She’s with the Angels by Emily Garzon, illustrations by Miranda Anderson
I look up to the sky each morning and night to feel close to my baby sister. Most kids can play with and see their sisters and brothers, but I’m not able to do that.
So starts the tender story told from the point of view of a young boy about his sister Mya. They played together, laughed together, sang together, and went to child care together until one day, their child care provider couldn’t get Mya up from her nap and started calling for help.
From there, the boy tells us plainly enough about the police and paramedics arriving, getting picked up by an aunt, the days that follow with people crying, and then getting to say goodbye to his sister at the funeral. It’s clear he is not understanding everything going on around him but is trying to make sense of it all. Like many young kids, he is not overly emotional about it but approaches it all with an appropriate curiosity and sadness.
The beauty of the writing is in the simplicity of just telling the story without hitting readers over the head with a message about how to help a child who is grieving. Though serious things happen, they are told about in a matter-of-fact way and from such an innocent point of view that this book will not be scary to young readers.
Through the course of the story, the mother is key to helping him process and deal with the loss. There are other caring, supportive adults around, as well, but it is the mother who gives him words, a way to understand, and a ritual of saying good morning and good night to Mya each day together that seem to be exactly what he needs.
Author Emily Garzon lost her baby daughter to SIDS and couldn’t find a good book to read to her young son about losing his baby sister. So, she wrote one. And found a talented artist to illustrate it and yet another to create the cover.
The deep hues of many of the illustrations are beautiful and match the depth of the emotional impact of the story. The pictures look almost impressionistic which works well; instead of stark realism, the soft-around-the-edges images add to the idea of the days being out of the ordinary, perhaps even dreamlike, but purposefully calm just as the boy seems to be himself.
An important addition to a small set of good books that help kids deal with a death in their family. Well done!