Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On death and dying

My husband lost a friend today. A friend that wasn't very old, quickly lost his life. It has been looming over our home for days now. We have been living, waiting for the news. I got to thinking about what types of children's books deal with death and dying? I immediately thought of all of the books that deal with the death of grandparents. There are a lot of those out there. That is a very real issue for children because a lot of them lose grandparents as children.

I have some chapter books that deal with death and dying:

1. Charlotte's Web- We wept openly this school year when that spider died. I heard the children discussing the importance of friendship, loyalty, and that very special spider. We loved her dearly, not just the character, but the friend she was to Wilbur. She is a very special spider. We talked about her qualities throughout the year, when a friend wasn't being kind, we remembered Charlotte.

2. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane- I happened upon this book because of the Tales of Desperaux, the same author, Kate Dicamillo. This book is about a rabbit, a toy rabbit, that experiences what it is to love, and then loss. In this book one of his owners, named Ruthie, is poor, very sick, and so little. The rabbit grows to love her and be loved for the first time in his existence. Ruthie dies. My students stored Ruthie in their hearts the way Edward did. He talks about how Ruthie's death hardens his heart to never love again. My students understood that opening his heart meant that he might be hurt again. We discussed that after such loss people must choose like Edward to love again.

3. The Boxcar Children- while not a story about dying, the parents are dead, they are orphans. I remember thinking this when I was young and listening to my teacher, why had the parents died? Why would they leave these four children all alone? What was going to happen to them? Why were they so alone?

Do you see how these books draw you in? Do you see the emotional attachments they create for children? I do not think that my students will ever forget how we felt about Charlotte. We loved her to the bitter end, we also learned that our reward for loving her was the hope of her 514 children. They lived on, we learned that. We also learned that it was Wilbur's responsibility, as a friend, to continue to care for them, long into the future. A lesson about life. It is our responsibility to continue to care for those left behind.
Lessons, on death, and dying.


Jen Barney said...

Ahhh... all great books- I hope that S. is doing o.k. Give him my thoughts & prayers...

Katie Dicesare said...

So sorry to hear about your husband's friend. It is funny that I just had a friend email me about books about death. I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions and will be praying for you and your loss.

Stateline Raceway said...

What about the Living Tree by Leo Buscalia (SP)? I think he did another one called Freddy the Leaf. Sorry to hear about Scott's friend. When he's ready, have him check out my blog. It's all the stuff that interests me. We could talk about fish stuff and football, the Big Ten Season is just around the corner.

Stacey Shubitz said...

First, I'm sorry for your loss.

Second, as for loss and loneliness there's Missing May by Cynthia Rylant and The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park.