Beds, Herts & Bucks

Children's grief book about 'hope' not 'darkness'

Family in book Image copyright Hibbs & Harrison 2020
Image caption The character in Where is Uncle Al asks "difficult" questions about death

A children's illustrator and author say they want to start a conversation about death after being told the subject was "off the table".

Where is Uncle Al is aimed at four to seven year olds and was inspired by Eva Hibbs' father who died 12 years ago.

She and artist Sarah Harrison decided to self-publish the book after being encouraged by health professionals.

"We don't want it to be a topic of darkness, we want it to be of hope," Miss Harrison, from Bedford, said.

Image copyright Hibbs & Harrison 2020
Image caption Eva Hibbs and Sarah Harrison decided to work together after a mutual friend introduced them in Bedford

The book centres around Lily who has heard about Uncle Al, but is given different answers when she asks her family where he is.

Miss Hibbs, 30, from London, said it was dedicated to her cousins who were born after her father's death.

"I wondered how they were going to know my dad and how we were going to talk about him," she said.

"We pretend we know about death and stop exploring it, so I wanted Lily to ask questions to adults that they found difficult to answer."

The author said publishers told them "death was off the table".

Image copyright Hibbs & Harrison 2020
Image caption The character Lily's mother is a Christian and believes Uncle Al is "up in heaven"
Image copyright Hibbs & Harrison 2020
Image caption The book features a grandmother who as a Buddhist believes Uncle Al is "is in a different form now"

Miss Harrison said they had also been encouraged to go ahead by teachers and parents as well as health professionals, and said the idea was "to start conversations about death and belief about life."

The childhood bereavement charity Winston's Wish said stories played an important role in helping children make sense of death.

Suzannah Phillips said: "The pictures and words help to feed children's imaginations and can make them feel connected to someone and make them feel less isolated at a time when they can feel very alone with their grief."

"Having a variety of books to choose from means that children and young people can find something that best suits their own needs."

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