Book Title: Dear Brave Friend by Leigh Ann Gerk
Category: Middle-Grade Non-Fiction (8 to 12) , 49 pages
Publisher: Golden Harvest Publishers
Release date: August 2019
Content Rating: This non-fiction, self-help book is rated G. Appropriate for all audiences.
Oh, my what a book…
This book was filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations that captured my interest and were reminisce of some great memories of my dog. I thought how Leigh Ann Gerk presented a way for children (and really it applies to adults as well) to remember their beloved pets was very special. It showed kids that it was okay to go through the different steps of grief over their pets and that they were not alone in feeling like their best friend had died. Leigh Ann Gerk speaks in such a way that it was encouraging and uplifting to the very end. I truly enjoyed her choice of words as they were relatable as expressed things that a younger audience can easily relate to: “Now I can nap on clouds as fluffy as the cotton candy you get at the fair!” (p.29).
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought Leigh Ann Gerk did a great job in explaining how to overcome the loss of a pet. I particularly loved how at the back of the book she included areas for reflection, jotting down memories, and including pictures of your favorite pet. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. Only because I believe that some of the language is a bit advance for younger readers.
*I volunteered to read this book in return for my honest feedback. The thoughts and opinions expressed within are my own.
What inspired you to write a children’s book about pet loss?
I have wanted to write a children’s book ever since I started playing “school” as a young girl. I always knew my life on the farm with all the wonderful animals who became my best friends would be a part of my story; I just didn’t know how. The “how” became clear to me after I started counseling grieving pet families. I worked with children who didn’t understand how they were feeling; I wanted to help these children because they were just like me when I was the little girl who grew up on the farm. I worked with parents who didn’t know how to talk to their children about pet loss, death, dying, and sadness. I wanted to take their fear away. I knew that I needed to write a book that would help children and parents maneuver through this difficult and often fragile subject of pet loss, which is often a child’s first significant loss.
Why did you make the dog the narrator of the story?
I made the dog the narrator of the story because I believe if dogs could talk, this is what they’d say. Having the dog as the narrator sets a completely different tone for the reader; a very personal tone that makes the reader feel that their own beloved pet is writing this letter just to them. Having the dog as narrator also instills hope and comfort to the reader that their pet is still with them in some small way and that one day they will be reunited. Readers need to know that their departed pet is Okay, and that they were a wonderful part of their pet’s life; that their pet loved them very much, too.
Can this book be helpful to adults too?
Absolutely! Although Dear Brave Friend was lovingly written with children (and their parents) in mind, it is also a wonderful keepsake for adults as well. Reading Dear Brave Friend is a wonderful way for adults to get in touch with their inner child. The child who feels lost without their dear pet, the child who is confused about their feelings, or the child that needs to be taught or reminded of how to grieve in a healthy way. Dear Brave Friend brings the reader words of comfort and hope; two things that all ages can benefit from.
How did you convey your vision to your illustrator?
Before the illustrations were drawn, I spoke with Trish about the vision I had for Dear Brave Friend. I emphasized I wanted soft, muted colors that instilled in the reader a sense of peacefulness. I told her I didn’t want whimsical illustrations because I wanted the reader to be validated that their feelings are real and that what they are reading are real-life tools that will help them for the rest of their lives. Trish did a wonderful job of making the illustrations flow with the text and we decided together to add a tiny bit of whimsy towards the end of the book to bring a smile to readers and lighten their hearts.
Are there things about the book that readers may not know?
Yes! Some readers may not know that there are endearing similarities between some of the illustrations. My illustrator and I had such fun adding these hidden treasures. For example, one illustration shows a young boy painting a picture. Later in the book when the young man grows into an old man, the illustration shows the same picture hanging up on the man’s wall.
How has winning a Next Generation INDIE Book Award helped Dear Brave Friend?
First let me say, I was so honored to win this incredible award that I cried tears of joy for days. For those who are unfamiliar, The INDIE Book Awards is the largest international book awards program recognizing independent publishers and self-published authors. Dear Brave Friend won in the category of Children’s/Juvenile (Non-Fiction) and placed as a finalist in the Animals/Pets category. What this means is that Dear Brave Friend will be listed in their catalog and distributed to thousands of book buyers! This door of opportunity will help me reach and support more grieving pet families, which is where my passion lies.
Do you have a website where people can learn more about you, your book, and pet loss? And where can I buy Dear Brave Friend?
Readers can find more information about me, Dear Brave Friend, and pet loss by visiting my website at: www.MourningtoLightPetLoss.com Dear Brave Friend is available for purchase on Amazon.
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