Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
John Updike said that, “Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead,” “so why … be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?” Almost a millennium earlier, Montaigne posed the same question somewhat contrastively in his arresting meditation on death and the art of living: “To lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago.”
Yet death continues to distress us, even more so the death of our loved ones, and if adults are so thoroughly unsettled by the notion of death, despite intellectually recognizing it as an inevitable part of life, how is a child supposed to settle into comprehension and acceptance about such an unsettling reality?
Aware their grandmother is gravely ill, four siblings make a pact to try keep death from taking her away. But Death arrives all the same, as he must. He comes gently, naturally, and with enough time to share a story with the children that helps them to realize the value of death and the importance of being able to say goodbye.
Finally, Death goes upstairs, telling the children the words of the title, which offer them comfort in the following years.
Illustrator Charlotte Pardi creates a cozy, lived-in ambiance with her pencil and watercolor illustrations. The character of Death looks so tired, so utterly exhausted in this book, saddened and burdened with what he has been tasked with. His almost grandfatherly appearance suggests to the children, as well as to the reader, that maybe there isn’t really anything to fear about Death and that maybe there just might be a time and a place for all of us to go gently into that good night.
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