Elizabeth Mary Cummings (text), and Cheri Hughes (illustrator), The Forever Kid, Big Sky Publishing, September 2018, 32 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925675382
The Forever Kid is a picture book about grief. Told in the first person, the narrator is a child who talks about his deceased brother Johnny – a “forever-kid” because he will never grow up. He describes how his family keeps his deceased brother’s memory alive by celebrating his birthday and reminiscing about the things they loved to do with him.
In few words, Cummings skilfully describes common grief experiences with compassion and gentleness – wistful sadness, the gentle comfort of happy memories and even feelings of guilt. The message of the book is that grief takes many forms, and comfort comes from family love and support and fond memories of the deceased person. The family continue to feel close to Johnny by remembering him on his birthday.
The pages are filled with Hughes’s illustrations of the family members who have beautiful big eyes and luscious hair and wear colourful clothing. The illustrations depict the family closeness and the range of emotions that they experience. The background of hazy coloured clouds creates a dreamlike quality.
With my own grief experience of the loss of my Dad still fresh, I found the book’s depiction of grief quite relevant and comforting too. I love its focus on the bitter sweetness of memory and the empowering message that there are ways to cope with grief so that it needn’t be an overwhelming experience. The Forever Kid will be a useful resource for beginning a discussion with children about grief.
Reviewed by Barbara Swartz