If Nathan Were Here

Mary Bahr, Author, Karen A. Jerome, Illustrator, Mary Bahr Fritts, Author Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5187-1
Best read in the company of a supportive adult, this affecting story is a solid choice for children mourning the loss of a peer. The narrator, an unnamed boy, begins with a lengthy description of what his morning would be like ""if Nathan were here."" Midway through the book, the boy acknowledges, ""But Nathan isn't here."" Instead, the boy's teacher is explaining how the class can fill a ""memory box"" with ""all the best things we remember about Nathan."" While his classmates suggest questions they might ask their late friend, the narrator remains silent; only later, alone in the tree fort, does he voice the question that plagues him: ""What am I supposed to do without my best friend?"" Bahr's (Memory Box) depiction of grief feels very real. On the other hand, her hopeful resolution, in which the narrator plans an overture to Nathan's sister, seems a little easy. The circumstances of Nathan's death are not specified, broadening the book's applicability. Jerome's (The Littlest Tree) softly focused watercolor paintings are similarly undefined, inviting youngsters' interpretation without limiting their ability to identify with the characters. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-0-8028-5235-9
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-75337-1
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