There’s something incredibly special about Oliver Jeffers. All of his books seem to work on two levels. Children love them because the stories are simple and the illustrations are beautiful – but there is something deep in each story which really resonates with adults too. When I pick up one of his books and read it for the first time, I know that it’s probably going to make me feel a bit weepy and this one affected me more than any of the others.
The story is about a little girl who loves life. She loves to explore, she loves to learn and she sees wonder everywhere she turns. Pictured beside her (but not mentioned in the text) is her grandfather. Then one day she discovers an empty chair in her house, and the grandfather is no longer there.
The girl takes out her heart and places it in a bottle which she wears around her neck. She can’t feel anything – be that pain or joy – but she knows that whilst her heart is in the bottle it will be safe. We see her grow up and go through the motions but her sense of wonder is gone. Then one day she sees a child on the beach who is bubbling with curiosity, just like she used to be, and she realises that the time has come for her to get her heart out of the bottle. But how?
I realise this sounds a little dark but it’s really not! It reads like a beautiful fairy tale.
It’s a very uplifting story about love and loss – and how far you want to dig in to these topics whist reading it with your child is really up to you. It’s a great way to start a conversation about why you should always talk about your feelings and not bottle them up.
Although this is of course a children’s book, I think the hardback version would also be a thoughtful gift for an adult who is going through a difficult time.
Buy it now: https://amzn.to/2PE46No