red as
the most beautiful sunset and beats with a great love of life."

Death uses a story to help explain what is happening to their grandmother, and that it is her time. It is a story of Joy and Delight, of Sorrow and Grief. The four met, fell in love, spent their lives in happiness and all died on the same day. It is the way of things.

"... What would life be worth
if there were no death? Who would enjoy
the sun if it never rained? Who would
yearn for day if there was no night?"

Death is not a subject easily talked about with children; yet, they have an innate understanding of the way that the world works and have a great capacity for acceptance. Kids who must face the loss of a loved one can find solace in books (and conversations) that help them see they are not alone in such sorrow. The intense sadness felt is inevitable and cannot be resisted, rather allowed. That experience becomes a part of life as it is lived.

I'm not convinced that this is a book to be read with a group. One-on-one with a child who is dealing with the death of a loved one would seem most appropriate, I think. Allowing time for any discussion that might arise would surely be helpful to the one grieving.

"Cry, heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life."

It is a gentle, and reassuring way to introduce a difficult, yet inevitable, topic.

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