Then tragedy strikes. Upon returning home from school, Harry learns that Hopper has died in an accident. His dad asks if he’d like to say good-bye before Hopper is buried. But Harry isn’t ready. In denial, he says no and turns up the volume on the TV. Nights are the hardest. That’s when Harry misses Hopper the most. (“Never again would Hopper wriggle from the bottom of his bed to the top.”) So Harry ends up sleeping on the sofa—all the while “longing for the feel of Hopper, the smell of Hopper, the bark of Hopper.” One night, not too long after the accident, Harry is awakened by the sound of Hopper at the window. The two play outside in the moonlight. The next morning, Harry wonders if it had been a dream. That night, Hopper (not “quite as solid, or quite as warm”) comes back again, and they play together as before. The following night, loyal Hopper is back—but he’s “wispy as winter fog, as cold as winter air.” And finally, Harry is ready to say good-bye to his friend. Their last interaction is tender and magical, hinting at the healing process without diminishing the grief.
The loss of a loved one is a harsh lesson at any age. Like City Dog, Country Frog and The Fall of Freddie the Leaf (two other wonderful picture books about death), Harry & Hopper illuminates the subject of death with grace and sensitivity. It cushions the blow by respecting the grief of young children and showing them that they’re not alone in their heartache.
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What books have helped your kids handle the loss of a loved one?