Saying Goodbye to Barkley
EK Books, 2019
32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99
Olivia and Barkley are best friends who do everything together, especially catching the bad guys, With her trusty cape and his sensitive nose, they were two pieces of the same puzzle, but then Barkley got sick and instead of helping Olivia, he just lay in his basket all day. Olivia tried to understand and to go on without him but it just wasn’t the same and when he died she was totally bereft. Like everyone who suffers any sort of loss of a loved one, the bottom fell out of her world and she was too sad to do anything. Sleeping didn’t even help because if she dreamed of him, he was gone when she woke up. And life would never be right again, because every superhero needs a sidekick.
But then, slowly, even though she was still grieving she was able to think about the fun they had together and when she woke up one morning, she had a plan…
Every one of us loses someone who is dear and sadly, that is as true for children as it is for adults. Devon Sillett, author of both Scaredy Book: It’s not always easy to be brave! and The Leaky Story is gradually building a body of work that shows she is in touch with the thoughts and emotions of our youngest readers and is able to help them recognise, articulate and share those feelings with others. This is a gentle, tender story of the loss of a loved pet but one which has a happy ending that shows that while the loved one can’t be replaced, there is still life to live and love to give, even if it’s different from what you imagined.
Nicky Johnston’s illustrations are as soft and gentle as the words and add to the poignancy of the whole story and from the front cover to the final endpaper the love that Olivia has to give is on display. In fact the endpapers cleverly preface the story – Barkley hiding under the covers at the front, and Spud pulling them off and the astute adult sharing this story might even prepare the child for its content and theme by wondering aloud why there are two different dogs. Teachers’ notes to assist in exploring and explaining the story are available.
This is an essential addition to both home and school library as it is a sensitive approach to a situation that so many of our little people will face but will not understand without some adult guidance.