Many people will have read the book, Cleo: The Cat who Mended a Family, which was first published in 2010. This told of Helen Brown’s devastating experience of losing her nine-year-old son, Sam, when he was hit by a car and killed on 21 January 1983 and of how a young kitten helped her family deal with his loss. The popularity of this book, published multiple times in many languages, shows how loss and hope are universal to the Human condition.
This picture book does not resort to platitudes and euphemisms or shy away from talking directly about death. When the policeman says to Rob “I’m very sorry, Rob. Your brother has passed away.” Rob asks “Does that mean he is dead.” It is realistic about the effects of Sam’s death on the whole family and yet at the same time manages to deal with the subject in a way that is not maudling nor overwhelming. There are humorous moments and the last part of the book is all about recovery and a positive future, without denying the enormity of what happened.
Phoebe Morris has managed to complement Helen Brown’s lean, unfussy writing style with bold, colourful and simple illustrations. I think this book will be of huge value in helping young children come to terms with death and loss.
Title: Cleo & Rob
Author: Helen Brown
Illustrator: Phoebe Morris
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
ISBN: 978 1 98854 719 0
Format: paperback picture book
Date of Publication: 2019
Ages: 3 upwards, but with discretion because it involves the death of a child
Reviewer: Carola Crawford, English teacher, Karanga Mai Young Parents’ College
How are you recommending this book? Highly Recommended
Opening Sentence: Rob and Sam went to see Lena’s new kittens.
You can buy this book here