Archive for August 31st, 2021

by Sam Juliano

    In a melancholic pictorial prologue initiated by a worn, stationary baseball and continued with a dreamy depiction of a short-haired girl playing catch with the family canine, Bear Island’s soulful flashback introduction concludes with a tearful goodbye to the pet known as Charlie in brown tinted sketch drawings that are imbued with the aura of memory.  Wall pictures of the departed family member and the gathering up of its food bowl and toys bring wrenching closure to a period of time Dad, Mom and Louise would do anything to relive.  Then a double page title spread of a butterfly perched on a rock protruding from the sea, done in watercolor, pen and ink achieves widescreen aquatic resplendence, and the story moves to the present.

Picture books about death and the ensuing grief have slowly appeared more frequently in recent years as children, with parental support have come to terms with the difficulty in losing a loved one, and how to make good on the positive energy offered by other family members and especially devoted friends.  Most famously, E.B. White’s 1953 Charlotte’s Web opened more tear ducts than any children’s book up till the time of its publication, and decades later for many it remained the quintessential example of overcoming intense grief, depicting death as a necessary part of life.  Mo Willems’ and Jon Muth’s City Dog, Country Frog examined the cycle of life in similar terms, one where rebirth displaces sadness with the forging of a new friendship.  The same formula was powerfully employed in two recent Caldecott Honor winners, The Rough Patch by Brian Lies and Big Cat Little Cat by Elisha Cooper. (more…)

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