I can’t believe it’s been a week already! We at Gathering Books are here once again to join the kidlit community for Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill. This blog meme is a fun way to share picture books and interact with fellow kidlit bloggers.
My pick for today is Oliver Jeffers’s The Heart and the Bottle. This was among the last batch of books I bought before Borders closed for business. I couldn’t say no to a hardbound picture book that was on sale for $3.99. Besides, I was enamored by the cover and the typography.
Story and Pictures by: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books (2010)
Suitable for: Ages 8 and up
Themes: Love, loss, grief, loneliness, moving on, acceptance, magic of childhood
Opening: “Once there was a girl, much like any other, whose head was filled with all the curiosities of the world. With thoughts of the stars. With wonder at the sea. She took delight in finding new things… until the day she found an empty chair.”
Brief Synopsis: (taken from the front jacket flap of the book) Once there was a girl whose life was filled with all the wonder of the world around her. Then one day something occurred that caused the girl to take her heart and put it in a safe place. However, after that it seemed that more things were empty than before. Would she know when and how to get her heart back?
Why I Like This Book: Oliver Jeffers is a visual artist, and I simply adore his illustrations in the book. The page layouts remind me of The Little Prince pop-up book, minus the pop-ups, of course. I particularly enjoy looking at the two-page full color spreads.
This picture book is a complex read for children. As a reader who loves symbolism, I like how grief and loss were presented in the story. After experiencing loss, the girl decided to put her heart in a bottle. The little ones would most likely look at the story in a literal way and wonder if and how it’s possible to put one’s heart in a bottle. This is a good way to help the young ones understand grief/loss without making it too heavy of a subject. There is subtlety in pictures and words.
When I first read this book, it wasn’t grief or loss that came to mind. I was thinking somewhere along the lines of losing the magic of childhood in one’s heart. One of my favorite lines in the book was this:
“In truth, nothing was the same. She forgot about the stars… and taking notice of the sea. She was no longer filled with all the curiosities of the world and didn’t take much notice of anything… other than how heavy… and awkward the bottle had become.”
When I read the story a second time, I thought that the two actually go together. That when people experience loss, they somehow stop living their lives. The Heart and the Bottle is an endearing yet thought-provoking picture book that speaks about love, loss, and living.
Activities and Links to Resources: I didn’t find any study guides, lesson plans, or resources that address this book directly. However, for the purposes of childhood and creativity, I found a couple of activities that I hope kids and adults would enjoy.
For (geeky) adults, eHow provides a step-by-step guide on How to Make a Human Heart Out of Pop Bottles. Use the bottles to represent the chambers, colored water to represent oxygenated or deoxygenated blood, vinyl tubing to represent veins and arteries, and bulldog clips to represent valves.
A less scientific, more kid-friendly activity is provided by FamilyFun. The craft idea is called Curtain of Hearts, and is actually one of the craft ideas featured for their Valentine’s Day special. I thought that this would be a great companion to the book. It is simple and easy to make, and a helpful reminder of things that matter in our lives. I slightly modified this activity by adding extra materials and editing the instructions to make this craft more than just a Valentine’s activity. This is also a great way for parents to bond with their children.
For Curtain of Hearts, you will need the following:
- colored paper
- markers, colored pencils, crayons
- Cut heart shapes out of the colored paper, some a bit smaller than the others. Tape the smaller and larger hearts together… and write your message to your family (and friends).
- Tape your hearts onto a length of ribbon, and tape (or tack) the ribbon, like a curtain, onto (your or) your child’s bedroom door frame.
To learn more about Oliver Jeffers and his other works of art, you may click here to visit his website.
*Book photos taken by me.