How Books on Death Teach Your Children about Embracing Life

Review of "The Promise" by Chiemi

Book Review by Laura Ramirez

Books on death teach our children that death is part of life. As a child advocate, I have always recommended that parents talk to children about death before it happens to someone close to them. Story provides an excellent vehicle by which to do this. "The Promise" is a story that investigates death, grief and the process of renewal with sensitivity and caring.

When the story opens, young Finn is trying to cheer up his grandfather who is mourning the loss of his wife (who was also Finn's Grandma Rose.) Finn cannot console his grandfather because he has not been able to speak since the day he witnessed his father die in a car accident. As is so often the case with personal tragedy, it is the child--the one who suffers silently--who reaches out to comfort the adult. (Books on death that view the situation from the child's perspective are engaging and more likely to serve as a way to reach the child.)

When Finn's grandfather reveals his regret over being unable to fulfill a promise to his wife before she died, Finn tries to find a way to help. A walk through the park and a day spent fishing in a quiet spot seems to turn on a light in the old man's grief-wracked mind. Later, when Finn goes to visit his grandfather again, he finds him working in Grandma Rose's garden. Finn spends the summer with him and unwittingly participates in his grandfather's healing and the groundwork required to fulfill the promise to Grandma Rose.

One stormy night after Finn has returned home, he has a feeling that something has happened to his grandfather. He and his mother arrive at Grampa's house in the lashing rain to find the old man flat on his back in the garden. Grampa is dying, but with the satisfaction that he's created the circumstances necessary for the promise to be fulfilled. Before he exhales his final breath, the old man asks Finn to make a promise.

A few months later, when Finn and his mother are cleaning his grandfather's house to put it up for sale, Finn discovers that the promise has been realized. The joy that wells up inside of him gives him the courage to fulfill a promise of his own.

The vibrant illustrations in "The Promise" remind us that life goes on. Prodded by the author's skillful hand, we rediscover, as the characters do, that life is for the living. Although invariably we will be touched by death, we must feel our way through the labyrinth of grief, re-engage and embrace life's promise.

Title: The Promise
Subject Matter: Books on Death, Grieving and Renewal
Author & Illustrator: Chiemi
Price: $16.99
ISBN: 0-9720691-0-0
Hardcover/38 pages with stunning illustrations.
Reading Level: Ages 8-11
Audience: Since death touches us all, books on death can be used to prepare your children for the eventuality that someone they know will die. Books on death are appropriate for all ages, including adults who have lost a spouse. The emerging strength of the characters in this story will touch the hearts of those who grieve their loved ones.


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