The Memory Tree: Britta Teckentrup (Orchard Books, 2013)
On December 2nd 2010, my dad died. He was 75, I was 35, neither of us particularly old or young for this life event to happen. But my daughters were eighteen months and three-and-three-quarters, and although the youngest one didn’t really understand that anything had changed, Mighty-Girl certainly did.
“Why is Mummy crying? Why are you crying, Mummy?” she asked. And we told her, because she’s a bright girl and doesn’t take any answer but the truth. And we explained what death meant. And we had a three-year old who couldn’t sleep at night and sobbed that she didn’t want to die. Score zero for parenting.
Friends recommended Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley, a picture book about death and remembering loved ones. I cried when I read it to MG and DG, but it helped to talk about what had happened, and we all healed over time. I don’t cry when I read Badger’s Parting Gifts now.
I cried when I first read The Memory Tree. It is an exceptionally beautiful book and within the first page the art and text gives an emotional punch for anyone who has lost a loved one. Fox has lived a long and happy life, and is ready to sleep. He has many friends who were affected positively by his life, and who join together to remember their friend.
Their memories grow a tree, which nurtures and supports Fox’s loved ones. Remembering all the good things about their friend, keeps him with them forever. The story is lovely to read even if a child hasn’t lost a loved one, but it’s especially poignant if they have. The images of Owl hugging his friend, and the snow covering the ‘sleeping’ fox are both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
The illustrations are stunningly beautiful. Uncluttered and full of warmth they perfectly accompany the text. The Memory Tree is a very special book, and an essential book to share when losing a loved older relative or friend.
Today I will be remembering my dad, gone for three years exactly. Thinking both sad and happy thoughts, and wishing that my children had got to spend more time with him. And I will be reading The Memory Tree, and crying, but they will be good tears building our own memory tree.
Disclosure: We were sent a copy of The Memory Tree by Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.