2 New Image Books Depict the Elusive Conceal-and-Search of Grief

By Andrew Arnold

By Matthew Cordell

“We solely have 42 extra Christmases till we’re useless.”

That is what my 4-year-old instructed me in mid-December earlier than bedtime. He has been testing out these sorts of musings on mortality loads currently. I shortly modified the topic, asking which he would favor, “PJ Masks” or dinosaur pajamas. The reality is, I’m afraid of participating him in these demise talks for concern of devastating him. “Everybody you recognize will die sometime. Many in your personal lifetime and the extra you’re keen on them the tougher will probably be to say goodbye.” The place do I start?

Image books are the proper medium by which to introduce one of many harder and sophisticated of life’s challenges: grief.

Andrew Arnold’s “What’s the Matter, Marlo?” follows a baby and her finest pal, Marlo, spending time collectively laughing as they learn a joke e-book and enjoying hide-and-seek. Sooner or later Marlo is upset. He’s unhappy and indignant. So indignant that his rage, a mass of darkish scribbles, fills the web page and obscures him. Simply as in hide-and-seek, the pal seems and appears till she finds Marlo, hiding in his grief. (His canine’s demise is hinted at visually.) The e-book concludes as they hug and cry collectively, “as a result of that’s what finest pals do.”

It’s superbly exact, and accessible in its simplicity. Not solely does it converse to grief in others, insightfully separating the individual from the (typically eruptive and unpredictable) feelings, however it additionally fashions empathy. The position of the pal is to be current, affected person and compassionate.

In Matthew Cordell’s “Bear Island,” we’re supplied an identical canvas, and the image is painted with Cordell’s signature sensitivity.

We observe a lady, Louise, on her personal emotional trek after the demise of the household canine. The e-book begins with sepia-toned illustrations, bleached and light like a forgotten T-shirt behind a station wagon. In her malaise, Louise rows out to the titular island, the place she encounters an ill-tempered bear in whom she acknowledges a well-recognized anger and unhappiness. Over time they turn out to be companions of their respective wanderings by means of grief.

“Some days, solely Louise was higher. Some days, solely Bear was higher.” Colours are launched to the palette as grief fades and happiness returns.

Not like “What’s the Matter, Marlo?,” “Bear Island” depicts a layered and sophisticated journey. We’re proven the true tragic nature of grief because it occurs to all of us. It’s a gradual course of with ups and downs and no fast fixes. Cordell speaks eloquently and respectfully to the common expertise of loss and restoration.

Authors comparable to Andrew Arnold and Matthew Cordell recognize the distinctive privilege of making protected areas for our youngsters to discover these multifaceted feelings. Their books promote self-awareness and understanding. After they’re closed, there could also be arduous conversations, and questions that don’t have any solutions, however we’re left with a comforting message: It is going to be OK if we’re right here for each other.

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