Sunday, July 28, 2019

Review - Maybe Dying Is Like Becoming a Butterfly

Maybe Dying Is Like Becoming a Butterfly
by Pimm van Hest
illustrated by Lisa Brandenburg
Date: 2019
Publisher: Clavis
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

“Are you going to die, Grandpa?”
“Someday, sweetheart. But I hope not too soon.”

An important picture book that gives children free rein to express their questions, fears, thoughts, and ideas about death. For children ages 5 and up. Including an epilogue by the grief therapist Rebecca Dabekaussen, with tips on how to discuss this difficult but inevitable subject with children.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The intention behind this book is good. I can't deny that. Unfortunately, the technical aspects of the writing just aren't strong enough to make this a book I could enjoy or recommend.

This is basically a conversation between a boy named Christopher and his grandfather, in which they share their thoughts about death. The grandfather cleverly asks the child repeatedly what he thinks, never forcing any one way of thinking. Heaven, reincarnation, and even a more materialist point of view are covered as the two muse about what might come after death.

The problem is the way the story is written. It's mostly dialogue, but it lacks speech attributions for much of the book. (And, in one place where they were included, the verb tense was switched!) I couldn't figure out who was talking at quite a few points in the story. A few more dialogue tags could've easily cleared this problem up.

The illustrations are cute and show the duo imagining various things about death. The pictures complement the story well.

For me, I think the best part of the book is Christopher's letter to his grandfather at the end. It's probably the most profound thought in the story. (It's also where the title comes from.) That page alone probably would've been sufficient for me! It's a very astute observation, and a nice thing to think about.

Overall, this was just an average book for me. While I like the premise and the illustrations, I think the writing really lets it down. I don't know how much of that is a translation issue; in any case, the text needs some work for clarity.

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.17 out of 5

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