Book Review, Picture Books

Storm in a Jar by Samuel Langley-Swain & Katie Cottle

Every once in a while, a picture book comes along that is so versatile and meaningful that it will suit children of all ages – from pre-schoolers to teens. Storm in a Jar is one of those books.

Addressing the complexity of bereavement and the range of emotions found in grief, it allows children to reflect on how to handle the loss of someone special. This is an issue for most families at some point, but even more so recently. This book will open up channels of conversation and give parents, teachers and children tools to deal with the feelings that arise.

Arlo loves visiting his Nana every Sunday. Their routine is so lovely, complete with her special jar of sweets. Then, suddenly, everything changes. Nana has “passed away”. Arlo doesn’t completely understand what that means but he knows everyone is sad and she won’t be coming back. The sweet jar is empty. The contrast of Katie Cottle’s illustrations between the two pages emphasises the change in Arlo’s life and the storm that is brewing.

Arlo wants to keep the sweet jar to help him remember. Soon, his sadness and anger grow, filling the jar with all of his bottled-up feelings. This powerful metaphor shows children what happens when we don’t let our emotions out. They storm and swirl until they explode. The illustration of these powerful emotions gives children a strong visual and a greater understanding of the strength of the feelings inside.

Fortunately, Arlo has parents who can help him through the storm. They create a new routine using the jar to help them remember Nana and the world turns bright again. Arlo learns that emotions are easier when they’re recognised and shared.

The sweet jar in Storm in a Jar struck a chord with me as my grandpa had a special sweet bowl next to his chair. We were only allowed to choose one if he offered (which he’d do with a wink and a smile). I still think of him every time I see Bridge Mixture.

Thank you to Owlet Press for this very special story!

Click on the cover below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon.

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