Always and Forever by Alan Durant is a child’s picture book about death, grief, and moving on. It’s very much the sort of book that I like to review here. But this review came about completely accidentally, and the surprise ultimately made me like it even more.
I sometimes check out kids’ books from the library with a minimum of attention to the content of the book. If the cover looks good, I open to the middle. If those pages don’t have too many words, and the illustrations are decent, the book goes in to my stack. My librarian readers are probably cringing now. :^)
So, due to my neglectful vetting, I sat down to read this book to my daughter today without a clue of what it was about. I figured it out as soon as I looked at the inside dust jacket, and had a moment’s pause. Our family dog died a month ago, and we talked about death and grief a lot then, but a story about death and grief seemed out of place today.
But I believe that one of the shortcomings of our modern culture is that we fool ourselves into thinking that death is rare and predictable. It is neither, and I want my daughter to know the vocabulary, and the concepts (especially that things get better!) about death before she has to experience death with an emotional component (there’s a big difference in the emotional impact of reading a book about death and having someone you love die.) So I read the book. And then I wrote this blog entry. ;^)
I’ve heard many parents of young kids say that they want to protect their children from the ills of the world. Actually, I’ve probably said it myself–it’s a pretty common and reasonable parenting belief. But, death isn’t really an “ill” of the world. Death is a normal part of life, and I was reminded that it’s the surprise of death that can sometimes be most painful.
When I teach parents about how to talk with their kids about sex (see my other blog) I talk a lot about the importance of giving the youngest kids the vocabulary to identify their body parts and functions. I remembered this as I was reading Always and Forever earlier today. I felt like I was giving the structure/framework of the “concept of death” to my daughter. Not as fun as some of our favorite books, but I was glad I did anyway. Check it out from your local public library or click below to look at it on amazon.
(note: I originally wrote this several months ago but it somehow didn’t get published, so I’m putting it up now.)