Submitter: If it were up to me, I would put a match to every specimen of this genre. But I’m only a volunteer, so all I can do is shudder quietly.
Genre: Picture books about the death of an aging pet.
Distinguishing feature: On the last page, the child gets a new pet of the same species, and all is happiness.
Lessons: Animals are fungible and your feelings aren’t real.
Sure, there is a place for these books. It’s in the History of Child Psychology section of academic libraries–not in the picture-book section of a public library. There exist death-of-a-pet books that don’t have the tacked-on happy ending.
WorldCat–which doesn’t seem to know about our local library system, though it knows about several adjacent, still smaller counties–says there are hundreds of copies out there. Hoarders of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your shelf space. Disappointingly, the book was donated by a local hospice organization. They generally have better sense; did they not read the book all the way through?
Holly: I don’t like these casual happy endings either. It’s a great idea to have books for kids about the death of a pet, but maybe they could show how it’s ok to grieve, families sharing stories about their beloved pet, or even making a memorial of some sort. It’s also ok to get a new pet – eventually – and to be happy about that, but maybe show the family still remembering their lost pet so it doesn’t just look like a quick replacement.
Submitter: Dwell upon that last picture. That, dear reader, is the face of a child who has just lost a beloved pet.