Trigger warning: baby loss. Today’s review is part of my children’s book series which shares and recommends books for helping with difficult conversations with your little ones. This book tackles a highly emotive subject matter, as it’s a kids’ book about stillbirth. I feel a little uncomfortable writing about baby loss, but I didn’t want to exclude such an important category on the basis that I’ve not gone through it myself.
While this particular post is not likely to be required or read often, for those seeking a kids’ book about stillbirth, it’s a really important article to be available in the index.
When Should You Read Kids’ Books About Stillbirth With Your Children?
This may seem like an odd question, but it’s actually quite pertinent. A lot of the books I discuss in this series are ones that are excellent to read with your children whether they’re in the midst of experiencing the issues explored or not. For example, a book talking about disability, or LGBTQ, or depression might be great introductions to those themes, and promote tolerance and compassion.
Having read this book, my husband and I agreed immediately that this is not one of those books. There are some subjects that are simply too adult for young children and unnecessarily upsetting.
While I applaud the use of books for helping children to process and come to terms with difficult feelings, it’s desirable to allow them to keep their innocence for as long as possible. Where there’s no choice, books such as the one I’m discussing today can be invaluable. Where choice does exist, it’s sometimes more appropriate to shield your child from what’s a horrendous concept even for adults.
- Guest Post: One of the Best LGBTQ Books for Children
- A Book Teaching Children to Shun Comparison and Embrace Their Talents
- A Brilliant Children’s Book About Depression
Ethan’s Butterflies: A Kids’ Book About Stillbirth
I found this specific book by searching for children’s books about baby loss, and I admit I judged the book by its cover to an extent. That’s natural when you’ve little else to go on, and I was drawn to the image on the front and the name of the book: Ethan’s Butterflies, by Christine Jonas-Simpson.
I hoped it would handle an impossible topic delicately; having since read the story I now suspect I was being naive…
The subject is introduced very matter of factly on the second page. it surprised me – and then I remembered that it’s sometimes necessary with children to be straight forward; tiptoeing around a difficult conversation can be counterproductive.
I know from talking with my own young daughter that there are times when I need to be direct. It can feel uncomfortable but young children are resilient and, with our support, this can be the best approach to ensure their understanding.
Ethan’s Butterflies uses a family of elephants to explore baby loss. Focusing the story around animals somehow makes the heartbreaking concept a little easier to bear.
The book touches on important aspects of stillbirth affecting young siblings. One of those handled is the fear that they may somehow be to blame, with the book reassuring that this is not the case.
A second aspect, reading between the lines, is denial as a process of grief. When Emma hopes that giving a gift to her baby brother at his service will make him come back to life, she learns that sadly, that’s not how it works.
Ethan’s Butterflies is a spiritual book, and if you’re not that way inclined then it may not be right for your family. It depends entirely on how you wish to explain the end of life to your child and whether or not you would draw comfort from the concept of heaven or an afterlife.
If you prefer to steer away from religion and/or spirituality, then again, this may not be the right book to share with your child.
However, there are some lovely ideas for keeping the memory of a lost baby alive, and taking comfort from ‘signs’ – something that can be consoling even to those who are not religious.
Ultimately, the way you choose to handle this conversation with your child will be intensely personal and likely differ from family to family, dependent on many factors. Ethan’s Butterflies will be a useful resource for some, but it won’t be right for every family.
Check out more book reviews and recommendation in this series in the Moral Story Books for Children Index.