We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year. Our reading theme for March/April is “Grey and Golden, Young and Fleeting: Ruminations on Mortality and Transient Lives.”
I deliberately hunted this book down as I felt that it fits quite nicely given our ruminations on mortality theme and how life and death may be explained to children with the use of picture books.
Plus the fact that Robert Ingpen simply happens to be one of my absolute favourite artists of all time.
And so the book begins with a beginning and an ending with a gorgeous illustration of a nest with new laid eggs and the simple words:
There is a beginning
and an ending for everything
that is alive.
In between is living.
Each page marks a beautiful attempt to normalize a topic that is often considered taboo or riddled with fear and anxiety that even the mere whisper of it seems to be an invitation for Death’s Spectre to come in. What I liked about this picture book is that in an almost-clinical but oh-so-lyrical way, it shows death to be a natural part of every living creature’s existence with lifetimes in between. This is true across all living things, even for tiniest insects.
Ingpen’s art, as per usual, astounds as can be seen in my favourite page above – are you able to discern the face in that old tree? This is also marked by the author’s simple refrain:
Trees that are tall and strong
grow slowly, standing in the sunshine
and in the rain.
Some of them live for a very long
time indeed, as long as a hundred
years or more.
That is their lifetime.
And so the story continues on until it reaches human beings and touches on young people dying early or beloved old folks passing away – as that is their lifetime. While infused with a seeming finality, there is also a gentleness to the words that seem almost like a refrain, giving comfort to an aching soul. My only peeve with this book is its typography as the designers opted for the simplest font that they could find, perhaps in their attempts to give more emphasis on the message. Regardless, this is now a definite go-to book for young readers who may be experiencing loss or dealing with the pain of letting go.
Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between: A Beautiful Way to Explain Life and Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. Published by Belitha Press, 1997. Book borrowed through interlibrary loan. Book photos taken by me.
Hans Christian Andersen Medaille Award.