Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult, especially if you’re a child. Josh: Coming To Terms With the Death of a Friend, written by Stephanie Jeffs and illustrated by Jacqui Thomas, is a story about a little African-American boy whose friend has died. The friend is a grown-up, a neighbor, someone he knows very well and admired a great deal.
When Josh learns his friend Max has died, his first question is, “Why did Max have to die? I don’t want never to see him again.” His mom doesn’t attempt to answer the question; she simply says, “None of us wanted this to happen. . .It’s hard for everyone who knew him.”
“What happens when we die?” Josh wants to know. “Where is Max now?”
Again, his Mom doesn’t answer the first question, but gives this response to the second one, “Max’s body was so hurt that it couldn’t work any more, but the things that made Max special – his kindness and friendliness, all the things that made Max who he was, which we call his spirit – have gone to be with God.”
The story continues with Josh learning about coffins and cemeteries and funerals.
I thought the story would be about a child losing his best friend – another child; however, the story is about a child dealing with the loss of a special grown-up, someone who played a big part in his life.
The watercolor illustrations are bright, colorful and very kid-friendly.
What I Like: I really like the illustrations. They are expressive and greatly enhance the text.
What I Dislike: There is no mention of Josh’s father in this story, so perhaps Max played a father-figure role in his life. This is never fully explained, but it would have been nice to know.
Although the story provides some answers for children, and makes them realize it’s okay to hurt and cry and ask questions when someone dies, the author skirts around the real questions of “Why” and “What happens when you die?” I realize those are very tough questions for anyone to answer, but it would have been nice if the mother had at least made an attempt to address those issues.
Overall Rating: Good.
Age Appeal: 4-8 years.
Publisher Info: Abingdon Press, 2006: ISBN: 0687497191; Hardcover: $14.00.