I am very much impressed with this new picture book. Molly's Memory Jar was written by Norma Spaulding, illustrated by Jacqui Grantford and published by New Frontier Publishing, Australia (2010). It offers an achievable resolution for a very difficult topic: the death of a pet. Death is part of our daily lives, but we adults are not good at handling it. We often think we need to protect kids from reality, but this book prepares kids for reality, and gives them a coping mechanism.
When Molly's best friend, Lucy, a Golden Retriever, dies, Molly feels sad and lonely. Daddy suggests they make a memory jar for Lucy, adding one coloured glass ball to an empty jar, for each special Lucy memory that Molly has. In Molly's Memory Jar, Spaulding hasn't given us a predictable story that depends on cliche. We see Molly being pulled back to misery, but also how she copes and progresses through grief:
'Every morning, at exactly seven o'clock, she would come into my room and wake me up with a big sloppy kiss.'
Remembering made Molly feel sad. 'I do miss her, Daddy!'
Grantford's illustrations reflect the positive message of the book. From the beginning scenes where Molly's days seem grey and lifeless, colour is gradually added to the oil on canvas paper illustrations. Just as there is a star on the start and end papers of Molly's Memory Jar, so can kids learn that there's always something positive, even in bad experiences - time and resilience can change circumstances.
The memory jar technique is one we can teach kids to help them cope with all sorts of difficult times in their lives - the death of a relative, a fellow-student with a life-threatening illness, even moving away to a new neighbourhood. Teachers and parents could even innovate on the memory jar - children could write short notes about shared memories, and bring tiny gifts for the jar that could then be delivered to a classmate in hospital.
This delightful new book is set to become a wonderful resource for libraries, schools, and parents who know that excellent picture books can be the answer to broaching difficult topics with kids.
(You can find my review of Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs, also illustrated by Jacqui Grantford, here at The Book Chook blog.)