Remembering Barkley

Albert Whitman. Oct. 2020. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807594483.
K-Gr 2–Bear, a loyal black dog, and his owner Jacob, a white boy, mourn Barkley, the second dog in their home. From Bear’s point of view, Barkley just doesn’t come home one day, and the loss is never defined or explained. As narrator, Bear acts as a stand-in for readers, but Bear muddles through with no guidance, adults, understanding, or ritual to help with healing. “‘Bring the ball back, Bear. Bring it back!’/ Jacob’s face was the color of my leash, “‘Bring HIM back!’ he hollered as he came toward me.” When Jacob breaks down and cries after yelling, Bear thinks the boy is raining, which, while a deft representation of what this dog might think, is confusing rather than clarifying, since Jacob’s outburst isn’t explained. The book includes “Talking About Grief,” a section with information for caregivers to use with young children; however, the text itself is only marginally useful in this regard since it doesn’t model the stated key concepts such as “being truthful, keeping explanations simple, sharing facts in an age-appropriate way, and reminding children that the loss of death they experienced was not their fault and they did not cause it.” Yang’s bright digital illustrations portray the characters’ feelings through body language and facial expression but don’t make the book more accessible to young readers.
VERDICT Older readers who are grieving may find peace in this measured, poetic title, but a better choice of bibliotherapy for younger children is Robie H. Harris’s Goodbye Mousie.

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