by Marianne McKee
Picture books can be wonderful vehicles for examining serious issues, and they are appreciated by all of us, not just the very young. Picture books tighten things up, and like poetry, they present the essence of things.
On a recent visit to my local library, I realized there are many picture books relating to death, usually of a wild animal, a pet, or a grandparent. But these are my favorites.
Old Coyote has been a part of my book family for some years, a treasure. It is a lovely story about the last day of his life, told from the point of view of the coyote, saying goodbye to his world and welcoming the next. The illustrations are soft and gentle, showing the natural environment and the story from a Native American perspective.
Saying Goodbye to Lulu is the story of a little girl saying goodbye to her very old dog, a dog she had grown up with. And how hard it is to let go of someone we love! This book shows this dilemma quite well. I ran across it on the display shelf in the local library and began reading it on the shelf. It is a different approach, more practical, but well done. It wasn’t long before I felt a slight pressure on my right hand, holding it gently back from turning the page. My eight-year old granddaughter, who had come to the library with me, was reading it, too, standing right next to me. Not out loud. Just letting it seep in, this story of an aging dog, its death, and the family to whom it brought much joy in its life. We read the story together, quietly, and I didn’t turn a page until she let me. Each of us had lost a precious cat that year.
We all suffer losses in our lives. Books like these help us through them. All of us.
Nancy Wood. Old Coyote. Illustrated by Max Grafe. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2004.
Corinne Demas. Saying Goodbye to Lulu. Illustrated by Ard Hoyt. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2004.