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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
All the dear little animals
by Ulf Nilsson
Age Range: 6-8
When Esther finds a dead bumble bee she shows it to her five-year-old brother, who is the narrator of the story. This incident leads them to speculate about death and, in particularly, about the fate of dead animals after they die. Esther decides to find the little insect a proper resting place. “We started a business called ‘Funerals Ltd’, to help all the poor dead animals in the world. Esther did the digging, I wrote the poems, and Esther's little brother, Puttie, cried”.
The children go in search of dead animals everywhere to ensure that they are given a funeral and burial. They offer their services to friends and neighbours, burying a hamster and a rooster, later extending their search to animals that have been left by the roadside after being hit by a car. Their whole business is contained in a small suitcase which has flowers, grave stones, boxes for coffins and whatever else they might need.
Although the subject of death has been dealt with in several other European picture books, this story from Sweden offers a different dimension to the subject. Ulf Nisson (a celebrated award-winning children’s writer in Sweden) has managed to add humour and sensitivity as he tackles the subject from a child’s point of view and how they might deal with the death of an animal.
Death is a notoriously tricky subject for adults to tackle with children. Don’t be put off and think that this topic is too heavy or sad as it’s important to realise that the story is told through the words of a five year old and the conversations between the three children.
Evocative, whimsical illustrations by Eva Eriksson who is highly skilled at creating mood and telling the story through the facial expressions of her characters. Tender and funny, this unusual story captures perfectly the child's perspective and it offers plenty of opportunities for discussions whether it’s in a classroom environment or one to one.