My Old Pal, Oscar (Amy Hest)

Hello, friends! Our book today is My Old Pal, Oscar, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Amy Bates, a sweet story about moving forward after loss.

A tiny black and white puppy huddles under a pier on a windswept beach as threatening storm clouds hide the sun overhead. He spies a little boy playing in the sand, and approaches him with a wagging tale. The boy acknowledges the pup, admits that the little mutt is very cute, and allows it to keep him company – but he firmly states that they are NOT pals. The boy already had a pal, he explains: his old dog, Oscar. But Oscar has passed away, and the heartbreak was simply too much. He misses Oscar, and keeps a drawing of him beside his bed to wish good night and good morning to. But as he opens up to the little dog about his old friend, he realizes that he’s made a new one – and that might just feel okay.

Tender and sweet. There are a some incredible children’s books about loss out there, but this one focuses on a specific issue: the reluctance to let new people into our hearts after that loss. Despite the fluffy, friendly pup being just about the cutest thing on four legs, the boy is not sure he’s ready to love another dog, and the text subtly explores the reasons why: a sense of loyalty to the deceased, a reluctance to be hurt again, or simply the sadness and loneliness that comes with grief. I especially loved that what bonded the boy with his new friend was remembering Oscar to the pup; it encourages children to discuss their grief as a means of dealing with it. The art is absolutely gorgeous, with a rich environment, lifelike and endearing characters, and a beautiful sense of mood and tone. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it. It’s a quietly moving story that may help to encourage little ones to have hope after loss, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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