Book Review: Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley

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‘He felt himself turning head over paws, falling and tumbling, but nothing hurt. He felt free…’

Synopsis:

Wise, reliable Badger knows that soon he will die. How will his friends feel when he is gone?

Badger is old and tired. However, he is not worried about dying and beginning his journey down the Long Tunnel. As he says goodnight to the moon and the cold, snowy world outside, he finds himself tumbling and racing down a long tunnel, filled with excitement and warmth, finally finding release and freedom.

The next day, his friends find a note that simply says, ‘Gone down the Long Tunnel. Bye Bye, Badger’. Badger has died. His friends feel lost and lonely and wonder how they will carry on without their honest, dependable friend.

But the seasons soon change, time marches on and as each of Badger’s friends come to terms with his death in their own way, they begin to remember all of the gifts he has given them – gifts of friendship, hope, love and adventure, that so often have stemmed from Badger’s small gestures of kindness.

Themes: 

Death, loss, bereavement, hope, grief, friendship, acceptance, memories, journeys, change, life, love.

Why you should read it: 

This is a warm, comforting story that tackles the difficult subject of death in a sympathetic, sensitive and yet matter-of-fact manner. The beautiful illustrations are reminiscent of E.H Shepard’s classic drawings in ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and radiate their own gentle, snug cosiness.  Death is presented as just another part of our winding journey (although younger children may possibly find the idea of the Long Tunnel confusing or frightening) and all the characters must navigate the painful path of grief and loss.  The book was first published in 1984, and the 35th Anniversary Addition has a guide from Child Bereavement UK, with suggestions on how to use the book and help children understand grief.

Whilst I was left with a feeling of sadness and regret, reminded of my own losses, I was also left with a feeling of hope and reassurance and reminded about the power of memory. The story allowed me space and time to remember my loved ones with a smile and I’m sure, if approached thoughtfully and carefully, will help children, at a level that is right for them, talk about and explore this complex, harrowing and emotional issue.

Possible cross-curricular links: 

Before planning any work or discussions around this, it is important that you consider how to approach this topic and if the book is appropriate for the whole class, children or child. Indeed, you may feel that doing any further work linked to the book, in this case, is not appropriate for your children. A sensitive discussion around the book may well be enough – it’s always worth remembering that children deal with and process grief differently to adults. You may wish to seek parental guidance as well.

Science (animals and their habitats, the changing seasons), Religious Education (beliefs about death), History (ancient Greek and Egyptian beliefs and myths about the afterlife), English (creative writing, diaries from the animals’ points of view, metaphors, poetry about memories and special gifts in the style of ‘The Magic Box’ by Kit Wright), PSHE (death and bereavement).

Perfect for: Children aged 5+

Published by: Andersen Books

These books also deal with similar themes in a moving, soothing, sensitive, honest manner:

  • The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

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Letterbox Library have a thorough list of stories to support the theme of bereavement that you can find here.

Book Trust also have a list of books for 5-8 year olds around the theme of grief and loss.

Please do leave a comment if you have used this book in your own classroom and how you used it!

Buy  ‘Badger’s Parting Gifts’ here.

Why not head on over to The Reading Realm Facebook page for more friendly book talk, giveaways, articles, resources and fun! https://www.facebook.com/groups/542651952902400/

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