Submitter: Hey, it’s your funeral.
Holly: “Hello. You’re going to die.” Best intro ever.
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: This book was written to help kids whose families were affected by SIDS [sudden infant death syndrome]. The cover alone is off putting enough for me- Stacy’s parents ooh and ahh over their new baby while Stacy herself seems to be plotting something. Sure enough, in the pages, the….interesting watercolor illustrations lead me to believe that Stacy definitely has more to do with her sister’s death than SIDS alone. She does not like the idea of having a new sister, and as in [the first image, below] seems to be contemplating her a little too seriously. When the big bad does happen we come to [image 2, below] – the adults are talking about what happened during the funeral I think. Stacy, however, looks like she needs to start plotting other accidents…THEY’RE ON TO HER. In the last photo, Stacy regards the picture of her and her sister sadly. Maybe she wouldn’t have minded being a big sister? Nah, being the only child rules!
Holly: Awwww, poor Stacy. I think she just looks sad, and possibly a little jealous of the attention.The second picture just looks to me like she really doesn’t understand what’s going on. I’d like to see more of the text of the story. Does it explain what SIDS is and ensure the child it is not her fault the baby died, even if she was jealous? I’m on the fence about this one until I see more of the storyline. It’s close to 20 years old, though, so it should definitely be looked at for condition and currency of the information provided, if nothing else.
When Bad Things Happen to Good Kids: