Tag Archives: death

Where is Heaven Anyway? by Dunnett Albert

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Where is Heaven Anyway? A Hattie the Hummingbird Story by Dunnett Albert and illustrated by Catherine Wilder, picture e-book, 16 pages, published by Henley Publishing in 2016.

Little Hattie the Hummingbird is sad because her friend Auggie the Frog has gone away. Hattie’s mum helps her to understand that Auggie has gone to heaven, but that he will still be with Hattie, in the world around her, in her heart and in her dreams.

Where is Heaven Anyway? is a lovely rhyming story that explains the concept of heaven using language and ideas appropriate for a younger audience. It is heartwarming and tender, reminding us that our loved ones will always be in our hearts and memories, even when they can no longer be with us physically. This book is a great way to start a conversation about death and what happens afterwards, so I recommend reading it with the child/children to help them understand (and to answer their questions!).

Where is Heaven Anyway? contains truly beautiful watercolour illustrations. They are full of colour and life, yet retain a softness that suits the gentle nature of the story.

Where is Heaven Anyway? is suitable for primary school children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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allthebrightplacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, novel, 388 pages, published by Penguin Books in 2015.

Theodore Finch is singled out at school as a “freak”, and he has a tendency to get into trouble. His family life is not ideal, and he is battling some pretty strong inner demons. Violet Markey is part of the popular crowd, but she lost her sister in a car accident the previous winter and can’t seem to move forward. When the two meet at the top of the school bell tower an unlikely friendship is forged.

All the Bright Places touched my heart and made me cry; it spoke to me, it moved me, it reminded me that every day could be my last, so I should really live.

This poignant tale is a bit of a modern day Romeo and Juliet. It is intensely emotional and incredibly difficult to put down. Told through the alternate views of Finch and Violet, the story is beautifully written, complex and and wonderful.

The characters are rich, and honest, unique and deep. And heartbreakingly tragic. Violet and Finch, Finch and Violet, I can’t stop thinking about them. I desperately wanted to swoop in to fix all of their problems. And the pages flew by as I became invested in them, both as individuals and as a couple. I loved the wandering Indiana project as a way to discover the state, and to give this unusual pair time to really get to know one another. Quirky Finch, I am a little in love with you, and beautiful Violet, I’m a little in love with you too. Where were you when I needed you in high school?

I related to Finch like no other fictional character I can recall. I know his pain, his joy, his fear, I know him, I’ve been him. Thank you Jennifer Niven for creating Finch, I will never forget him. And thank you for Violet, I hope their lives will help others.

All the Bright Places contains themes of mental illness, domestic violence, death and suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these issues, please seek help, you could be saving a life. Know that you are not alone. There are lists of places to get help at the end of this book for a number of countries, including Australia; Beyond Blue and Lifeline can help.

All the Bright Places is suitable for high school students and beyond. I highly recommend it to all high schoolers and their parents.

 

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

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deadgrilscoverThe Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender, paperback novel, 329 pages, published by Scholastic in 2015.

When Delia’s distant aunt dies and leaves her an old house, her family is surprised to discover that it is actually a mansion previously used as a mental asylum. Delia’s parents had planned to do it up over the summer prior to selling it, despite their daughter’s protests. Neither Delia nor Janie want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere in a creepy old house, but that’s about all they can agree on. When some strange things begin to happen to Delia, she decides to leave, even if her parents refuse to go too. Except, the house won’t let her leave…

This was a ghost story told from the perspective of the ghost. It wasn’t as scary as I had thought it would be, but it was still interesting. It delivered a few turns I wasn’t expecting, and it pushed at my preconceived notions of ghosts. I’ve always thought of ghost time as passing much the same way as real time passes, so I was intrigued by the idea that time could slow or speed up for the ghosts in this story. When months or even years can pass within a few breaths, it would certainly reduce the likelihood of boredom during a haunting, especially when so few people visit the old asylum. The fact that the ghosts could learn to manipulate their surrounds, such as picking up small objects or opening doors, yet they could also walk through walls, and be hurt, was quite interesting.

The house is really creepy, with it’s abandoned rooms, old leather restraints and eerie corridors. And that’s before you know for sure that it is haunted and that an evil force has overtaken the building! I liked the descriptive qualities of the writing, particularly the way the ghosts were described. The ghosts came alive for me (no pun intended!), especially Florence and Eliza.

The story itself was compelling, and kept me reading fairly swiftly. I really wanted to know what would happen to Delia, and to the house and its ghostly inhabitants. It was a good length for a teen novel. It also wasn’t too complicated or frightening, so younger teens could also enjoy it. The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall was different to other ghostly novels I’ve read, in a good way, and I enjoyed reading it.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall is suitable for high school students. Fans of horror and ghost stories should enjoy this journey into the world after death.

The Protected by Claire Zorn

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protectedcoverThe Protected by Claire Zorn, paperback novel, 254 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2014.

Life for Hannah is far from normal. It’s only been a year since her sister died, her father was crippled and her mother disappeared into herself. Life was crap for Hannah even before Katie died. She was being severely bullied by the kids at school, harassed, assaulted, cyber-bullied. Having a dead sister has stopped the bullying, but her wounds will take a long time to heal. Her life is screwed up as she paddles the deep waters of grief and guilt and pain. Though her days are dark, some hope seeps into her life when new boy, Josh, takes an interest in her, and she begins to build a rapport with the school counsellor.

I loved Claire Zorn’s previous book, The Sky So Heavy, but I love The Protected even more. It was a heart-rending tale of loss and survival, of guilt and hope. Tears may have been spilt whilst reading… but there were hopeful smiles too. The plot was compelling and very realistic. I read it quickly and thought about it for quite a while after I’d finished.

After the accident, Hannah’s parents were broken. Her father was physically crippled from his injuries, and her mother fell into her grief and forgot to keep living. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of losing a child, but they still had Hannah, and she needed them more than ever. They failed her. I can’t help thinking that Katie was their mother’s favourite, and because she couldn’t move forward, she almost lost both her daughters. What incredibly engulfing pain she must have been in to let Hannah down like this. I feel sad just thinking about it. This was a realistic insight into what the loss of a child can do to the family unit.

Hannah got under my skin, she kept me awake at night, she made me feel her pain, her guilt, her grief, her burden, her loneliness. And then from the depths she made me feel hope. I felt compassion for Hannah, but I also liked her. She was quiet and studious, but she was also full of strength. She was rather distrustful of Josh at first, but I liked the way that he persisted in getting to know her for her, irrespective of what the other kids thought.

I didn’t really like Katie. She seemed superficial, egotistical and selfish, but she probably would have grown past that had she survived her teenage years. Her relationship with Hannah might have had a chance to improve beyond high school, but during their teen years, Katie was pretty mean to Hannah. She was more concerned with her image than with how her sister was coping with school, with the fact that she had no friends, with the intense bullying. How does a sister watch that and not try to help? Hannah always lived in her sister’s shadow, and even in death Katie lingered over her.

The Protected is an incredible book that should be read by all Australian high school students. I thoroughly recommend it. I am excited to see what Claire Zorn produces next!

* The Protected was the winner of the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.

The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild and Julie Vivas

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IMG_3948The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Julie Vivas, paperback picture book, first published by Margaret Hamilton Books in 1989, this edition published by Scholastic Australia Pty Limited in 2004.

James and Jessie live on a farm with lots of animals, but only one cat, William. As James goes about his jobs on the farm, William goes with him, he curls up on his lap in the evenings and on the bed at night. And then James dies suddenly and Jessie falls deep into grief, shutting William out, letting him run wild and become mean, something he never was with James. To move forwards, Jessie must work on her friendship with William and regain his trust.

A poignant tale of friendship and loss, beautifully spun for younger children, The Very Best of Friends will touch your heart. It is a reminder that all relationships need work, and if you fail to tend them, they will wither, but with a little love, kindness and attention they might thrive again.

While the story is beautiful, the illustrations are distinctive and just gorgeous. I love the way that William is depicted, and how he changes from the well-tended cat to the wild thing he becomes after James dies.

The Very Best of Friends is suitable for primary school children. It is a book I read as a young child,  and I am now sharing it with my own children. This wonderful picture book can be used to start a discussion on the complicated issues of loss and grief, and that life must go on. Though something sad happens, the friendship that blooms between Jessie and William is lovely and inspiring. It is important to keep living your life even when you have lost someone, and I found this book to be helpful in explaining that to my children.

 

* The Very Best of Friends won the 1990 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Picture Book category.

 

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood

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IMG_1398The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood, hardback picture book, published by Penguin Group (Australia) in 2013.

Peter and his father are forced to flee their home during the war. They take with them a book in a small iron box. This book is special to Peter’s father, and is the last remaining book after the local library was bombed. The road to safety is long , cold and arduous. When Peter’s father dies, he struggles on, taking the box with him, but when he can go no further, he buries the box beneath a tree. Peter escapes with his life, but he never forgets the iron box holding the treasured book.

The Treasure Box is a poignant story of war, death and loss. Peter loses everything he has ever known, yet he never forgets his father, his home or the treasured book. Some things are more important than gold, silver and rubies. Peter’s book is about his people, the people that were persecuted and forced from their homes, it is an important part of their history. When everything is lost, we still have our history and our memories. The Treasure Box reminds us of the importance of the written word and of history, which can help shape the future for the better.

The illustrations in The Treasure Box were perfectly matched to the story, creating just the right tone as the story progresses. Using subtle shadowing made some of the pictures appear to rise from the page, or created a looking-through-a-window effect. I also liked that some of the pages had parts made up of ripped texts, as if they had been made from the bombed library books.

This is a thought-provoking read for both young and old, and I found it incredibly sad. My preschooler and second grader were shocked when Peter’s father died, and the refugees buried him by the side of the road. They have never been exposed to war or its consequences, and this book was a real eye-opener. They asked a lot of questions, many of which I could not answer. They wanted to know why anyone would go to war, why they would force people to leave their homes, why they would bomb innocent people, why they would kill children, and how can we stop war. I wish I knew the answers and the solutions, and I wish no one had to endure the atrocities of war. The Treasure Box gave us a sorrowfully beautiful, age appropriate and heartfelt opening to discuss this very complicated and saddening topic.