Some topics are difficult to broach with young children, and it is often these very issues that are the most important ones to address. Many caretakers find the death of a close family member, especially that of a parent, difficult to explain, especially the rituals a child encounters when a loss must be faced. At these complicated and emotionally fragile moments or, even better, in advance of their occurrence, a sensitive, clear, accurate picture book is a helpful and significant tool in communicating with confused and grieving children.
Sitting Shiva, by Erin Silver, explains the Jewish mourning period in a gentle, easy-to-understand, caring manner. It is the story of a young girl and her father, who are sitting shiva after her mother’s recent death. This simple and accessible story, read with an understanding and sympathetic adult, will help a child understand this basic Jewish multi-day mourning custom. The book is carefully phrased, evocatively illustrated, and emphasizes time spent with family and friends, sharing memories, food, and comfort.
An end note explains more about grief, noting that other religions have mourning rituals as well and focusing on the common idea of strength through community, which is the unifying hallmark of them all.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.