It’s difficult enough for adults to talk about death and dying, but finding ways to help children understand its place in the natural cycle of life is harder. Books have a huge role to play, helping both children and adults to negotiate the variety of emotions and questions that arise around death and bereavement.
A few years ago, unsatisfied with the range of books available to recommend to parents – many were about fictional animals dying, or had quasi–religious – ‘Granny’s gone to heaven’ – themes – the managers of the Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground suggested some of the Friends of the Burial Ground might write one themselves. Their collaborative work, So, where are we going exactly? has at last been completed. It is the work of four writers – Barbara Crowther, Jo Price, Sean McKenna and Simon Bean. Illustrator Philip Bannister joined them later and brought the book to life visually.
I met Barbara and Jo recently and they described how, despite being in scattered locations, they had learned to work well together, sharing copy and accommodating each other’s critiques, to produce what is a truly delightful story book for children.
Between them they had considerable experience of writing, teaching, and assessing a book’s suitability for children. They debated long and hard to get the tone and the terms just right, and Philip, a professional artist, instantly engaged with the up-beat but down-to-earth spirit of the book – it is a mixture of reflection, education and joyfulness.
However they had not anticipated when they started on the project that they would also be sorting the proofreading, editing, printing, publishing and – now – the marketing. They had a lot of help from the printer, Chris Baker of KMS Litho, but otherwise the project has proved to be a considerable learning experience for them. It has though, they assured me, been a thoroughly enjoyable journey!
In essence So, where are we going exactly? tackles this sensitive topic by providing appropriate language, and a lively story that covers a wide age range (Ben, the boy in the story is 14, Katy just 5). It will work in different ways for children of all ages – from reading it to a young child on your lap, to a young teenager returning to it for solace.
Relating to the human world rather than deflecting the topic through fictional animals, it is gentle and honest about dying, doing a dual job of comforting children and preparing them for difficult emotions.
All that, and beautifully illustrated too – a deeply satisfying experience for both the eye and mind.
Whilst the book is a useful way into talking to any child anywhere about death and dying, the story takes place in a natural burial ground, such as Sun Rising which is situated in South Warwickshire. Profits from the sale of the book will go to support this site. The book is priced £6.99, (postage £2.00 for up to 3 copies) and is available through the website: www.sunrisingburialground.co.uk/childrens-book
Normally Sun Rising Burial Ground is open to the public all year and has regular open days and other events. If you live in the South Warwickshire / Cotswold area you may be interested in the next open day on May 30th, or the Jazz event on the 4th July. And, of course, the book will be on sale at both events.*
* Visits and events are likely to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check re opening times, and for other special events, on the website before travelling (see link above). There are also other books available from the site you might be interested in.
Extract from So, where are we going exactly?
Links to my books and social media
ALL BOOKS FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED – At least one story always free.