Posts Tagged ‘Grief and loss’


by Sara Pennypacker

ISBN 9780008158286

Twelve-year-old Peter, finds a lonely, orphaned baby fox. His father suggests the kit should be left to die but Peter rescues it, cares for it and the two become inseparable, best friends. Peter’s father enlists in the military so Peter has to live with his grandfather. On the way to grandfather’s house, Peter is forced to return Pax to the wild. They are separated and Peter is heartbroken. His guilt at leaving his fox eats away at him. He misses Pax so much, that in utter desperation, he packs his bag and runs away, determined to find his companion. Pax also misses Peter and sets out on own journey too.

The story of Peter and Pax is beautifully written. The language and style often made me stop and reread the sentences or paragraphs just to soak in the language and imagery. The story of loss, grief, separation, guilt and loneliness is often sad, but it is also hopeful.

Peter’s pain is palpable and the story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. I loved Peter’s vulnerability, but also his determination to be reunited with Pax. Told in alternate points of view chapters, this is just such a wonderful story to read.

Pax : Journey home

ISBN 9780008470289

Oh my goodness, what a sequel. Peter has suffered even more loss after his father was killed in the war. I can feel Peter’s heart breaking with every sentence. Now orphaned, he is determined to be strong and not let anyone, or anything, get close to him, for fear of losing anyone else. In his young life, he has suffered one loss after another, so he builds walls all around himself but the reality is, people need other people. Leaving Viola, the old woman who has been caring for him, Peter sets out to start a new life and joins the Water Warriors, a group of people trying to fix the land after the damage from the war. In a parallel storyline Pax now has his own family but needs help when one of the young kits gets very sick.

So begins the journey to be reunited.

Trust and love are big themes here. Pax and Pax: Journey home are both very special books to treasure, and to read again and again. I loved both books and Peter and Pax will stay with me for a long time. Oh yeah, tissues may be needed! Quality writing and storytelling at its best. Great to read alone, great for a class read aloud, and perfect to share as a family read.

Just remember

By Donna Blabler

ISBN 9781927229729

Lighthouse Media Group

After a tragic car accident, grief, loss, and guilt are now part of Em’s life. Her mother’s breakdown and inability to care for Em has meant she now lives far away with her nan. A new school, new friends, and a mermaid are all part of her new life but it is the old life and guilt that is eating away at her.

A detention kept her late at school and when her family came to collect her, there was an accident. Em’s father was one of the people killed in the accident and she blames herself. But is Em really to blame, is her guilt necessary? The author Donna Blabler weaves a story about loss and how we take on guilt, real or misconceived.

Em struggles initially at her new school. With the wrong uniform, shoes, and jumper, everything seems to be a total misfit, including Em herself. She puts up barriers but slowly, with the help of some new friends, the barriers come down. Em also has a secret. Em finds the tree that she and her dad used to sit under during holiday times and while she sits there remembering him and happier times, she discovers a mermaid. As the two build up a friendship, truths are revealed but there is also trouble lurking by, with an elderly man who demands Em keep away from the area.

It is not a long novel and there is lots happening but the story flows smoothly. For all its mysteries and sadness, and fantasy, it is a gentle and warm story dealing with real issues.

Great for 10 – 14 year olds.

Omeletta Hen

By Janelle Wilkey

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

ISBN 9781775436393



Omeletta is a beautiful hen but she is also incredibly stubborn. Omeletta lays her eggs and leaves them all over the place.  She lays them in the garden, in a shoe and even on a bed.  Nelson is so frustrated as he can never find the eggs when he wants them. He puts a plan to work but Omeletta is having none of it. Her determination to do things her way is very strong.

A wonderfully, humorous story with delightful illustrations that make you smile. We all need to be a bit like Omeletta and learn to stand up for ourselves especially when we feel very strongly about certain things. And for Nelson, sometimes we also need to learn to compromise.


The hug blanket

By Chris Gurney

Illustrated by Lael Chisholm

ISBN 9781775436348

“It smells like sunshine.

It sounds like whispers.

It looks like rainbows…

It feels like love.”

The hug blanket is a more serious story but one sadly,  most of us can relate to. Grief and the loss of a grandparent is hard at any time but this sweet picture book is one to share together as it offers some support, knowing that you are not alone in your grief. Other children experience loss too.

A young girl and her little brother spend time at the beach with their Nana. She loves everything Nana does and cherishes their time together. They hunt for shells on the beach, bake together, and sharing the best of times. Sadly, one day dad tells her Nana has died. There was time to say goodbye. The girl misses her Nana very much and is caught up in her grief and sadness. Nana had made blankets for the family. It is this blanket that the girl cherishes as it holds all the love and memories from her Nana.

The hug blanket is an important book and beautifully done. The illustrations are warm and tender and the language makes its point without being soppy.

Pie in the sky

By Remy Lai

ISBN 9781760651626




Eleven-year-old Jingwen and his younger brother Yanghao have recently moved to Australia with their mother. Still coming to terms with the loss of his father, Jingwen struggles to fit in and finds himself falling behind in school. Learning English is hard and it feels as though he has landed on Mars and everyone is speaking Martian. Jingwen often looks after his little brother, who one minute is annoying him, and the next bursting into tears. As a way to deal with the tears and everything else going wrong in his life, Jingwen and Yanghao secretly begin baking cakes. Jingwen wants to bake all the cakes from the Pie in the Sky menu, which their father had planned for a bakery he intended to open, but sadly because of his death, never happened.

They bake in secret while their mother works nights but a series of incidents leads to disasters. He disobeys his mother and lies to her and this creates even more trouble for Jingwen who, as oldest brother, should know better.

Pie in the sky is a delightful mix of story and graphic novel aimed at middle-grade readers.

This is a humourous, yet well-written emotional book dealing with sibling rivalry, disobedience, family issues, loneliness, sadness, loss and so much more but it is a very good book that needs to be read.

I personally think that teachers should include this for their own reading. Jingwen’s experience reminds us just how hard it must be to fit in at a new school, in a new country and not know the language. While Yanghao seems to pick up the language and make friends easier than Jingwen it just helps demonstrate the struggle is real and different for everyone and that immigrants need all the support we can offer them.

If you are a teacher, then it is worth checking out the teacher notes here.

A must-have for school libraries.

Saying goodbye to Barkley

By Devon Sillett

Illustrated by Nicky Johnston

ISBN 9781925335965



As every parent knows, the loss of a pet can be traumatic for the whole family. Pets are very much part of family life and the death of such a beloved animal affects children in different ways. Saying goodbye to Barkley is a sweet and gentle picture book where Olivia deals with the loss of Barkley, her wonderful crime-fighter sidekick. Olivia and Barkley did everything together. Their friendship is real and her grief after his passing is also real. There is a happy ending which is great.

A good way to deal with death of a pet and open up discussions in a gentle way.



A monster calls

By Patrick Ness

Walker Books

ISBN 9781406311525

A monster calls remains one of my all time favourite books. It is a stunningly illustrated and beautifully written tale of the fragility of humans.

Connor knows the monster is out there and that it is coming for him. Coming for the truth!

I cried buckets when I read this book and no doubt I will take tissues with me to see the movie. I am lucky to have a hardback copy of this beautiful book and it sits on my “favourites and beautiful books” shelf.  You know, the ones you grab first if ever you had to evacuate your home. Living with earthquakes and having half our city destroyed in 2011 by a very devastating quake which took the lives of 185 people, you learn to keep things where you can reach them quickly. That’s the shelf for this book.


I hope that all involved wont mind me sharing the trailer as it needs to be spread far and wide. It really will be one movie not to be missed. (And the fact that Liam Neeson and that wonderful accent of his is involved is just another reason to see the movie when it comes out).


And I do believe in reading books first before seeing the movies so here is a trailer to the book for those who haven’t yet read it.

The shock of the fall
By Nathan Filer

The US edition just released is titled Where the moon isn’t

Wow! This two minute movie was inspired by the book and has heaps of impact. It has me so intrigued that I just have to find a copy as soon as I get off my computer.

Within the first few pages we are let into a secret;
“‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that”
On vacation, Matthew and his older brother sneak out to create a bit of fun and mischief but only Matthew returns. The journey to the truth is complicated and heartbreaking. I really can not wait to read this one.

Dear Vincent
By Mandy Hager


Tara is 17 and overwhelmed by what  life keeps throwing at her.  She is trying to succeed at school, working part-time to help out at home as well as caring for her stroke-ridden father. Her mother is brutal, uncaring  and abusive. Tara misses her older sister, Van who died five years ago and consoles herself with painting. She is obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh seeing parallels between his life and hers.

The discovery that her sister had actually taken her own life leaves Tara distraught. She begins to spiral out of control desperate and self-destructive.

There is hope though in the companionship of an elderly man she cares for at the rest home where she works. He offers her strength and wonderful discussions about Vincent Van Gogh. But is it enough?

This book is raw and honest. Family secrets are hidden deep but the consequences are devastating. It is an emotional roller coaster which leaves the reader gasping for breath.

Suicide is very real and Mandy Hager is brave to tackle what is often a taboo subject. I highly recommend this book although the subject and reality of suicide  is not for everyone.

I  predict this gutsy novel will be a finalist on next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book  Awards.


The boy with two heads

By Andy Mulligan

Eleven year old Richard Westlake wakes up one morning with an extra head growing out from his neck. The speed at which it grows and takes on a life of its own is bewildering for everyone.
The extra head is named Rikki and it becomes abundantly clear that Rikki is nowhere like the quiet, respectful Richard.
Rikki is nasty with absolutely no tact or sense of empathy. He is quite simply, horrible. He is also brutally honest. His honesty leaves him more and more angry with life and friendless.
The solution involves a bunch of medical experts with their own agendas and as the tension builds a sense of horror looms.

This is an extraordinary book for its approach on dealing with life, friends and death.
I sat in my car outside work unable to put the book down at the closing chapters. Yes! There were tears as I closed the book. The ending was emotional but tied everything together beautifully.

This is a great read and although it is about an eleven year old boy, some of the content is more suitable for older and more mature young adult readers.
Andy Mulligan has done it again. I loved his novel Trash and while this is totally different it is another first rate read.

Beneath a meth moon
By Jacqueline Woodson

I love Jacqueline Woodson’s writing. I absolutely loved her verse novel Locomotion written for a younger reader than this book is intended. Her writing is honest and raw.

Beneath a meth moon tells the story of Laurel Daneau who lost everything in hurricane Katrina; her mother, grandmother and her home. A new town offers her new friends and even a place on the cheerleading squad. And then there is T-Boom, the new boyfriend. However, he also introduces her to meth and it is not long before Laurel is hooked. While the story may be gritty Jacqueline Woodson says that the book is also about hope and we all need that.

        Free falling

        By Nicola Moriarty

    Belinda and Andy are a young couple who have recently become engaged. They are happy and content with work, university and life.  Andy’s sudden death turns Belinda’s world upside down. His mother, Evelyn is also devastated but looking for someone to blame. In alternating chapters each woman tells their own story. Not only does this reveal insights to the two women, but also shows the passage of time and helps pace the story.

Grief makes people do strange things, like sky-jumping or shoplifting.  For Belinda and Evelyn their grief is raw and always at the surface waiting to bubble over. They haven’t seen each other since Andy’s funeral when Evelyn openly blamed Belinda for her son’s death.  Friends don’t know what to do or say and Belinda is now more alone than she has ever been before in her life. She is also convinced that her dead fiance is haunting her. Strange things are happening that leave her bewildered. How on earth does a car battery arrive from nowhere just when she needs one? Or flowers when she is feeling low. It just has to be Andy!  Her best friend, Stacey is a little obnoxious and even irritating but that adds flavour to the novel.

Free falling is not a pacy action novel but is instead a gentle story of overwhelming grief and loss. But it is much more than this. It is a story of hope.


     More details on Nicola Moriarty can be found by following the link here.