The Forever Kid

 Children, Family, Grief
 Hardback and paperback


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When a child dies a family is forever changed. The sense of grief and loss are now part of their daily life, every family event, particularly birthdays and anniversaries are painful. Times of celebration are touched with sadness. Can there be any comfort for families in this of grief? This narrative told through the voice of a sibling looks at how a family carries on whilst still remembering, still grieving and still connecting with their departed ‘forever’ child.

Publisher – Big Sky Publishing

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9 thoughts on “The Forever Kid

  1. ‘The Forever Kid’ literally took my breath away. It’s a story of incredible depth wrapped up in a beautifully simple picture book. The child-like narrative combined with the beautiful illustrations tell a story of the enduring strength of family love, even through the tragedy of losing a sibling. The reader doesn’t immediately realise that Johnny is missing from his birthday celebration, until the narrator, Johnny’s younger brother, explains ‘Johnny is not in that photo but we know he is with us. Johnny our Forever Kid. That’s what we call him now’. As you turn each page you see, feel, smell and taste the memories that continue to connect Johnny to his family as they celebrate his birthday, and make him forever part of their present. With a beautiful simplicity this book tackles the complexity of grief, touching on many emotions including sorrow, jealousy and regret, but also joy and hope and love. The sensitively drawn illustrations highlight the sorrow of Johnny’s parents but also the energy of Miley, the youngest child in the family, and the unique joy she brings into the family on this special day of remembrance.

    Beautiful sky/sea/boat imagery in the illustrations weave their way through the pages to the cloud story at the end and add to the feeling of being uplifted and give the sense that it’s not just a story of loss but also of hope. With great sensitivity this book helps us understand that when a child dies they are not gone, but can live on in the hearts and minds of those who are left behind. This book will bring comfort and peace to those who have also experienced the loss of a sibling.

  2. Today is Johnny’s birthday. And as in many families, the birthday kid gets to choose the food, the games and the way they want to celebrate. And Johnny’s family is no different. Cloud stories are definitely on the list of must-do – lying on your back and looking for pictures in the clouds and making up stories about what you see.

    But this birthday is different to the others that have gone before. For this year, Johnny is no longer there. He’s the Forever Kid – one who was part of the family but who has passed away leaving just memories. And on the is special day, each family member remembers Johnny in their own special way as they celebrate and feel closer to him. But they all gather together to look for and make cloud stories.

    Much as it saddens us as adults to think that the children we know are touched by death and grief, nevertheless it is a fact of life for many. Illness and accidents take their toll and often the adults are so busy dealing with adult-things that the toll of the child is overlooked. Kids are seen as resilient, as ‘not really understanding’, as bounce-back-and-move-on beings. But anyone who has been with a child who has had to face such a harsh reality will know that the pain runs deep and the bewilderment is confusing so to have such a gentle book that focuses on the child left behind, their feelings, even their guilt, is a salutary reminder that as adults, we need to take care of their emotions too.

    Four years ago, Miss Then 8 lost her precious great-grandmother, my mother, and as we grieved and made funeral arrangements and all that grown-up stuff, it would have been easy to overlook her distress. I asked her if she would like to say something at the memorial service and she said yes. My heart broke when this little one, who was such a chip off her great-gran’s block, stood up and just said, “I love you Great Gran.” That’s when the tears began to flow, and we knew that she knew what she had lost but she would never forget her even though she was so young. . So this year, when her other grandmother died and the wake was to be at a local restaurant, it was no surprise that Miss Now 12 did not want to go because that’s where she had had so many good times with her Great Gran and “didn’t want them spoiled by sadness”. Just as Johnny is the Forever Kid, so we have a Forever Great Gran.

    This gentle book, with its soft, sympathetic illustrations, is a reminder to us all that we need to acknowledge our children’s feelings and their grief, and allow them the opportunity to remember and celebrate and know that it is perfectly okay to do so. Take the time to lie on the grass with your child, make up cloud stories and let them remember and reminisce. It will help you both.

  3. Children’s author and poet, with a background in education and psychology, Elizabeth Mary Cummings is known for her sensitive attention to difficult topics including mental health and anti-bullying issues. Following titles, such as The Disappearing Sister and Dinner on the Doorstep, Elizabeth has recently released her picture book on grief, The Forever Kid. She has paid careful consideration as to celebrate the life of a family’s son and brother in a joyous way, rather than treat this story as a sorrowful tragedy. Johnny, their forever kid, is beautifully and authentically remembered on his birthday – an event they honour every year, despite his absence. Vince, narrator and younger brother, portrays a host of emotions, including sadness, guilt and joy as the family look both back and forward on life with and without their Johnny. A narrative genuinely thought-through via the child’s perspective. Equally, the illustrations by Cheri Hughes add an extra layer of depth with their angelic, water-wash qualities to represent the softness and tenderness of the emotion and the family’s tradition of telling ‘cloud stories’, as well as the vivacity that reflects their strong memories of their loved one. The Forever Kid is undoubtedly a book that children from age four will strongly remember and gain solace in knowing there are positive ways to cope in difficult situations.

  4. Sometimes stories stop you in their tracks as we journey our busy, fast lifestyles, noticing nothing but the work tasks and activities in front of us. Some stories bring you back to reality, grounding you to cherish every moment with your grandparents, your parents, your siblings, your relatives, your partner, your friends, and your children. Some stories remind us that this life that has been gifted to us is finite. The Forever Kid, written by Elizabeth Mary Cummings, is that story.

    Elizabeth gently welcomes us into Johnny’s family, and we meet his three siblings, Mother, Father, and Barker, the dog. The story is told from the point of view of Johnny’s brother, and the pages are filled with memories of Johnny, both happy and sad, carefree, and with some brotherly guilt at times. But most of all, the story is filled with love.

    Illustrator, Cherie Hughes, has depicted the story of loss with tenderness, capturing the grief of Johnny’s family, and their memories of treasured moments.

    The Forever Kid is a beautifully illustrated story that celebrates life, while sensitively dealing with loss, with a gentle weaving of memories by enacting Johnny’s favourite things on his birthday, filling the pages with his presence. Although confronting a terribly difficult topic of the loss of a child and sibling, The Forever Kid leaves the reader with an overwhelming feeling of love and hope, and the celebrated family traditions ensure Johnny will never be forgotten.

  5. Grief and loss of a loved one, especially of a young one taken too soon, is rarely a topic that crosses our minds. How our little ones deal with such a moving life event is considered carefully by the author of The Forever Kid, Elizabeth Mary Cummings. Cummings opens up the all important conditions, through the vehicle of her gentle picture book, so that conversations about loss can be sparked and experiences shared.

    The Forever Kid is a touching story about the all encompassing love one very special family has for Johnny, their beloved son. Johnny’s birthday is an important occasion, it is a time to reflect and celebrate the life of a boy who is no longer able to join in with his birthday celebrations. The family makes sure that Johnny’s spirit and all the things he loved about life are kept alive. Through acts such as cuddling, computer time and cloud watching, each family member finds their own unique way to pay homage to Johnny’s life. As the family unites in their grief and sadness, it is a chance to pay their respects to Johnny’s enduring spirit.

    The Forever Kid is a children’s picture book that addresses grief, a topic and an area that I have found is rarely covered in picture books. The Forever Kid is an empowering book for four to eight year old children and it sensitively taps into an area that deserves our attention. Through the expert eyes of experienced children’s book author and primary school teacher Elizabeth Mary Cummings, the reader is taken on an all important journey that legitimises and puts a public face on the process of grief, especially for a child dealing with the loss of a sibling. Emotional and expressive, The Forever Kid is a book that will unite readers of all ages and backgrounds, due to the accessible presentation format of the principal subject matter, loss.

    Complimenting the strong narrative voice of assured writer Elizabeth Marry Cummings, is the talented craftsmanship of illustrator Cheri Hughes. The illustrations featured in The Forever Kid are soft, dreamlike and embracing. The style of the illustrations, particularly the use of a watercolour texture, with a gentle choice of colour palate adds so much to the unfolding story. Hughes breathes life into Johnny, his family and the celebrations that work to honour his life, all through her thoughtful illustrations.

    What I gained from the experience of reading The Forever Kid was the power this book holds to change our mindset around the grief process. Often I turn to book to help me understand a crisis, or a life event that I cannot fully comprehend. The Forever Kid is a prime example of the transformative power of picture books hold to help us in our daily lives, when we are faced with challenging times. Personally, I loved the touch of using cloud stories as a means to connect with Johnny, the enduring boy, who will always remain the ‘forever-kid’. Although Johnny’s brother is a central narrator of the book, Cummings is also careful to include a range of individual responses to loss and tributes made to Johnny. Cummings also makes us see how important it is to value the support of family networks when working through the process of bereavement. Cummings juxtaposes the serious tone of death and loss with celebration, which is a great way to explore the emotional themes contained in this book.

    The Forever Kid is a unique book with a restorative quality, that will provide a sense of semblance and peace to those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. For those who have not been touched by grief in such a close manner, The Forever Kid is still an essential book to have on hand in home library, to turn to when you need the comfort of words to support you through a difficult life event.

  6. A stunning balance of heartfelt evocation and a gentle message of healing that transcends in a beautifully dreamy sense of spirit and strength.

  7. A powerful picture book tackling the complex subject of grief from a child’s perspective. It combines wise, thoughtful narrative and beautiful illustrations to sensitively explore the strength of family love and the idea that loved ones are forever connected.

    Lovely! Congrats again Elizabeth!

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