Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
There was a meme that circulated a while back, perhaps around the time of one of the John Wick movies. It featured a sign that read something like: “If the dog dies, I'm not watching the movie.” Although this is humorous (as memes often are), it highlights several human sensitivities: that pets sometimes become as close as family, and that death and loss remain universal anxieties, anxieties that lead to frustration, confusion, sadness, and even anger.
In Finding Joy, a children's book featuring the brief yet meaningful life of Joy, a pet golden retriever, author Raven Howell explores many of the emotions that children and adults go through when coping with the loss of a pet (or, really, any loved one). It's actually very powerful and quite beautiful.
It might just bring a tear to your eye, especially if you've experienced a loss like this before.
Death and loss are such touchy subjects that are often difficult to present to children in a way that's both tactful and meaningful. Yet, this book does it perfectly.
A death of a loved one can be very sudden and unexpected. It can be very difficult to comprehend or even believe. It can be surprising and even shocking. It can be very difficult, if not impossible, to put into words. Children will inevitably experience something like this. If it's not a pet, then it may be a grandparent or someone in the neighborhood who suddenly isn't around anymore.
The truth of the matter is: there's no avoiding death. Death is a natural part of life. It's a natural part of being human. Everyone lives and everyone dies. In a strange sort of way, it's both scary and comforting. It's scary to know that someday you and your loved ones won't be alive anymore. It could be tomorrow, a year from now, decades from now, but it's bound to happen. However, it's comforting to know that you're not alone. Everyone goes through it. Everyone is touched by it.
The way that this book presents the life and death of Joy is very tactful while still accomplishing the book's ultimate purpose. The way that the family copes with this loss is especially well done. The truth is, our loved ones live on in our memories. So, the family learns to remember and honor Joy in continuing to live their lives with... well, Joy in their hearts.
Some of the kids doodle and draw pictures of Joy. They continue to sing the songs that used to make Joy smile. They walk the same trails that they walked when she was alive. They eat Joy's favorite food (peas). It's not a story about a failure to let go, it's a lesson about carrying forward after tragedy.
The writing in this book is quite good, and the illustrations by the talented Pamela C. Rice are perfectly adequate, fitting the style of the book. The illustrations aren't hyper-real or even very detailed. They're almost... cloud-like. Almost like a dream. What's incredible is that this sorta fits the feel of the story—like a memory or series of memories wrapped like a precious present in the mind of the narrator.
Further augmenting this book are sections in the end that provide useful advice for children and families dealing with loss.
This is a really touching story about a family coping with the loss of a pet.
Check it out on Amazon!
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