Always My Brother is written by Jean Reagan and illustrated by Phyllis Pollema-Cahill. A beautiful hardcover, 32-page book, it is geared towards children in grades 3-6. Listed price is $16.95.
Here's what the publisher has to say about the book: "Becky and her brother John were best buddies, telling jokes, caring for their dog Toby, and playing soccer. John was always there to cheer her up and help her out—until he died. Becky wishes everything could go back to the way it was. When she is surprised and feels guilty about enjoying a friend's birthday party, her mom wraps reassuring arms around her and says, "Don't you think he'd want you to laugh, even now?" She gradually realizes that she can still enjoy the things that they used to do together and that the memories of John continue to make him part of their family. Always My Brother is a sensitive, realistic story about the process of grief, acceptance, and recovery. Phyllis Pollema-Cahill's lovely illustrations bring readers right into the heart of Becky's family as they struggle to move forward."
The author wrote this book in part for her daughter as she dealt with the death of her son, and you can feel the first-hand knowledge as you read. You can read the story behind the story at Jean Reagan's website.
One of the things I appreciate most about this book is its diplomatic approach in dealing not so much with what happens to a person after he dies, but with what happens to the family that is left behind.
I'm a Christian and believe in resurrection and eternal life, yet many books on death leave me uncomfortable because they don't match my beliefs of life after death. This book doesn't go there at all. It would be perfect to give to a grieving family regardless of their religious background.
This book lets children know it's okay to cry. It's okay to be angry. It's okay to not know what to say. And others won't know what to say, either. The death of a sibling hurts. It hurts each person in the family.
It's also okay to laugh and have fun, too, when the time is right. It's okay to move on with life. But as Becky learns, her brother will always have an impact on her life, even though he's gone. He will always be her brother.
The soft watercolor illustrations tie in and add to the storyline perfectly.
Esmé was quite happy to let me read through the book with her, though she didn't really understand the subject matter. Fortunately, the death of a sibling is not something she's experienced, and and the book is written for an older audience. So she doesn't have much to say about it just yet. But it's nice to have on the shelf for a time when we need to deal with the topic of death more thoroughly.
For more information about the book, visit Tilbury House. There is also a helpful Teachers Take Note section, useful for anyone, in what to say and how to respond to children who have lost siblings.
Thanks to Sarah McGinnis and Tilbury House for the review copy of this book.
As this is a stop on the official tour for this book, leave a comment HERE for a chance to win! The publisher will draw 7 lucky winners from all of those who leave comments on the participating tour posts (Nov.1-13) to win one of the following prizes:
- A copy of Always My Brother signed by author Jean Reagan (5 available)*
- A set of 10 winter notecards with art by illustrator Phyllis Pollema-Cahill (2 available)
All winners will be announced after the tour. US/Canada addresses only, please.
There's a Twitter prize, too! Everyone who tweets about the tour using the hashtag #AlwaysTour from November 1-13 will be entered to win a set of three children's books from Tilbury House — your choice! Winners will be announced after the tour, US/Canada addresses only, please.