Death For Youth

Mr. Death: Four Stories, by Anne Moody (Harper & Row, 1975, 102 pp., $5.95), May I Cross Your Golden River?, by Paige Dixon (Atheneum, 1975, 262 pp., $7.95), and The Garden Is Doing Fine, by Carol Farley (Atheneum, 1975, 185 pp., $6.95), are reviewed by Cheryl Forbes, assistant editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

There are various ways to treat death in books for children. In the well-known Anne Shirley series by L. M. Montgomery, death and birth and sickness occur because they occur in real life. As I mentioned in my article on C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series (see page 6), Lewis included the possibility of death in his stories to show courage in action. But the subject of death is not the pivot on which the plot turns in those two examples as it is in these three new books for children. Stylistically and philosophically each book has its strengths and weaknesses. But Moody’s is the best example of how not to write a children’s book about death.

The foreword by John Donovan presumably tries to convince the prospective young reader—though I think it was really written for nervous parents—that these stories aren’t as bad as they seem, that the book is really about love, not death. I agree with his comments about catharsis, which is a valid term for how certain stories strike certain readers. But Donovan’s defense of Moody is unconvincing. If these stories “will make your life richer than it was” we don’t need an outsider to tell us so; we will know it by the reading.

I would never give this book to any sensitive person under sixteen (the dust jacket claims the stories are written for those ten and up). In the first tale the child, disturbed by the death of his mother, shoots himself in the head. When his father finds him, ...

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