Take a gander at the 2012 Caldecott winner: A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t as super-crazy about this book as the Caldecott committee apparently is. Yah, I get that the illustrations pack a punch with just a few choice brush strokes. And yes, the story is indeed touching. But, I dunno, I just couldn’t get that worked up about it.
That was before I read it to my kid. (I say “read” but I really mean “look at the pictures and talk through the story,” since it’s a pure picture book.) It’d been sitting around the house for exactly two weeks and six days. I know it was that long because it was due back to the library the very next day. Of course, once I revealed that the book would be disappearing back into the stacks, my kid’s level of interest went from zero to ten. And so we decided to read it together at bedtime.
The plot in a nutshell: Daisy the dog has a red ball that she loves. Another dog she meets at the park breaks her ball, and Daisy is bereft. She grieves for the red ball, but is happy when the owner of the other dog brings Daisy a new ball.
So, there we are, going through the book, and we’re get to the part where Daisy’s ball breaks and has to be thrown away and, lo and behold, I hear sniffles. No kidding, sniffles. And a quivering lower lip.
Suddenly, I started to feel the impact of the story, too. I realized that losing a favorite toy could very well be a kid’s first experience of true and deep loss. Or, maybe it’s that Daisy’s red ball is such a tangible expression of loss. After all, when a person dies, we make a point of remembering that person, keeping their memory alive, and saying that they’re still with us in some way. But not Daisy’s ball. It breaks. And then it’s gone. The end.
Fortunately for me and every other parent reading A Ball for Daisy, the story has a happy ending, with Daisy getting a new blue ball. My kid’s sniffles were gone, but I know the experience stuck with him because he woke us up early the next morning saying he was thinking about Daisy and it had made him sad. At the same time, he also said it was “a reallllly good book.”
In terms of life lessons, I liked that Daisy’s new ball isn’t exactly the same as her old one. Because a lot of times, things can’t be exactly replaced, and that can be okay. I also liked that Daisy was allowed to really embrace her grief for awhile. It seems like we’re so often afraid of sadness, but wrapping yourself up in it is sometimes the only way to get through it.
So, okay Caldecott committee. I’m not 100% sure if I totally agree with you on this one. But, hey, r.e.s.p.e.c.t.
Find it here.