The Immortal Jellyfish
by Sang Miao

Have you heard of the immortal jellyfish? Known as the ‘turritopsis dohrnii’, it technically never really dies. When it starts to decay its cells reaggregate in to polyps, from which new baby jellyfish emerge. Fascinating! You can read more here. This book takes this philosophy of reincarnation and uses it to help children process grief after loss.

As this story begins we see a small boy and his Grandpa drawing jellyfish together. As they sketch, the Grandpa talks about the special immortal jellyfish and its ability to live on forever. They discuss immortality, leaving the boy a little confused. He wants to live forever too. If the jellyfish can do it, then why can’t he?

Not long after, the Grandpa passes away. The boy is devastated and finds refuge in sleep after a day of crying hot tears. What follows is a magical dream sequence which helps him to cope with his grief.

The boy dreams of his Grandpa and together they go on an adventure to discover how to become immortal. Together they swim through deep water until they reach the ‘Life Transfer City’, a mystical place with special powers. Here the departed can choose a sort of spirit animal which will visit their loved ones in their dreams. We meet a lion who wants to be a cloud because he has lived his life in captivity and an accountant who chooses to become a fish so that he no longer has to carry the weight of remembering numbers.

Finally it is Grandpa’s turn. What will he choose to become and will he soon visit the boy again in his dreams?

This whimsical and beautifully illustrated story offers children hope at a difficult time and reassures them that their lost loved one will always live on in their memories and dreams. It allows parents to open up a comforting avenue of conversation and encourages kids to talk about their loss – what kind of animal do you think your loved one would choose to be?

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