Chris Raschka's The Purple Balloon
Review by Steve Barancik
Some books you wish didn't have to be written. The Purple Balloon is a children's book about a dying child.
Written and illustrated by Caldecott Award winner Chris Raschka, in conjunction with Children's Hospice International, this is a picture book on the subject of a child's impending death.
A note from a Founding Director of C.H.I. explains that when a child aware of his or her imminent passing is given a chance to draw their feelings, they often depict themselves as a purple or blue balloon, floating untethered.
With simple text and and even simpler pictures, the book tries to explain death in way a child can understand. There is no fictional main character, just the real life child in your child's life whose unfortunate predicament makes a book like this necessary.
No hospitals, hospices or beds are depicted, just people - in the form of colored balloons. Raschka's illustrations are a marvel. Each balloon is a simple but expressively drawn face. Raschka even coaxes expression from the strings hanging from each balloon.
These simple abstractions couldn't be clearer.
When someone dies, it's good to have a family.
And it's good to have friends.
I don't think this is a book for the dying child. I like to think he or she is receiving more specialized help.
But The Purple Balloon is the perfect book for young children touched by another child's expected passing. It conveys the appropriate emotion and, in an afterword, offers advice on how best to treat a dying friend. The book teaches that what a dying child needs most is caring and compassion and that it's your child's job to give it. As the book explains,
Good help makes dying less hard. Good help makes leaving easier.
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