The Memory Box

memory box a

The Memory Box
A Book About Grief

Joanna Rowland
Illustrations by Thea Baker
Sparkhouse Family, 2017

From the back of the book, “From the perspective of a young child, Joanna Rowland artfully describes what it is like to remember and grieve a loved one who has died. The child in the story creates a memory box to keep mementos and written memories of the loved one, to help the grieving process. Heartfelt and comforting, The Memory Box will help children and adults talk about this very difficult topic together. The unique point of view allows the reader to imagine the loss of any they have loved a friend, family member, or even a pet.”

I found this touching book to be both comforting and liberating on the sensitive subject of grief. It gives a voice to kittens (and maybe even adults) who don’t have the words for what they’re feeling. “…I can never have another you. I miss you. … Because I’m scared I’ll forget you.” If you, your kittens or someone you know is in the midst of grief or suffering from a loss that lingers from before, this book will help you think about it and talk about it.

The memory box idea is something our human has used before. She has a box for some of the ones who have gone before. Sometimes it takes a while before she is able to complete a box just like it takes time to work through grief; it’s important not to force the process, only to keep moving forward. Getting stuck in grief is just as bad as ignoring it completely.

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws for approaching a very sensitive topic with a delicate honesty.

Reviewer: simon-locSimon

Goodbye Mog

Goodbye, Mog

Goodbye Mog

Judith Kerr
Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2002

From the dust jacket, “’Mog was tired… Mog thought, “I want to sleep forever.” And so she did. But a little bit of her stayed awake to see what would happen next…’

“Judith Kerr’s stories about Mog have delighted children for more than thirty years and sold over three million copies worldwide. In Goodbye Mog, Judith Kerr uses characteristic warmth and humor to create an extra-special book about everyone’s favourite family cat.”

This is one of those books that talks about the death of a family pet in a gentle way. The author reminds the reader that even though the cat (or other pet) is physically gone from our lives, they remain there in spirit. This reminds me of something I read or heard somewhere – that as long as you remember your loved one they are never really dead. I like that at the end of the book, Mog moves on spiritually when his work is finished – as so often happens, when one pet leaves their human a new one comes along, not to replace the first pet, but to help the human heal and move forward in love and peace.

If you, your family, or someone you know has suffered the death of a beloved pet, this sweet picture book is an ideal way to approach the subject and, maybe, begin the healing process.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws; the author tackles a tough subject with absolute gentleness and hope.





BIG CAT, little cat

big cat little cat

BIG CAT, little cat

Elisha Cooper
Roaring Brook Press, 2017

From the dust jacket: “There was a cat who lived alone. Until the day a new cat came … . From award-winning author Elisha Cooper comes a poignant story about friendship, family, and new beginnings.”

From the description on the dust jacket, it would seem this book is rather simple – but it’s not. Well, it is, on the surface. A cat lives alone with his family; they bring home a new kitten; the older (big) cat teaches the younger (little) cat how to be a cat. They have many years together until the older cat goes away – and doesn’t come back. Sad. But … . Can’t say – don’t want to ruin it.

Big Cat, Little Cat is a perfect vehicle for opening a dialog with your kittens about life and death and life. The very simple line drawings pack a punch, the words are few but powerful and the story evokes emotions of both joy and grief. The book is like haiku in that for a true wordsmith it only takes a few words to communicate volumes. Experienced readers will certainly be able to read the book on their own – but read it as a family, instead. It may evoke memories both joyful and sad that need to be spoken aloud so the love may be paid forward.

Rating: 5 of 5 paws because it’s a truly beautiful story that is overflowing with the truth of life.






Gregory Maguire
Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 1996, 1998

Thirteen-year-old Hand comes home from school and finds his father dead on the floor. He is alone in a rundown motel and then alone at the hospital where he waits. His mother left his father and his older sister, Vida,  three years before and moved to Seattle. Vida is in college a couple of hours away. When Hand is eventually reunited with his mother, he is full of anger over her abandonment of him and resentment that his sister has seemingly welcomed their mother back into their lives. On top of all that, guilt weighs heavily on him – if only he had come straight home from school instead of staying for track practice his father would still be alive and his mother on the West Coast.

This book tackles what is hard for anyone, let alone a child, which is the death of a loved one. Over the course of a year the reader watches Hand grow from a closed-down soul of a boy into an understanding and compassionate young man. In the end he still has issues with his mother but he knows he can move beyond those problems and back into the life as a teenager.

The author writes Hand with compassion, sensitivity and an eye toward all the jumbled-up emotions death brings. This is one of those stories that the author could easily have stretched into hundreds of pages but has distilled it down bare bones and raw emotions. Among all of the books I have read by Gregory Maguire, this numbers among the best –its brevity of word and accessibility for all ages (although it is geared toward 9-12) offers hope even in the midst of grief.

Rating: 4 paws

selfie 092015ddReviewer: Toby

blog header 3Also published on Sunny Book Garden under the non de plume ‘Debby’.

A Mango Shaped Space



A Mango-Shaped Space

Wendy Mass

Little, Brown and Company, 2003

Mia is a rising eighth-grader who has synesthesia (Wiki-link & Live Science link), a person senses are crossed. As the book opens, Mia is honoring the one-year anniversary of her grandfather’s death, and at her side constantly is her cat Mango. She has yet to fully grieve her grandfather’s death as she believes her Grandpa still lives in Mango. We journey with Mia through just over a year of her life and in that year she learns to cope with the joy of finding out she is not alone in her color-world, the turmoil of schoolwork, boys and best friends, and finally the pain of loss.

Main characters

·          Mia, as a synesthete, she sees shapes of colors whenever she hears sounds and sees colors for letters and numbers. For instance, the color of her name is candy apple red with a hint of light green. She has kept this a secret from everyone since she was in the third grade, including her parents, brother, sister and best friend.

·         Grandpa, although he is dead and we don’t actually meet him, his absence plays a major part in Mia’s life.

·         Mango, a grey and white cat that as a kitten appeared at her grandfather’s grave the day he was buried. He is named for the mango-color of his breath and purrs.

Secondary characters

·         Jenna , Mia’s best friend and PIC (Partner in Crime), like Mia, she has felt deep grief

·         Zack, Mia’s annoying little brother  (as all little brother’s are when they are that young)

·         Beth, Mia’s annoying older sister (as all older sister’s are always)

·         Roger, schoolmate and history project partner,  who also has felt the pang of deep loss

·         Mom and Dad, Mia’s parents, who do their best to understand their “Wild Child.”

Other characters

·         Billy Henkle, a very young boy whom Mia meets in the grocery store and for the first time realizes she is not alone in her color-wheel  world  

·         Jerry, the neurologist who diagnosis’s Mia

·         Adam, an on-line friend and fellow synesthete


It would be impossible for me to review this book without giving away the ending, well-not all of it, but the main turn in the book is right there in the title – “A Mango-Shaped Space.” Mango – as much as it pains me to say, well, he dies. There- it’s out. I’m, sorry, but it happens. Way at the end of the book, but it does. We get clues all along the way, clues that Mia misses and then beats herself up for not seeing them. But way before we get there, we learn to understand what it is like in her world, a world filled with bursts of color and texture.  As Mango is slowly dying, Mia is busy growing up. She is coming into her own as a young woman and learning to leave behind the things that prevent her from moving forward.  The transition of Mango from life to after-life (yes, there is after-life for cats) Mia finally transitions from grief into life. And like all births, it is a struggle, but her Grandpa and Mango gave her much needed strength to go on.


Rating:  4 paws because I really liked it, I cried when Mango died and I learned something new (about synesthesia).

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dec 24 2010 Reviewer: BobbiSue

 Wendy Mass

Wendy Mass is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen novels for young people (which have been translated into 14 languages and nominated for 74 state book awards), including A Mango-Shaped Space (which was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award by the American Library Association), Leap Day, the Twice Upon a Time fairy tale series, Every Soul a Star11 Birthdays, Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, and FinallyThe Candymakers , and 13 Gifts. Her latest books are The Last Present, Pi in the Sky, and a new early reader series called Space Taxi. Wendy wrote the storyline for an episode of the television show Monk, entitled “Mr. Monk Goes to the Theatre,” which aired during the show’s second season. She tells people her hobbies are hiking and photography, but really they’re collecting candy bar wrappers and searching for buried treasure with her metal detector. She lives with her family in New Jersey.

Some of her books:


 Could this be Mango?

Other books with Mango in the title (the word not the cat!)