During the school year, I babysit two days a week for my grandchildren (5, 3 and less than 1). When the baby goes down for a nap it gives me and the older two an opportunity to spend some good time reading. They choose a bunch of books and we snuggle up and read. It’s one of my favorite times of day. I’m a big fan of chapter books so I was thrilled when one of them asked me to read Dav Pilkey’s book “Dragon Tales”. It’s got a number of little stories, each broken down into their own chapters. The one that really struck me, though, was “A Friend for Dragon”.
In this story, Dragon is in search of a friend. All of the animals he asked to be his friend had an excuse to say no. When an apple fell on his head, a snake tricked him into believing that the apple could speak. Dragon was so happy to have a friend. The next chapters tell of their time together talking and eating and sleeping. Dragon does notice that Apple is very quiet, but it isn’t until he tries to wake Apple up that he thinks something is very wrong. He takes Apple to the doctor, but a Walrus in the waiting room eats Apple, leaving only the core, when Dragon stepped away. Now Dragon is frantic trying to figure out why Apple is now brown and mushy and wet rather than red and shiny. He supposes that Apple may be dead. Once he comes to the conclusion that Apple is, indeed, dead, he buries him in the backyard and this is the commentary that follows (the page numbers are in parentheses):
(42) “Dragon was very sad. He cried every day. He did not want to eat. He could not get to sleep. Dragon did not leave his house for a long, long time. (43) But after a while, Dragon stopped being so sad. He cried less and less. He began to eat and sleep better. (44) Still, he was very lonely.
Now. If that isn’t an apt description of grief right there in the middle of a children’s book, I don’t know what is!! In the beginning of our grief, we cry every day, don’t want to eat and have trouble sleeping. Eventually, the intensity of those early days does begin to soften, but the loneliness may prevail. I really loved that he didn’t sugar coat the grief or suggest that once the days softened for Dragon he was “over it”.
What’s so beautiful about the ending of this story are the illustrations. Right where Dragon buried Apple, a tree grew and bore loads of beautiful shiny, red apples.
Copyright 2015 Lisa B. Wolfe, LMSW, Translating Grief, LLC