It's Not Your Fault, KoKo Bear
written by Vicki Lansky
illustrated by Jane Prince

Vicki Lansky's It's Not Your Fault, KoKo Bear: A Read-Together Book for Parents and Young Children During Divorce

Illustrated by Jane Prince

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 2-6

A children's book about divorce AND a parents' book about divorce with decency

In consultation with a host of PhD's, author Vicki Lansky has written a highly recommended picture book about divorce that is really two books in one:

  1. The story of Koko, a story that begins with his/her parents announcing their divorce, and
  2. A ton of pithy, usable wisdom aimed at conscientious parents aiming to put their child's interests first.

It's Not Your Fault, KoKo Bear - summary and review

The book begins with an Introduction from Ms. Lansky, aimed at parents, intended to get them started looking at this event through their child's eyes.

The picture book then begins with what, for the child, is the beginning, namely MaMa and PaPa Bear announcing their divorce.

from the back cover of 'It's Not Your Fault, KoKo Bear'

They explain it in terms their child can understand. They do it with empathy, but also with firmness.

Just as importantly, they do it together.

All the major events are covered:

  • PaPa moving out
  • seeing and staying with him at his new home
  • being dropped off at day care by one parent and picked up by another.

Feelings are explored as well. KoKo is allowed to feel sad and angry, while MaMa and PaPa create nurturing - though separate - environments where those feelings are likely to fade...and do.

It's Not Your Fault, KoKo Bear is the book you get before announcing your divorce, the one that lays out for your child what's going to happen in a way that makes it all seem less horrible and more hopeful.

Lansky's intent is to remove the awful mystery of divorce and replace it with reassurance.

She does a good job. Now YOUR job is to make sure your divorce plays out for your child like MaMa and PaPa Bears'!

And that's where the second book of the promised "two books in one" comes in.

With each turn of the page, you'll encounter four or five helpful tips from Lansky...and the therapists backing her up on what she has to say. She tells you what children are likely feeling and about how to make divorce as endurable as you can for them. Review continues.

PaPa picks up KoKo at MaMa's

The tips are well-written and doable. And they explain, to you, how and why PaPa and MaMa are handling things as they do with KoKo.

Now, be advised: this will be a very awkward read-aloud if you read it to your child and then silently read Lansky's asides to yourself! So here's your assignment:

Read the picture book before you read it to your child. Then read Lansky's advice...before you read to your child.

Then keep reading Lansky's advice during the course of your divorce and for as long as your child is your child! In fact...

It so happens that Lansky has written:

Vicki Lansky's Divorce Book for Parents: Helping Your Children Cope with Divorce and Its Aftermath.

Now, I can't claim to have read it myself, but I can certainly guess that it's the source that her pithy comments in It's Not Your Fault, KoKo Bear, are drawn from.

One final thought:

This is a book intended for young children. If your child is already reading, it may be a better book for you than your child!

That's because Lansky's advice to you will likely be read by your child, and that might make your parenting efforts more transparent than you want them.

So if your child is old enough to understand a divorce is occurring but young enough not yet to be reading, it's hard for me to imagine a more essential book than It's Not Your Fault, Koko Bear.

And since Lansky stresses the importance of consistent and cooperative parenting, and similar bedtime routines in both homes, it could well be that two copies are in order!

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