The Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka, Schwartz Wade Books, 2007
This gentle little book is a place to start talking about death with children. Softly-colored ballons with expressive faces evoke the sorrow, concern and care that family and caregivers show for terminally ill family members. Raschka's first line sets the tone for the book as he states, "Dying is hard work." He explains how family, friends and care workers can help and how important it is to have support. He adds that the impending death of a child is the "only thing harder to talk about than someone old dying--"
Ann Armstong-Dailey's preface note describes the phenomena that many children, facing their own death, will draw a blue or purple balloon "floating free" when they are asked to express their feelings through drawing. The image of this balloon seems to be universal, regardless of cultural or religious background she says. A purple ballon with a calm face is the final image in the book. The balloon's wings ripple below it, suggesting wings as it floats in the air, its face is calm and peaceful.
The book also gives some concrete suggestions that children and their families can do to support someone facing a life ending illness.
This is a must have for school library parent collections. Part of the proceeds from the book's sales benefit Children's Hospice International.