I Can See the Rainbow Bridge
by Tootsie Barron
Austin Macauley

"At your side, I stayed..."

This early reader is colorful and animated, in juxtaposition to its difficult topic. The book is perfect for reading practice at the first-grade level, but it is also a wonderful start to talking about the life cycle, with an emphasis on empathy. Broaching the subject of death with small children is sometimes necessary but never easy. This children's book hits the mark, acknowledging that the life cycle is sometimes sad but mostly a matter of fact.

"I can see the rainbow bridge" is helpfully repeated for new readers to work on their sight reading, as repetition is important for reading practice. The rainbow bridge as a euphemism for death is handled so lightly that many young minds won't be ready to fully understand it. And that is a good thing. Planting seeds of understanding before a child is ready to wrap their head around a topic is like preparing the ground for growth.

What is also noteworthy is that the book concerns someone else's experience of death rather than the child's own parent or pet. Grandfather is portrayed as a loss to grandma, and the death of grandmother's dog follows. The emphasis is on how grandma feels and how sad she must be. Deep loss may be something most young children cannot process and understand fully, but they can all learn to feel sympathy for others. It is an important developmental stage that this book helps along.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, contrary to the sadness they portray. Some pages are like reading the word "yellow" written in red ink. It draws attention to the incongruity, but subtly and softly. There is no better way to frame the rainbow bridge in illustration. Helping children develop through children's books is like sneaking therapy in the back door. This book does exactly that and extremely well.

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