Friday, August 28, 2009

Tess's Tree - a sweet book about losing something you love

While we want to protect our young children from grief, we need to find ways to help them deal with losing something or someone they love. Tess's Tree is a wonderful, beautiful new book that does just this is a sweet, gentle way.
Tess's Tree
written by Jess M. Brallier
illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
NY: HarperCollins, 2009
ages 4 - 8
Tess loved her tree with all her heart. She looked out at her tree from her bedroom window. She swung its sturdy branches and read stories in its shade. But after losing branches in a big storm, the tree had to be cut down. Oh, how Tess was angry. Sad. Despondent. She cried for a long time, but then she decided to have a funeral for her tree - to celebrate the life of her tree.

Brallier was inspired to write this story after a friend's daughter held a funeral for a tree. “I think it’s difficult for kids to deal with loss,” he says. “It can be scary and lonely. They watch trusted adults being sad. I thought a tree was a softer way to explore that.” (Publisher's Weekly) Reynold's illustrations are perfect - bringing out all of Tess's emotions. I also love the multicultural community that she lives in - it helps us see ourselves in her story. This is a truly gentle book - it's one that will help children feel connected to the earth around us, and to people, pets and things they love.

My daughters have really liked Tess's Tree. My 5 year old listened with complete attention, with little smiles, frowns and sighs at the happy and sad places. The feelings came through so well in this book. My 8 year old said, "It's such a sweet book. But sad, too. It makes me think of Grandpa." She went on to talk about how she wished she could have gone to her grandfather's funeral (it was too far away) so she could have met some of the people who knew him when he was younger. It was a very touching moment, to have her recall her grandfather. His passing had a huge impact on her.

An interesting back story to this book: Tess's Tree started as an on-line book on the website FunBrain. You can now read the whole book online at the FunBrain site. Peter Reynold's company Fablevision created a TeleFable (FableVision's signature on-line book format). If you like reading books online, check out their site - they have great stuff!

Tess's Tree is available at your local independent bookstore or at Amazon.

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