Sunday, June 13, 2010

Are You Sad, Little Bear?: A Book About Learning to Say Goodbye

Are You Sad, Little Bear?: A Book About Learning to Say Goodbye, written by Rachel Rivett and beautifully illustrated by Tina Macnaughton, follows a cub as he deals with the sadness he feels after his grandmother dies. He asks “Why can’t things always stay the same?” His mother encourages him to look for answers in the Wildwood. Little Bear visits various woodland creatures who are all saying goodbye to fall and preparing for winter. He expects them to feel sad. Instead, his friends seem content and peaceful. As Little Bear contemplates their views of saying goodbye, his own sadness becomes filled with wonder. The reader is left with a comforted feeling as the story closes.

What I Like: The illustrations are simply delightful. The story takes place in late fall, so the woods are ripe with bright colors. The time frame—fall fading into winter—serves as a nice parallel to the “seasons” in our lives. I also like how the author acknowledges Little Bear’s sadness but then helps him recognize our loved ones are going to a new home. One of my favorite lines is when Little Bear asks Sun if he is sad about leaving at the end of each day. The sun replies, “Is that how it seems, little one? No, I don’t die. When I set in your sky, I rise in another. Just because you can’t see me, it doesn’t mean I’m not there.” Because of its tender handling of the topic and rich illustrations, I think this book would make an excellent springboard to talk to a young child about death.

What I Dislike: First, the fact that Little Bear’s Grandmother died is not stated outright. Instead the author states, “Only the day before, Grandmother Bear had waved farewell. Then she had walked away for ever, as old bears do.” While I appreciate the gentle tone, it seems a little vague to me. Second, God is not mentioned in the story. The author only states, “And as he looked up at the host of sparkling starts in the heavens, he felt that his mother and his grandmother were also shining in the Great Heart that holds everything for always.” Again, sweetly said, but this might require some explaining by a parent.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: 3-6 years, although it might appeal to kids through age 8.

Publisher Info: Lion Children’s Books, 2010; ISBN 0825479045; hardcover picture book; $12.99

Buy it now at for $11.04

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