Wednesday, December 14, 2011
On Loss, Grief, and Young Readers
I am currently reading this wonderfully imagined novel, A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd. I'm not done with it yet, so it may be a bit presumptuous for me to write this post, but I think I know where the story is going. I could be wrong, but that's not really the point.
I'm the father of a young adult, and a middle grader (well, technically Madison is only 10, and not in middle school yet, but she reads above her level). Luckily my children have not had to endure much loss, but loss doesn't always have to be a death in the family. Loss can be moving away from friends, divorce, heck, even summer camp can feel like a temporary loss.
The loss in my own life almost all occurred in those middle grade years. My dad was out of the picture when I was ten. My mom died when I was eleven. Then, just to make things worse, my aunts and uncles decided to separate me from my older sister when they determined our living situations, in their infinite wisdom. Yeah, needless to say, I was a messed up, angry kid.
But I managed to survive. Loss hurts like salt in an open wound at first, but eventually it simply becomes part of who you are. The trick is getting through that first part. One of the best ways to get through the hard part is to escape into stories. Storytelling has a magical ability to heal, or at least to give you solace from the storm, when things are at their worst. Movies, TV, theater, all these venues for telling stories are great, but none of them really compare to books.
Books can take you anywhere, and sometimes where you need to be is very far away from where you are. Middle Earth. Narnia. Krynn. Westeros. There are so many places full of so much wonder and beauty in books, it can make the pain of real life seem less ... sharp, for a time.
But then there are also books that face the harsh truth of this topic head on. Books like A Monster Calls, that deftly look the pain of suffering dead in the face, and show with courage that life goes on.
I'm glad my children haven't had to endure much loss in their lives, but if they did, I'd be sure to share books like this with them. Or books like Danny, Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl, or Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, or Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Story, by Greg Neri, or The Deathday Letter, by Shaun David Hutchinson, or even, Marley and Me, by John Grogan.
What books about loss and grief, or even just to help one through loss and grief, would you recommend for young readers?