Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review of Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories

In Audrey Penn's Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories, Chester is yet again learning a tough life lesson. At school, his Owl Teacher tells the students that Skiddil Squirrel had an accident and won't be coming back to school. He doesn't understand what this means. So, Mrs. Raccoon tries to explain to him what it means that Skiddil died. Chester understandably becomes very upset and wants to still play with his friend. Mrs. Raccoon recommends that he do something to create a memory of his lost friend. Because Skiddil liked butterflies and acorns, the two of them trek down to the butterfly pond with Chester's brother, Ronny, and his best friend, Cassy. More and more of their other animal friends join them along the way.

When they arrive at the pond, there are dozens of butterflies flitting about. Mrs. Raccoon asks Chester to share some of his favorite memories of Skiddil. One of those memories is about Skiddil burying a bunch of acorns near the pond, but forgetting where he had planted them. Mrs. Raccoon points out a small group of oak trees that are just starting to grow. Chester exclaims that the forest has made a Skiddil Squirrel memory. He finds an acorn lying on the ground near the trees and decides to take it home as a tangible memory of his beloved friend. Before leaving, he puts a Kissing Hand on each new tree trunk, thanking Skiddil for having been his friend.

This book brought tears to my eyes. Death is difficult to handle at any age. For children, though, it is even more difficult. It just doesn't make any sense to them. And the death of a child, from an accident or otherwise, is even more difficult for all to bear.

Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories is not written to tell parents how to explain death to their children. It isn't going to tell them how to answer all of their children's questions. But it does provide a great way for children to create and hold onto their memories of their lost friend. The idea could even work for children who have lost a beloved parent or grandparent. It is the memories of those who are lost that we will cherish together. And for children who are in a more concrete phase of thinking, attaching those memories to something tangible will help them to keep those memories alive. The book also indirectly recommends planting a tree in the deceased person's honor. This is a tradition carried out by the loved ones of many who have passed. Parents could easily do this with their child.

I also liked how this book did not dwell on Skiddil Squirrel's death, nor any ideas as to the afterlife or other personal beliefs. Whether parents want to teach their children about Heaven or otherwise is best left up to each individual family. Reading this book is going to cause a lot of questions to be raised, so think about your own beliefs and what you wish to pass on prior to sharing it. I would not recommend reading it to an entire class of children.

Barbara L. Gibson has again captured the essence of young children in her illustrations of Chester Raccoon and the other raccoons in the story. I was particularly touched by the vibrant illustrations at the butterfly pond. The magical appearance of so many beautiful butterflies in the beloved play area of Skiddil Squirrel is a fitting tribute.

I received a complimentary set of galleys from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this review.

No comments:

Post a Comment