25074. (Matti Charlton) You’re Mine ― A True Story for Brave Little Ones

There are not many books for chil­dren in which death is the main top­ic. Mar­jorie Kin­nan Rawl­ings’ 1938 nov­el The Year­ling, which dealt with death from a child’s point of view, comes to mind, but it was not con­ceived by it’s author as a “chil­dren’s book.” It is today gen­er­al­ly shelved with “young adult” fic­tion in libraries, but that was not a cat­e­go­ry in use at the time of its writ­ing. The author was address­ing adults in a sto­ry writ­ten from the point of view of a child. Its clar­i­ty and emo­tion­al inten­si­ty allowed it to reach a younger audi­ence. We expect a teenag­er to have some con­cern with the idea of death.

But when it comes to books for younger chil­dren, death is still a taboo top­ic. It is some­thing that, many believe, chil­dren should not be exposed to in fic­tion, or even allowed to think about. This pre­sumes that no small child will encounter death, or have to think of it, or need to under­stand it. Except, of course, the chil­dren in Uvalde, Texas, and Sandy Hook, Con­necti­cut. Except, of course, the mil­lions of small chil­dren who have had to expe­ri­ence a death in the fam­i­ly, or even the death of a beloved pet. And that does­n’t even take into account parts of the world torn up by war, where small chil­dren are drenched in the stench of death. There aren’t many chil­dren in Ukraine or Yemen, today, who are obliv­i­ous to death. Reli­gion is of lit­tle help, here. It is far more con­cerned with deny­ing death than with under­stand­ing it, or prepar­ing for it. At its worst, it attempts to dis­miss life as a mere pre­lude to an imag­ined eter­nal exis­tence … at once oblit­er­at­ing death from thought and oblit­er­at­ing life from significance.

So I would rec­om­mend Mat­ti Charl­ton’s  You’re Mine. I wish I had such a book avail­able to me when I was very young. In very straight­for­ward lan­guage, it explains death, how it is inevitable, and why its exis­tence under­lies the pre­cious­ness of life: “Be grate­ful for your life. Every day. Every sec­ond. Cher­ish every moment while your life is still yours.” The nar­ra­tor is death itself, por­trayed as a mon­strous beast, speak­ing to the read­er, “Lit­tle One.” While the art­work of the book is designed to be just scary enough for a child to han­dle, it also evokes the beau­ty of life in a way that a child can under­stand. It is refresh­ing­ly free of eva­sion, deceit, or exis­ten­tial­ist blar­ney. Many adults would ben­e­fit from read­ing it, since, as the author says in a post­script: “..we are all Lit­tle Ones, after all.

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