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:
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:
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
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.
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,
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.