I cried, simply on leafing through this picture book, the way I often do as I want to see what it’s like, even when I’m sure it will be good. And I knew that already, because Juliet Clare Bell and Dave Gray had posted a brief video online, about their picture book about dying.
And reading Benny’s Hat, I thought my heart would break.
This is not a bad sign, however, and I’d urge everyone to read the book, whether or not you need help right now on grieving or explaining serious illness or what a hospice does, and more.
Juliet Clare Bell has written such a tender story about Friz and her older brother Benny, who is terminally ill. And in this instance, I can’t imagine an illustrator other than Dave Gray, to provide the pictures to Juliet Clare’s words.
There might be one scene of normal life at the beginning, when we see Benny and Friz playing, but from then on the adult reader can see that Benny is unwell, where perhaps the child reader will learn along with Friz that he is ill, and that it’s a bad illness, and an illness where Benny can’t get better. And then we follow the family as Benny’s condition deteriorates, seeing how sad the parents are, how hard they are trying, and the sweet friendship between the siblings.
Until Benny dies, which is handled beautifully, and we see how all three are struggling with their grief. And how there can be better days, and maybe something good again.
And I’m sorry, but I need to go and find a tissue.