the days grow short
I’m in the autumn of the year
So sang Frank Sinatra in It Was a Very Good Year, one of my favorite Sinatra songs, especially as my son sang it solo in concert on my birthday several years ago (proud Mama moment!).
While for many, fall signals sugary holidays and the promise of family get-togethers, for others, the falling leaves and withered blooms signal mortality. That Halloween, All Saints Day, All Souls Day and Día de los Meurtos all loom may be no coincidence. For our family, both of my parents entered life in September, and my father left us in September 1997 and my mother this past October. My mother-in-law’s passing was 30 Novembers ago. If I read, and review, a few more serious books these next few weeks, perhaps you’ll understand why. And thankfully, there are several heart-filled picture books that tackle the difficult subjects of aging, memory loss and death, and grief.
Author & Illustrator: Benji Davies
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2016
Themes: loss; death; intergenerational; grandparent
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
With subtlety and grace, Benji Davies paints a poignant and ultimately uplifting picture of loss.
At the bottom of Syd’s garden, through the gate and past the tree, is Grandad’s house. Syd can let himself in any time he likes. But one day when Syd comes to call, Grandad isn’t in any of the usual places. He’s in the attic, where he ushers Syd through a door, and the two of them journey to a wild, beautiful island awash in color where Grandad decides he will remain. So Syd hugs Grandad one last time and sets sail for home. Visiting Grandad’s house at the bottom of the garden again, he finds it just the same as it’s always been — except that Grandad isn’t there anymore. Sure to provide comfort to young children struggling to understand loss, Benji Davies’s tale is a sensitive and beautiful reminder that our loved ones live on in our memories long after they’re gone.
Read my review here.
The Remember Balloons
Author: Jessie Oliveros
Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/September 2018
Themes: aging; memory loss; intergenerational
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
What’s Happening to Grandpa meets Up in this tender, sensitive picture book that gently explains the memory loss associated with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.
But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!
Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.
Read an interview with Jessie Oliveros on Susanna Leonard Hill’s Tuesday Debut.
I paired these books because both are intergenerational, showcasing the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren. In Grandad’s Island, Davies utilizes a sea journey and a beautiful tropical island as metaphors for death and the afterlife. In The Remember Balloons, Oliveros utilizes balloons as metaphors for memories that pass from the elderly to younger family members. Both deal sensitively with topics that are difficult for children (and adults). It’s clear that both authors had a special relationship with their grandparents – these picture books are filled with heart.
Looking for similar reads?
See Lane Smith’s Grandpa Green, reviewed at Children’s Books Heal; Glenn Ringtved/Charlotte Pardi’s Cry Heart But Never Break, reviewed at Brain Pickings; Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle, also reviewed at Brain Pickings; and Maria Shriver/Sandra Speidel’s What’s Happening to Grandpa, reviewed by Richard R Blake.