Hi, Educators! Usually on Wednesdays, I share something related to one of my books and how you can use it in your classroom or library. This week, though, I want to share about a new picture book by someone else–the lovely Nancy Bo Flood.
Nature and compassion are the two themes I think about when I think about Nancy. I’ve loved so many of her previous books, and I hope you’ll visit her site to learn about them. WALKING GRANDMA HOME: A STORY OF GRIEF, HOPE, AND HEALING, is Nancy’s newest. (It’s got lovely art by Ellen Shi, and it’s published by Zonderkidz.) And even though books about death often aren’t shared in classrooms, I strongly think they should be. So many children experience loss, and few have a place to safely express their emotions. And to feel like that loss is a sad but natural part of life. Instead, we avoid the topic and make it taboo, which makes it even harder for children. At the age of 7, Nancy lost her own little sister very suddenly, so this book comes from a deep well of memory, acceptance, and compassion.
In this story, the main character’s Grandma is in failing health. As the family gathers to say goodbye to her, the main character asks questions and comes to understand that Grandma is dying. And Grandma does pass. But through telling stories with family, talking frankly, and bringing Grandma’s favorite shawl to her, the boy is able to both give and receive comfort. It’s a beautiful, hopeful, emotional story.
There’s also a list of suggestions and information for adults at the back of the book that can help you be more comfortable with talking with kids about death. Although I suspect this book will be used a lot in specific settings when a child has just experienced a loss, I think it would be even better if we share books like this occasionally with larger groups of kids NOT in an immediate grief situation.
Books turn us into people who can handle things. Books help us know that the real world happens to everyone. Books tell us we’re not alone. What an impact books have! Teachers, in sharing this book, you might be providing the only safe opportunity where a kid can express deep feelings around this topic. I can imagine the powerful and meaningful classroom discussions and connections that could happen around this book. Talk about building a real community and developing empathy and understanding for each other–wow.
Nancy has made a terrific 2‑minute video about this book, which you can watch on her website.
When my mom passed in 2016, I only got to say goodbye on the phone, and she was not conscious. In 2021, my husband’s family gathered in Atlanta and were able to spend a week sharing stories, saying I love you, and walking his father home. What a gift that was. Still, it’s hard even for grown-ups, and kids need extra support. This book is a fabulous way to start.
I was inspired to write a poetryaction to go with WALKING GRANDMA HOME. (Click to enlarge.) Thank you, Nancy, for your wonderful story that taps into such deep emotion!
[My Classroom Connections posts share a way to connect one of my books or poems to a classroom topic–often something timely that you might be covering in the next month or so. Please share this post if you have educator friends who might be interested–thanks!]