Book Review: Samantha Jane's Missing Smile

Author: Julie Kaplow and Donna Pincus
Illustrated by Beth Spiegel
Interest Level: Ages 4-8

About This Book: The loss of a parent is a profound crisis for a child. In the aftermath of the death, children face great emotional vulnerability and distress and need help from their surviving parent and other supportive adults around them. Reassurance and support, as well as practical coping tools, are key to the child's ability to recover.

Samantha Jane's Missing Smile is the story of one child's loss. When her father dies, Sammy Jane doesn't know how to express her grief. She fears that her sadness will overwhelm her if she cries. She worries that her sadness will overburden her mother, too, and that her mother won't be available for her. She is angry at the unfairness of her loss. And she feels guilty about smiling ever again.

In this gentle story, Sammy Jane comes to accept her feelings and realizes that they won't go away if she ignores them. She also discovers that sharing those feelings is both comforting and reassuring. WIth her mother's help, she finds ways to keep the memory of her father alive. And finally, she understands what a full, happy life is what her father would want for her.

But sometimes I worry that if I talk to you about Dad,
you'll start to feel sad.
I don't want you to be sad.

Why It's On My Bookshelf: Oh boy, where to begin. There are so many good nuggets in this book. First of all, tough subject to write about. Second, anyone who works with or has a grieving child needs this book on their shelf.  Kids often stuff their feelings because they don't want to upset their parents. Samantha Jane tries to push away her own grief so she won't worry her mother. Man, it makes me sad to think about how much that happens in real life. She also struggles with guilt. The guilt of not wanting to experience joy, for fear that she is not honoring her father's memory. My favorite bibliotherapy stories are those incorporating REALISTIC strategies that help kids cope through those rough times. There are some good ones throughout the story. I  highly recommend Samantha Jane's Missing Smile for your shelf.

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