The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye: A Children’s Book about Death

Crossposted on Daily Kos

Memorial Day makes me reflect on those we have lost, on the good they have achieved, and on concepts of healing and moving forward.

I remember riding in the funeral limousine on the way to my father’s burial. Among other things, my Dad served in Korea.

My niece, who was about five years old at the time said:

“Where are we going?”

This was after several conversations about what had been going on. My dad deteriorated from cancer over roughly a three month period. I recall explaining the funeral to her by saying “we are going to celebrate grandpa’s life.”

From: Hospicenet.org:

If you are concerned about discussing death with your children, you’re not alone. Many of us hesitate to talk about death, particularly with youngsters. But death is an inescapable fact of life. We must deal with it and so must our children; if we are to help them, we must let them know it’s okay to talk about it.

According to J.W.Worden, by talking to our children about death, we may discover what they know and do not know – if they have misconceptions, fears, or worries. We can then help them by providing needed information, comfort, and understanding. Talk does not solve all problems, but without talk we are even more limited in our ability to help.

What we say about death to our children, or when we say it, will depend on their ages and experiences. It will also depend on our own experiences, beliefs, feelings, and the situations we find ourselves in, for each situation we face is somewhat different. Some discussions about death may be stimulated by a news report or a television program and take place in a relatively unemotional atmosphere; other talks may result from a family crisis and be charged with emotions.

That is why The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye is such an important work.

The book is gentle, sensitive, and oh so sad. Beautiful illustrations by Jim LaMarche enhance an engaging story to share with young children facing a loss.

By utilizing the loss of a beloved pet for the storyline, the book offers a safe and clear vantage point to begin discussions with young learners who are dealing with any kind of grief.

The dialogue becomes more accessible in helping children to make connections. As KidsHealth.org states:

As for most kids, pets are more than just animals their families own — they’re members of the family and the best of friends.

Unfortunately, the joy of owning a pet goes hand-in-hand with the heartbreak of losing one, whether because of old age, illness, or an accident.

Not since The 10th Good Thing About Barney or I’ll Always Love You has there been such a peaceful and inspiring book to help children and adults cope with the loss of a pet. The talented multiple-medalist Jane Yolen takes on this difficult subject with her usual grace and poetic sensitivity, focusing not on the death as much as the life in the last day of an older cat named Tiger Rose.

Tiger Rose’s kitten days are long gone and she’s grown too tired to stay, so she says her goodbyes to all the creatures and the joys of her natural world from the scolding blue jay, to the dog and children she shares her home with, to a chipmunk, startled by her gentleness, to her favorite shady patch under a piney bush. In a final vision, Tiger Rose takes one last leap into the blue sky and becomes one with all the earth, the air, the sun. . . . This is perhaps the most reassuring book on death available for children.

I have had the good fortune of being able to interact with Yolen at children’s book conferences and through internet threads since the early nineties; hearing her ideas, her unabashed honesty, and learning from her unique creative style.

Tiger Rose is characteristic of Yolen’s strengths.

According to ReaderStore:

All of Yolen’s stories and poems are somehow rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate papercut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen’s relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr’s exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband’s interest in birding.

Yolen’s graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children’s Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society’s Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy’s Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children’s Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents’ Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille.

With a versatility that has led her to be called “America’s Hans Christian Andersen,” Yolen, the child of two writers, is a gifted and natural storyteller. Perhaps the best explanation for her outstanding accomplishments comes from Jane Yolen herself: “I don’t care whether the story is real or fantastical. I tell the story that needs to be told.”

We went on to explain to my niece that we were going to put Grandpa in the ground. She responded: “That’s what they do?”

Several more conversations, over a period of time, were necessary.

Books like Yolen’s are extremely useful.

We will read it to our daughters, and discuss.

Thank you, Jane.