All Shining in the Spring: the Story of a Baby Who Died
This is an important and early example of a book for children that addresses the death of a baby. The book was written by Irish children’s author and Ireland’s inaugural Children’s Laureate/Laureate na nÓg Siobhán Parkinson (1954–) in response to the death of her baby at birth and in an effort to help their child Matthew to cope with the situation. Though there have been numerous recent books on the subject, all of which aim to help a child with the loss of a baby or young child, Parkinson’s book is one of the earliest books to approach the subject in this manner and remains a recommended book by bereavement bodies. That the book addresses a specific readership and is centred on particular issues is apparent from the author’s note at the beginning of the book, which advises: ‘This book will also help children deal with the death of a brother or sister by cot death or through an accident’. The text of the book is written in simple language and short sentences, and appears to be aimed at a younger child. However, the simple and direct sentences also reflect the sensitivity of the subject matter and the difficulty that contemporary books about such subjects encounter when trying to relate matters of death and dying to a young readership. Matthew’s world is introduced in the opening pages, and particular attention is given to his mother’s pregnancy and his inclusion and excitement about the growth, development, and arrival of his new sibling. Matthew imagines scenarios where he will help his parents with the baby and how he will teach and read to the baby when it is old enough. Illustrations of both scenarios are enclosed within a blurred circle outline, suggesting a future that has not yet developed. When Matthew’s mother receives the sad news that the baby is not growing, Matthew participates in the immediate and extended family’s grief, and without being told directly, comes to understand that the baby will die. When Matthew meets the baby, who has already died, his own grief demonstrates empathy with his mother’s experience. Much of the remainder of the book considers death more broadly, and particularly child death, and the rituals and processes surrounding death are explained and explored. The possibility of hope, remembrance, and love is symbolised in the flowers that Matthew and his father plant at the grave, and it is significant that it is Matthew himself who pronounces that ‘“It will be all shining when the spring comes”’ (56), retaining the book’s child-centred premise.
Siobhán Parkinson. Illustrated by Donal Teaskey
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64p. : ill.
Death, Baby Death, Birth, Grief, Family, Bereavement
Juvenile Literature Collection - CICE