My brother was… is a brave attempt at presenting an extremely sensitive subject to children at an extremely delicate age.'>

Death and children

Elaine Hoter's book My brother was… is a brave attempt at presenting an extremely sensitive subject to children at an extremely delicate age.

October 19, 2006 08:15
2 minute read.
brother book 88 298

brother book 88 298. (photo credit: )


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My brother was… By Elaine Hoter Midreshet Gavriel Elaine Hoter's book My brother was… is a brave attempt at presenting an extremely sensitive subject to children at an extremely delicate age. On some levels, the story about Avichai, a young boy who has just lost his older brother in a terrorist attack, works very well. The images - colorful and creative clay models photographed against real-life backgrounds - are eye-catching. They are certainly an excellent way to keep a young child's attention (my five-year-old was enamored from the first page). In the text too, the descriptions of events such as the funeral, during which the child tells his mother to call him by his dead brother's name because "I thought that way everyone would be happy again," and his feelings toward other children in his kindergarten class are well researched and told in realistic detail. Hoter even manages to accurately reflect the frustrations of a five- or six-year-old at feeling angry inside but not being able to explain why: "I felt a bit uncomfortable because I haven't been so nice to all my friends lately. I don't know why, but sometimes I get really angry and don't treat my friends nicely." The fact that it takes little Avichai some time to confront what has happened seems to be an accurate portrayal of a young child's state of mind when faced with such tragic circumstances. No doubt, for those involved in writing, researching and proofreading this book, My brother was… proved a very emotional journey, and clearly a project close to their hearts. That is why it is surprising to find that simple elements such as grammar and word usage seem sloppy and unchecked. To be fair, this is a translation from Hebrew, but when words are repeated many times on the same page (sometimes even in the same paragraph), it becomes difficult for a parent to read, and tedious for a child to follow. Another problem with this book is the question of audience. For what age group is this book intended? The child in the story is of kindergarten age, yet children under five would likely find it difficult to follow the wordy text, while older children, who might fare better with the language, would have no interest in hearing about the trials and tribulations of a kindergarten-aged kid. Is this book aimed only at children who have lost a sibling, to help them cope with the trauma, or is it for all children, to help explain some sad yet all-too-real facts of life? It would really help if Hoter had started the book with some sort of introduction to help parents approach this tricky subject. Clearly, its primary audience is any family that has suffered such a trauma, but surely a parent of such a child would need to check with a professional to be sure he is ready to hear this story. Even in the endorsement at the end of the book, Gafnit Agasi, a clinical psychologist from the Israeli Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, warns: "This is not a simple storybook which children can read by themselves without preparation." For my own five-year-old, who found the subject very interesting and asked some serious and impressive questions about death and terrorists, some of the imagery - both literary and pictorial - was disturbing. As a parent who thankfully has not lost a child in a terrorist attack, I would think twice before reading this book to my youngster again.

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