Death Is Stupid by Anastasia Higginbotham

Death Is Stupid by Anastasia Higginbotham
Publisher: Dottir Press
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Part of the Ordinary Terrible Things series, the new and expanded edition of Death Is Stupid is an invaluable tool for discussing death, exploring grief, and honoring the life of our loved ones.

When someone we love dies, adults often say things like, “She’s in a better place now,” or “I know how you feel.” You do not, one little boy thinks after his grandma passes away. Caught in the swirl of anger, confusion, and fear that accompanies grief and mourning, he doesn’t just think death is unfair—he thinks death is stupid. It takes him some time, but when he starts sharing cherished memories of his grandma and working in her garden, he starts to feel just a little bit better. Necessary, beautiful, and ultimately reassuring, Death Is Stupid helps make death a little less scary—for kids and adults.

The Ordinary Terrible Things series shows children who navigate trouble with their senses on alert and their souls intact. In these stories of common childhood crises, help may come from family, counselors, teachers, or dreams―but crucially, it’s the children themselves who find their way to cope and grow.

Everyone grieves differently.

Anger is something that I haven’t seen discussed in many picture books about grief. I adored the fact that it was included here. Sometimes losing a loved one can feel deeply unfair, and it can be difficult even for adults to handle the injustice of an early or tragic death on top of all of the other emotions that can be stirred up during the grieving process. The author did an excellent job of explaining such a complicated topic to kids who might feel embarrassed about some of their reactions to death.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that described silly things people say to someone who has lost someone they cared about. For example, telling a grieving person not to cry or that their relative is at peace now. I smiled and nodded along as the main character explained how these phrases can come across as irritating or hurtful instead of soothing. If only there had been a scene or two added with examples of what to say instead! The intentions behind these responses are good. I simply think that some folks don’t know what to say after a death and don’t realize how poorly their words can come across.

Ms. Higginbotham had a vivid imagination that worked perfectly well for this topic. This was my first experience reading one of her stories, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what she comes up with next. She has a humorous and playful writing style that everyone should read for themselves.

Death Is Stupid was a refreshingly honest read.

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