When I Die, Will I Get Better?
This intensely personal father-and-son collaboration came about after the death of Piet Breebaart's youngest child, Joeri's brother Remi. As the foreword explains, five-and-a-half-year-old Joeri became withdrawn and angry. Six weeks after Remi's death, the father mentioned Joe and Fred Rabbit, the characters they had invented for the tales they had told Remi; hoping to help Joeri in his mourning, Piet persuaded him to create a story in which Joe dies. This picture book, dictated by Breebaart fils and illustrated by Breebaart pere, is the result. Strong on matter-of-fact narrative and short on the superficial advice and saccharine psychobabble that pervade most bibliotherapy, the story features a host of animal characters who behave in very human ways. The ending, which finds Fred and his friends at play in the field where Joe is buried, is both poignant and hopeful, and may well be a real boost to readers struggling with grief. Preface not seen by PW. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)