Title: Beyond the Setting Sun
Author: Sarah J. Dodd
Illustrator: Cee Biscoe
Publisher: Lion Children’s Books
Genre: Children’s picture book
Book format: Digital pre-publication copy
Sweet Strawberries:  Sweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Description:  A picture story book about bereavement to support young children, specifically those who have lost a parent. 
The waterholes of the African Savannah have dried up and there has not been enough to drink for some of the animals. Ekundayo, a young elephant, struggles to understand the loss of his mother, but the support of his family help and guide him through.
Carefully researched about the stages of grief for young children, Sarah J Dodd sensitively portrays this in the response and actions of Ekundayo to help children express and share how they are feeling with those around them. Ekundayo’s aunt and father provide words of understanding, reassurance and comfort, and the message that the love of Ekundayo’s mother shines on, telling of a greater Love that may not see but never goes away and is everywhere.
At the end, Debbie Duncan also provides helpful advice for parents and carers as consider how to talk about death and dying with young children.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  This is a beautiful and very sensitive children’s picture book dealing with the idea of grief and losing someone close to you. Baby elephant Ekundayo and his momma enjoy their days together in the African Savannah. But when there is no water for Ekundayo’s momma to drink, she doesn’t wake up after falling asleep. Poor Ekundayo has to deal with coming to terms with the death of his mother, understanding what happened, while slowly also learning that he has support from his family.

This is such an emotional picturebook which made me both smile and cry a little too. Ekundayo is such a cute baby elephant and the time he spends with his mother is lovely. While they search for water to drink, Ekundayo’s mother speaks and sings to him, often in a fun rhyme. When the two lie down to sleep after searching all day for enough water to drink and not finding it, Ekundayo wakes up the next day but his mother doesn’t. As the other elephants and Ekundayo’s aunt try to help him understand what has happened, Ekundayo at first doesn’t believe his mother has truly gone. Later he tries to find her but on his search encounters something else instead.

The story is a beautiful one and quite simple, yet really powerful in its message at the same time. It shows well how grief can affect a child, first with them not understanding it and confusion over phrases that mean death, how children can misunderstand what has happened. Ekundayo’s grief is so sad to see but the story does have a positive ending even though Ekundayo’s mother dies and doesn’t return. The story shows how a supportive family and time helps Ekundayo, and any child really, to recover from such a sad event in their life and I love how sensitively this topic of family death and grief was handled in a picture book. It is a book that will leave you with mixed emotions though and I think some very sensitive children may find Ekundayo’s story hard to read, especially if those reading it are not suffering any grief at the time, I know I would have as a child.

The illustrations are so beautiful! All the illustrations look lie the one on the from cover, they are lovely, colourful and show all of the animals in Africa well. I love how wonderful each illustration is and how some appear on double pages, showing each elephant and animal as an individual. The elephants and especially Ekundayo’s emotions are clearly visible on his face and through the actions you see, and I just love how detailed the images are with some of the other animals and birds too. They appear throughout the story and show hapiness and sadness and understanding of what is happening in each scene of the story too. The illustrations really do make this story all the better and easier to read and understand for young children and I would recommend this book for the illustrations alone!

The book has some great advice at the end on how to help children deal with grief which I found quite valuable and the ideas for adults on things that children can do to cope or how children may react in grief can help some adults who may be struggling with the grief at the same time and may not know how best to help their children at such a difficult time. There are some great ideas and resources including some website links as well and I think this added extra makes for a great addition to the book.

I do like this book overall, the ending is a good and positive one despite the sad event that takes place, and although it can make for emotional reading, it’s a book that has a wonderful message of hope and love and it might help some children who may be going through the death of a parent or loved one to cope a little easier being able to understand what’s happening and be able to discuss their feelings in relation to Ekundayo’s. A lovely, though also sad book that I would recommend.

What do you think of this book?  Have you had to deal with childhood bereavement?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂