Julie Paschkis: Where Lily Isn’t

Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Published by Henry Holt and Company, 2020

This is a beautifully tender book that explores how it feels to lose a beloved pet.

David Whyte, poet and philosopher, has spoken about the empty space that a loved one can leave behind upon their death and he referred to it as “the shape of your own absence”. It’s a haunting thought, that sense that a physical being can leave behind a hollowness that you can almost feel. Paschkis has elegantly described how this absence feels for a young girl who has lost her dog Lily, taking us to all the places that Lily isn’t. Lily is not under the table waiting for scraps, not barking at the door when the mail arrives, not pushing and pulling on the lead, not rolling over waiting for her belly to be rubbed. As the young girl journeys through her day without her pet being a part of it, the observations become sadder and more poignant.

As I neared the end of the book on my first reading, I expected to see the young girl embrace a new puppy, something to fill the absence. Instead, we see her at the table drawing her memories and recognising that the love she had for Lily will forever remain in her heart. And I think that ending is more real, because we can’t always replace what is lost and sometimes we just have to hold on to the memories and keep them in our heart.

I can highly recommend this book for children 2-8 years old and here are other titles that explore the themes of loss, grief and death:

The Heart and the Bottle
by Oliver Jeffers
The Rabbit Listened
by Cori Doerrfeld
The Scar by
Charlotte Moundlic
Illustrated by Olivier Tallec

Laura Knowles: It Starts with a Seed

Illustrated by Jennie Webber

See the source image

Published by Words and Pictures, US, 2017

There are many books on the market that explore the theme of plant growth from seed to tree, but I have chosen this book because of its simple yet concise language and the expressive drawings that accompany the text. Each page explores the development of one seed with gentle rhyme and observation, helping the reader to understand how one tree can become home and habitat to many creatures, big and small. As well, the author explores the idea that a tree, grown from a seed, can throw its own seeds and that they can begin life all over again, an everlasting circle of life. The tree described in this picture book is a sycamore tree and at the end of the book, its life cycle is illustrated, with annotated facts, on a large pull out page.

Whilst many of us wouldn’t plant a sycamore tree in our backyard (they can grow to over 100 feet), there are many seeds that you can plant for almost instant pleasure. So, grab your little person and head off to the nursery, pick up a packet of sunflower seeds for a splash of colour or spinach seedlings for adding to your plate, some potting mix, a few containers, a watering can, some liquid plant food and watch the amazing transformation…and don’t forget to keep watering!

This book would be suitable for children 2-8 years old and if you would like to read more about seeds, here are some of my favorites:

A Seed is Sleepy
by Dianna Aston,
illustrated by Sylvia Long
See the source image
Seeds Move! by
Robin Page
See the source image
The Tiny Seed by
Eric Carle

Corinne Fenton: To The Bridge – The Journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick

Illustrated by Andrew McLean

Published by Black Dog Books, 2020

Corinne Fenton has written a wonderful story about a young boy named Lennie and his horse Ginger Mick, both born on the same day in 1922 and destined to ride together 9 years later to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s hard to imagine the spunk and bravery of a 9 year old boy and his trusty horse, being able to navigate the road to Sydney, some six hundred miles away, without a mobile phone, google maps or pre-booked accommodation. And just as hard to understand, that his parents thought he was more than capable of the task ahead and helped and encouraged Lennie to fulfil his dream. Andrew McLean’s illustrations thoughtfully reflect the enormity of the undertaking – my favorite page being the one where the family are gathered around the table looking at maps, the father hovering over his son’s shoulder and the mother with arms crossed, standing close by,  looking apprehensive yet proud.

Corinne has included biographic details at the end of the book with photos of the real Lennie and Ginger Mick, and a reminder of the importance of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, employing many workers at the time of the Great Depression.

If you would like to read more about this extraordinary story, look out for this title – Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney By Pony, written by Stephanie Owen Reeder, published by National Library of Australia, 2020.

I can highly recommend this picture book, most suited for 5-8 year olds.

If you like this book, look out for these titles by the same author:

The Dog on the Tuckerbox Illustrated by
Peter Gouldthorpe
Bob the Railway Dog
Illustrated by
Andrew McLean
A Cat called Trim
Illustrated by Craig Smith
See the source image
Queenie:
One Elephant’s Story
Illustrated by
Peter Gouldthorpe