It's time for We Recommend, where you can e-mail us to get book recommendations, and we'll do our best to find the one that works. So please, avail yourselves. And that's all I can really say right now, because this one is really sad.
Oh dear. How very apropos, unfortunately, that just as we are writing of comfort and where to find it, we get a request from a most wonderful reader of this blog (and writer in her own right)[link now fixed, sorry!] for a book to comfort, as follows:
Can you recommend a good book for my 5 year old (and me) that deals with death of a pet? Preferably with a female protagonist and a cat. I've heard of Cat Heaven, and I'll take a look at it, but I was hoping for something more secular. We're going to have to send my old cat to "cat heaven" sometime soon, and I thought I should be prepared.
We had a very near-cat-death experience at our house this summer, though we were very lucky and grabbed her back from death at the very last second.* But in those moments before the reprieve, it was just as devastating for my kids as I have always secretly feared it would be, though I can't know how things would have gone later, I suppose.
As we noted in the previous post, it's not so easy to know what will bring comfort. And perhaps the comfort here, which the mom seems to need just as much as the kid, might come more from reading Winne the Pooh together in bed at night (one of my most comforting rituals) than from anything that touches more directly on death and all that.
But while that may be true, it's not exactly helpful for someone who is 5, who needs to understand where the cat went. What's tricky about this, of course, is that many of us don't feel we have any really good answer for where the cat went. I do know that many's the child who has been soothed by the direct: the cat is in heaven now. This has been said by many nonbelieving parents in the spirit of, Well, I don't think it is, but what do I know really?
But there are also many people who would rather begin their child on the road to understanding death as an inevitable part of life, a natural process, not to be feared and dreaded (good luck with that) but to be accepted. If anyone knows of any Buddhist books for kids about death, hey, have at it.
I know, I know: I haven't recommended anything. Yet. This is partly because my guess is that there is probably some very straightforward book like "The Berenstain Bears and the Death of Miffy" that would be helpful in that great, non-neurotic matter-of-fact manner that I covet but can never quite manage. If there is such a book, again, have at it.
Truly, though, the only thing I can really think of is this. It isn't about a real pet, but it is about real love and loss and the hope of comfort.
Yes, the Velveteen Rabbit. Not exactly a secret. And I know, I know, it's not exactly secular. But it does give comfort, and it does let you cry, which you need to do, too.
But really, I feel that I have failed in my task. Readers—what should she read? Let her know, in the comments.