Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Picture Books Reading Themes Voices From The Fringe: Social Justice

[Monday Reading] Voices Of Grief in Picturebooks for Children from Argentina and Canada

"Some Days" by Maria Wernicke and translated by Lawrence Schimel | "The Phone Booth In Mr. Hirota's Garden" by Heather Smith and Rachel Wada.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

I featured both of these picturebooks during my recent talk at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content for their Digital Symposium last October 03. These are both sensitively-written titles that articulate grief with such subtlety and truth. Perfect books to read for All Souls’ Day.

Some Days [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Maria Wernicke Translated by Lawrence Schimel
Published by Amazon Crossing Kids (2020)
ISBN: 542022517 (ISBN13: 9781542022514). Review copy provided by publisher. Book photos taken by me.

This is what I said about the book during my session at AFCC:

In Some Days from Argentina, beautifully translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel, a young girl conceives of a passageway in her yard, that is there some days, but not all days. The passageway leads her to someone who made her feel safe, warm, and protected – and who is now gone. But it doesn’t mean she will stop looking.

What I loved most about this picturebook is how grief was interwoven seamlessly into every day life and the routines one goes through each day, such as doing the laundry or hanging the clothes out to dry. There is also quiet in the white spaces, cleverly designed to convey a sense of emptiness, the characters vivid, stark, and unsmiling against a backdrop of white.

I love the effective use of color – the bright reds against a predominantly monochromatic palette. There is a certainty that one can only live with grief, in the hopes that some days, the passage to the other side will be there, bright and inviting.

The Phone Booth In Mr. Hirota’s Garden [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written By Heather Smith Illustrated by Rachel Wada
Published by Orca Book Publishers(2019)
ISBN: 1459821033 (ISBN13: 9781459821033). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

This is what I said about the book during my session at AFCC:

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden is actually based on the real story of a man named Itaru Sasaki who built a phone booth in his garden as a way to deal with his grief after his cousin died in 2010. The phone was naturally disconnected but Sasaki thought his words would “ride the wind to his loved one.”

When a tsunami struck the coastal town of Otsuchi – pretty much like what happens in the book – thousands of mourners flocked to the phone booth, attempting to speak with their loved ones whom they have lost.

This book caught me sideways – there is this shared communal attempt to experience and cope with grief that is deeply individual, but also keenly shared and almost distributed throughout the members of the community.

I remember hugging this book close to me as soon as I finished reading it. Then I called my 18 year old daughter, and read it aloud again to her, my voice choking towards the end. Then I re-read it once more. There is muted and angry grief, yes, but there is also both a holding on and letting go with a phone connected to the ether, as one sends hopeful, longing voice messages to winds that have swept past one’s life. This is a beautiful book. Find it.

#ReadIntl2020 Update: The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden – Rachael Wada is Canadian of Japanese-Cantonese ethnicity.

Some Days – Maria Wernicke is from Argentina: 36 (out of target 30). Translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

10 comments on “[Monday Reading] Voices Of Grief in Picturebooks for Children from Argentina and Canada

  1. I’m just no sure books about grief make life better for children experiencing it. Just reading a review of a book where the dog dies destroyed me for an entire evening. (Where Layla Wasn’t? Can’t remember the title and don’t want to read the book!) I can only imagine what books like that do to children.


  2. I knew the title of the first one, Myra, but not the second. I shared another one about loss & grief today, The Boy and the Gorilla, I guess each one meant to help. Everyone of us is different. When I was still teaching, we got the news that a former student had committed suicide. Many of her classmates reached out to me & with the help of a colleague, we got together to share our fond memories, to grieve together. One of these books could have added to our support. The ages were high school & a few of my middle-school students, too. Thanks for sharing these beautiful books!


  3. I adored the art in The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden. I read it with a group of grade 3/4’s who admired it, but were not sure about the story overall. I’ve added Some Days to the list.


  4. I’ll add these books to my list! I love picture books and especially true stories! Thank you!


  5. I love picture books and especially true story stories! Thank you!


  6. I hope I can find a copy of The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden. I really like the artwork and love the message. Thanks for sharing, Myra!


  7. Completely Full Bookshelf

    These books look simply beautiful! I really appreciate your thorough comments and images, as I wouldn’t have realized how touching these books seem otherwise! The very last spread in the post is so beautiful and heartbreaking that I honestly almost teared up. Thanks for the wonderful post!


  8. Vidya Tiru

    Both these books look so beautiful and are so profound Myra.. thanks for sharing them. I am going to be looking for them


  9. Pingback: November web round-up – World Kid Lit

  10. Pingback: [My 2020 in Books] Favourite Books Read in 2020 – Gathering Books

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