The story of two siblings and soul mates, Lizzy (‘Friz’) and Benny. Friz adores her quirky, strong, crazy orange hat-wearing older brother, who taught her how to play frisbee. Their life changes immeasurably when he becomes ill, and he isn’t going to get better. They continue to spend special moments together, but as Benny’s health declines, he is often too weak and tired to play. Friz naturally struggles with her emotions, and desperately clings to hope that she can help him recover. When it is time for Benny to make his final journey to the hospice, Friz hides his beloved hat (reasoning that if he can’t bring his hat, he can’t go to the hospice, and won’t die). The story continues beyond Benny’s death, and follows the family’s grieving process, concluding on a positive note with Friz finding a new friend to play frisbee with.
A beautiful, sensitively written book that could be used to support and comfort children who have a seriously ill sibling or friend, or have experienced bereavement.
This is a powerful, touching and beautiful story, and certainly one of the best bereavement picture books we have read. Extremely well-researched and accurately reflecting real life, Friz’s experiences are skilfully portrayed in both the words and pictures, and should ring true with children who have had similar experiences. Benny’s strengths and individuality and his sister’s love for him shine through strongly. It is an immensely sad story which doesn’t shy away from expressing the rawness of grief (and very emotional to read) but it is also filled with hope and optimism, the family showing great resilience and support for one another, and how it is possible to recover from even the most tragic circumstances. We loved the clever use of Benny’s favourite orange hat in the story, which perfectly symbolised his personality and the sibling’s relationship with one another. Highly recommended.
The messages we found in this book:
- When a child has a seriously ill sibling, they may feel lonely at times, and crave for the attention of their parents.
- Children may believe that they can do something practical to prevent their loved one dying (Friz hides her brother’s hat).
- A child in a similar situation will experience a huge range of emotions: Friz feels anger, denial, sadness, numbness, resentment.
- A sick child may not have the strength or energy to play. This can be hard for their friends and siblings, who may miss that special time they used to have together.
- A child with a life-limiting illness may make lots of visits in and out of hospital, or a hospice.
- It is fine to have fun, smile and laugh, even when something very sad is happening.
- Benny will always be Friz’s brother, despite his death.
- Friz is allowed time and space to grieve, and slowly life gets easier again. At the end of the story, she makes a new friend.
The book includes some excellent guidance notes for parents, written by bereavement counsellor Sue Dale. Sue has included tips on how to talk about the story with a child, activities to try, and links to helpful organisations.