about this blog



I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

death and the garden: a book for children


The death of a loved pet is an opportunity to help a child to understand, or at least accept, the fact of death.  The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst, tells a deceptively simple story about a little boy whose cat Barney died.



In a garden nothing stays the same. There is continual change. Seeds germinate.  Bird eggs, spider eggs and insect eggs hatch.  All living things eat, grow and propagate. In time they die. In time everything that lives dies.

I wonder if death is easier to come to terms with for gardeners?

The sad little boy in this book is comforted when he learns about the cycle of life. He is comforted when he realizes that his cat Barney, buried in the garden, will enrich the soil, and help the trees and flowers and grass to grow.

"That's a pretty nice job for a cat," he says.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough for people over 6 years old. It contains lots to think about and lots to talk about.

I'm linking this post to Holley's book review meme in her blog Roses and Other Gardening Joys.




30 comments:

  1. That sounds like a good book and a book that contains wisdom. My dog is lying in my feet now, because he's sick. I gave him accidentally unpropriate food.

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  2. Our old cat Bootsy is feeding our lilac tree, and his death was very hard for our younger daughter. Wish we'd had this book about eight years ago.

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    1. I guess it is actually a very common and realistic story. It is quite lovely when you put it like that - that Bootsy is associated with the lilac tree.

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  3. a surprisingly applicable post, my dog and best friend of the past 13 years died today, and i must say, you're blog post has really helped, so for that i must thank you, i never thought about it like that

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    1. dear Michael, my condolences, how sad. I'm so pleased my post inadvertently helped you in your grief.

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  4. This sounds like a wonderful book. Death can be a very hard subject to talk to children about, and this book would make it much easier, it seems. I am going to purchase this book for my grandchildren. And somehow, yes, I do think death can be easier to accept if we have a connection to nature. The garden is a great teacher. Thanks so much for joining in.

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    1. Hi Holley, I'm loving this meme, thanks for inventing it and organizing it.

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  5. Hi Catmint. This is a real classic. I remember it well from my days at the LBR. A wonderful choice.

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  6. This sounds like a lovely book. Our three yr old grandchild was delighted by the concept of hatching. His excited little voice in the spring declaring "the flowers are hatching" is something I will always treasure. And yes he is absorbing the rythm of the seasons and all that entails in a very gentle way.

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  7. Death is a part of life, and it is helpful to understand that. In the garden, the death and life cycle is more evident. This sounds like a very valuable teaching tool...great review!

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  8. Sounds like essential reading for little ones coming to terms with losing a much loved pet, always a difficult time. My old dog Gemma is in the garden feeding a rhododendron bush, I still miss her and the walks we had together but nice to know that she is still with us when we are gardening.

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    1. Hi Pauline, how lovely that Gemma is still with you. We had our former dog cremated and sprinkled her ashes on the creek where she used to swim with the ducks, but I hadn't read this book then.

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  9. Interesting. A very nice and educational way to teach children about life-cycle and death. Both of my sons at different occasion when I show their baby sister for the first tine asked me where did I buy their sister from???My tummy was growing bigger during pregnancy and tried to explain I am carrying. Still they can't understand yet.What happened to fairytale.

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    1. Interesting, it's a gradual understanding I suppose. My mother read me a book about sex and assumed I understood. I just thought it was about chickens and didn't make the connections with humans. At some stage though I made the link! I haven't visited your blog for a while Diana - great news - congrats on your baby daughter. cheers, catmint

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  10. As a teacher I remember this book and really loved it. This gardener still has a hard time with death and grief but I find solace in my garden. Great book to recommend.

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    1. Hi Donna, very well put - of course we feel grief but maybe we are lucky to have a special place - and process - for finding solace. The process is about seeing gardens in a spiritual way I think

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  11. I love that you're always recommending children's books. I've heard of this book and love the author. I was supposed to scatter one of my dogs ashes in the garden but just haven't been able to do it yet. Maybe I need to read this book!

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    1. Hi Tammy, I have a little collection of childrens books, and think we adults are lucky because we can access childrens as well as adult books, whereas children don't have any choice till they're grown up. I suppose if we're lucky we're still in touch with the child inside us.

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  12. I think that you're on to something with gardeners maybe having a closer look at life and death and the cycles of the world. But I think that you'll see plenty of gardens that seem to be about denying death with their primped perfection, gardens that stand out to others (like mine) that embrace change and loss and don't try to sweep the signs of passage into the trash bin. In the end understanding something in its broader context does seem like it should make a loss of a particularly loved person, pet or plant at least a little bit easier.

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    1. I guess that's why SOME gardens offer us so much spiritual joy and comfort. I like your phrase primped perfection!

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  13. This sounds like a nice book for gardeners with children. Poor kitty:) Kids are like sponges....for them to understand the basic workings of death and the cycle is really a challenge. It sounds like the author had the right idea:)

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    1. lovely to hear from you, Chris - it was first published in 1971 and it's still in print, so it's become a real classic. Must have touched thousands (?) of kids by now?

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  14. Death is that final lesson, hard to learn and accept no matter what age we are. Still, following the seasons, learning to love them and accept them for what they are (Spring will never be Autumn, Summer can never be Winter), somehow death makes sense.

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    1. Such an interesting topic, my mother who's nearly 100, says she's not scared of being dead, just scared of suffering while dying.

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  15. I buried my precious Betta fish in the garden when he died at age four. His little sign read "Swim on, Grover" and it comforted me to know he was there when I wanted to visit.

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    1. Hi Lynn, that's quite similar to the story isn't it? I hadn't heard of a Betta fish, so I googled it and learned that it is one of the most beautiful freshwater fish around, with vibrant colours and long flowing tails.

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