The Copper Tree
By Hilary Robinson and Mandy Stanley
This beautifully written and illustrated book is aimed at helping young children come to terms with the death of somebody close to them.
The story follows the children of a primary school class as they cope with the illness and subsequent death of their young teacher, Miss Evans. Written from the perspective of one of the pupils, Olivia, we witness the children first being told about Miss Evans' illness; her final visit to the school, when she has lost her hair and is confined to a wheelchair but still smiles “all the time”; and the moment the children are told she has died.
After Miss Evans' death, the children are supported by their teachers, and reassured that it's okay to cry or even feel cross as they come to terms with their loss. They are encouraged to remember everything Miss Evans taught them, which includes how to grow tomatoes and the importance of saying sorry. A poignant flashback illustration shows Miss Evans in good health jumping around hand in hand with one of her young charges.
The children's memories are inscribed onto leaf-shaped pieces of copper and hung on the eponymous copper tree of the title, where they ‘looked bright and beautiful in the sunbeams’ – ‘just what Miss Evans was like’.
Despite its subject matter, this gentle story of the legacy of love is not a bleak one. Humour plays its part – a pet dog with a bandaged leg wins the three-legged race at the school sports day, and in the supportive illustrations the children are generally depicted smiling. The Copper Tree lets children know it's okay not to be okay when someone dies. It also offers a message of hope that things will get easier, as well as an invitation to adults to live our own lives in such a way that they might leave a legacy of happiness for others.
The Copper Tree has been listed as one of the TOP TEN BOOKS for children dealing with death and grief by USA website efuneral.com
Hilary Robinson on talking to children about death
Hilary Robinson, pictured, the award winning children's writer and author of The Copper Tree, shares insights and top tips on talking to children about death: read Hilary's blog.
The winners of six copies of The Copper Tree have now been drawn. Many thanks to all who participated in the giveaway.
The Copper Tree by Hilary Robinson, illustrated by Mandy Stanley
Published by Strauss House Productions
Visit Hilary Robinson's website: www.hilaryrobinson.co.uk