(Topic: Book, Children’s Book, siblings, talking about loss)
Perfectly Imperfect Family
By Amie Lands
Just to be frank and up-front, I got a free advance e-copy of this book in order to be able to review, but my health prevented me from reviewing the book before it was released. The advance copy was not given with any financial incentive or any particular slant I had to write about (if I had hated it or had strong criticisms, they would be in this post! I actually really liked it, though!). I haven’t read any other picture books intended for children subsequent to a pregnancy or infant loss yet, though when I do, I’ll review them here too, even if I don’t have advance copies! I promise I will always give you my honest opinion if I’m reviewing something, and will always tell you if I get any benefits (like the free advance copy in this case).
If you click the title above, you will be taken straight to the Amazon page for it, and if you click on the author’s name, you will be taken directly to the author’s own page about the book.
It is a picture book, with only short amounts of text per page. I believe it is clearly comprehensible to young children. The illustrations are simple and touching. They are not overly busy with detail, but clearly show the love in the family, and include enough texture and small details to be realistic and interesting, rather than blank feeling (such as wood grain on the floors, there’s a potted aloe plant that has spots, etc). The family featured is Caucasian, with a mother, father, and two living boys, both younger than the sister that is the featured topic. The main character is the oldest living boy.
The first thing I like about this book is that it is matter-of-fact. There is no beating around the bush, euphemisms for death, or overly religious metaphors that would not be clear to children.
The book doesn’t specify whether the first child – a girl – died as a pregnancy loss or after birth as an infant loss, and honestly, that is great – it makes this book much more versatile. It is specified a bit more at the end of the book, but not during the story.
The book sweetly shows how the family integrates the sister into life, through pictures, memories, and rituals. Several holidays are specified with examples (Thanksgiving, Christmas), and the main character – a boy who looks to be about 6 – compares his birthday to how they celebrate his sister’s birthday, with a family gathering, cake, and a ladybug release.
The ladybug release is actually the only caveat I would comment on – it is a great suggestion as an alternative to a balloon release (which is actually deadly to many animals, and many families decide that causing death in memory of a death is not fitting). However, if you choose to release butterflies, insects of any kind, or even planting flowers, please do a bit of research and make sure that what you are releasing is friendly to your environment and won’t cause harm.
The book continues by addressing common thoughts that siblings might have about a sibling who died before they were born, such as what they might have been like, and concludes by reinforcing that the sister’s death affected their life, but primarily through love.
The book concludes by having a section where the reader can think about how their family honors their own missing sibling, and write in their answers in parallel to examples from the book. There could have been more examples, but I think this book is aimed at a pretty young crowd – maybe as young as four? – and I think the hardback version may be a board-book format, so the small number of blanks keep it straightforward for a young crowd, and fits the physical format.
I really like how simple, direct, and loving this book is. I hope to someday own it, actually.
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