A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know this gentle book deals head-on with loss, walking young children through the process of grieving and teaching them how to heal and move on. The loss in this case is a tree, but to Tess it’s like losing a beloved playmate.
What's the story?
Nine-year-old Tess loves playing on and around the old tree in her yard. When a storm damages several branches and the unsafe tree is sawed down, Tess is heartbroken. She decides to hold a funeral. Family, friends, and neighbors share their stories of how the tree had been a part of their lives. In the process, Tess is able to let go of her tears and anger.
Is it any good?
This is author Jess M. Brallier’s first picture book, and he gets it right in every way. Originally published online, TESS'S TREE makes a deserved transition to a printed book worth treasuring. Both children and parents will appreciate Brallier's honest, comforting text. He provides a playbook for parents and children trying to sort out feelings of grief and loss and focus on joyful memories. Kids will readily empathize with Tess as she struggles with difficult feelings. There are light touches, too, such as Tess decorating the tree’s “children” for the service and the appearance of a couple who had long ago carved their names into the old tree.
Peter H. Reynolds, author-illustrator of The Dot, again offers delightful, sensitive illustrations. His Tess rampages fiercely after her tree is cut down, then collapses in a heartbroken heap on the stump. She’s simply drawn but wonderfully expressive.
Sensitively and beautifully drawn artwork reflects the warmth of the story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coping with loss. Have you ever felt like Tess does when her tree is taken down? How did you react? Did it help you feel better?
At the celebration of the life of Tess’s tree, Tess learns about the tree’s past. Help children interview someone older -- a grandparent, aunt, or neighbor, perhaps -- about something in their past, such as their first day of school, the house they grew up in, or what they did for fun as a child.
Families reading this book while dealing with a loss can try some of the activities Tess does. Try holding a celebratory funeral, or commemorate what you’ve lost through artwork.
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