Everett Anderson – Perfect Picture Book Friday

It’s time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Thanks to The Brown Bookshelf‘s feature on Lucille Clifton last month, I discovered her picture books. But it wasn’t easy to find them on a library shelf in San Francisco. They were sidelined in the “historical children’s” section of the Main San Francisco Public Library. Three were available for circulation: Everett Anderson’s Goodbye (Coretta Scott King Award winner), Some of the Days of Everett Anderson, and Everett Anderson’s Year.

I found the first so moving, I am compelled to feature it as a perfect picture book:

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 8.34.27 PMThe title page illustration:

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The dedication reads “for my sad friends.”

And then another illustration of the boy looking over the reader’s shoulder, searching for someone he’ s lost.

The next page serves as a table of contents:

1) Denial

2) Anger

3) Bargaining

4) Depression

5) Acceptance

The Five Stages of Grief 

In these five brief poems, Clifton captures the boy’s voice and internal experience as he comes to terms with the death of his father.

Here is Everett Anderson’s anger:

“I don’t love Baby Evelyn

and I don’t love Mr. Perry, too,

and I don’t love Christmas or 

Santa Claus 

and I don’t love candy

and I don’t love you!”

Everett Anderson’s mama is a warm and loving presence who patiently waits for her boy to work through his emotions.

“Well, Everett,” his mama sighs,

“Who do you love?”

And he cries and cries.

 This extraordinary book is a powerful tool for anyone to use with a child who’s lost a loved one. So it’s a mystery to me why it’s sitting unloved on the shelf of the historical children’s section of the SFPL. The illustrations are masterful, depicting the emotions of the boy and his mother so accurately that I wanted to reach out and hug them both.

IMG_3835

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Like the rest of us, Everett Anderson also bargains with death and then becomes depressed when he finds that bargaining doesn’t work, either.

But lest you think the book ends miserably, I’ll leave you with “Acceptance”:

After a little bit of time

We see an image of Everett trudging alone through the snow, then—page turn— an image of mama and Everett, holding a photo of his father: 

Everett Anderson says, “I knew

my daddy loved me through and through,

and whatever happens when people die,

—page turn—

IMG_3837

love doesn’t stop, and

neither will I.”

Everett Anderson’s Goodbye is still available through Amazon, and presumably can be ordered through your local bookstore. It should not be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Title: Everett Anderson’s Goodbye

Author: Lucille Clifton

Illustrator: Ann Grifalconi

Publisher: Holt (original), now Square Fish

Pub date: 1983 (original), 1988

Ages: K-3, I might even use it as an entry point for talking about death with older children.

36 thoughts on “Everett Anderson – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    Definitely sounds like a book that deserves better display in a library. There are few books that deal so well with the topic. This one could be a great resource for families experiencing a similarly difficult time. A great resource for those of us in pediatrics, too. Thank you.

  2. Wendy says:

    With the Reading Rainbow imprint on it I imagine it’s received a fair amount of exposure, but it was new to me. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      It probably received quite a bit of exposure when it was first published. But this book is timeless, and I think it needs a little boost to get it back into circulation. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Patricia Tilton says:

    What a beautiful book on grief. I love the poetic style and the deeply moving illustrations. I am always on the outlook for good grief books to recommend. Strange where you found the book in the library. Thank you so much for sharing it as a picture book.

  4. johnnycrabcakes says:

    She has tackled a tough subject deftly indeed. Thank you for sharing this.
    I’ll have to see if I can find any of her books in our local library.
    And Thanks for the link to the Brown Bookshelf. I was just talking with a friend about good sources for more ethnically diverse kid’s books. What a great resource and one I will share. I will definitely be doing some more delving into that site–the “What color is my world” book by Kareem looks really cool.

  5. Mrs. P says:

    Add a tag to your post…helping children deal with death and death and dying. It will at least give it a wider audience. Also writing a review on Good Reads and Amazon brings the ratings up so it gets promoted more. And it can be added to any other outlet you can think of. 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      It’s interesting that you should say that, Erik. The saying goes something like “the illustrations should be 50% of a picture book.” I’d say that the text and illustrations do their part to bring their 50% of life to this story. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      I can’t tell you how alone it makes me feel to look at the illustration of the little boy trudging through the snow, his scarf flying behind him in the wind. The illustrator masterfully created the sense of loss.

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