Frontlist | 2 New Picture Books Depict the Elusive Hide-and-Seek of Grief

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“We only have 42 more Christmases until we are dead.”

This is what my 4-year-old told me in mid-December before bedtime. He has been testing out these kinds of musings on mortality a lot lately. I quickly changed the subject, asking which he would prefer, “PJ Masks” or dinosaur pajamas. The truth is, I am terrified of engaging him in these death talks for fear of devastating him. “Everyone you know will die someday. Many in your own lifetime and the more you love them the harder it will be to say goodbye.” Where do I begin?

Picture books are the perfect medium by which to introduce one of the more difficult and complicated of life’s challenges: grief.

Andrew Arnold’s “What’s the Matter, Marlo?” follows a child and her best friend, Marlo, spending time together laughing as they read a joke book and playing hide-and-seek. One day Marlo is upset. He’s sad and angry. So angry that his rage, a mass of dark scribbles, fills the page and obscures him. Just as in hide-and-seek, the friend looks and looks until she finds Marlo, hiding in his grief. (His dog’s death is hinted at visually.) The book concludes as they hug and cry together, “because that’s what best friends do.”

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