I was given the opportunity by The Catholic Company, to review a children's book called Sometimes Life Is Just Not Fair by Fr. Joe Kempf. This 64 page book was newly released in March 2012 by Our Sunday Visitor. The purpose of this book is two-fold: one is to help children, as well as adults, understand grief and loss that may occur throughout life. The second goal is to assist adults in how to care for and help the children in their lives to cope with grief and loss of a loved one. At first glance, I was immediately drawn in by the illustrations. They are bright and cheery, which make it easy for children to make the connection between the text and picture. The two muppet-like characters (Big Al and Annie) accompany the reader throughout the book perfectly conveying the emotion by their facial expressions. I think it's instrumental in helping the child identify the emotion and put words to the feeling. The Illustrator, Chris Sharp, has made this book non-threatening by his artwork.
Sometimes Life Is Just Not Fair is organized into two sections, with the first part written for children and the last section for adults, teachers and caregivers. In this first section, each short chapter begins with a poem giving a hint to what the chapter will address and it includes a list of "Things to think about or talk about" and "Things to do". These lists help the child explore their thoughts and feelings as they face the challenges in life and God's presence during them. It gives insight into questions we sometimes struggle with such as "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and "What good does it do to pray?" And it reminds us all that God is with us when we suffer and feel sad.
The last section of this book is for adults, teachers and caregivers which match up with the chapters for children. It outlines facets of grief and loss that only adults can comprehend and then breaks it down to assist in explaining it to our children. It guides the reader into learning God's role in our lives, especially during times of suffering and loss and gives insight in how to explain it to children. Fr. Kempf uses his own advice with scripture and quotes from the saints to enlighten the reader. Additionally, the author includes an audio CD of prayers read by children as well as a song of farewell for a loved one. This is a very gentle and sweet CD that will draw a child in by it's content rather than scare them off.
This is a very specific book about grief and loss yet it is also about God's love and hope. It wouldn't be a random book that you'd pick up for your child nor would it be light reading for fun. What it is ideal for is using with children who have lost a loved one, including a pet or explaining why bad things happen. Adults also benefit by reading both sections to further understand grief and loss which are deep and raw emotions, that we struggle with too. We are not alone and can turn to God who loves us and wants us to come to Him is the general message of the book.
My review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Sometimes Life is Just Not Fair. This is also a great Catholic store for all your seasonal shopping needs, such as Christian wedding gifts and Catholic Garden Gifts.