“A Sky of Diamonds: A Story for Children about Loss, Grief and Hope” Book Review

c.2015, Jessica Kingsley Publishers • $19.95 U.S. & Canada • 48 pages
Terri Schlichenmeyer

When you’re happy, your mouth knows what to do.
That’s because you wear your feelings on your face: happy, and you smile. Sad, and you frown. Surprised, and your mouth says “Oh!” while your eyes open wide. You don’t even have to think about it; everybody in the world knows how you feel. But in the new book “A Sky of Diamonds” by Camille Gibbs, there’s just no way to know what to do next.
In the middle of school one day, Mia’s daddy came to take Mia home.
She knew it was an unusual day because Daddy looked sad. That was because Mia’s Mum had been in an accident at work, and her heart stopped. Mia’s Mum died. Mia would remember that day forever.
“I couldn’t speak,” she said, “and my head swirled.” She felt like all the color had been sucked out of everything. At first, she couldn’t believe it, and she dreamed about her Mum. Waking up was hard.
Sometimes, she even thought it was all her fault. It wasn’t - her Dad explained that she was grieving and that it might feel like a rollercoaster, with up days and down days. Still, Mia was “angry at everything.” Her friends still had their mothers, and that wasn’t fair! They were happy, and that wasn’t fair, either! What would she do if her Dad died, too? Mia wondered what would happen if she died.
Finally, her dad decided that they needed a memory box, a place to put all the good things and the good days they could remember. She and her father also crawled under the bed and screamed, they slammed doors (which felt really good!) and Mia punched holes in the newspaper. She then wrote her mother some letters, one of which was about the stars in the sky and what her Mum had said about them: she’d chosen the shiniest one, to whisper goodnight when she wasn’t with Mia.
And that made Mia feel better.
I have two very definite thoughts about “A Sky of Diamonds,” the first of which was that I loved the message. In explaining the basic grieving process through the eyes of a little girl who’s suffered a big loss, author Camille Gibbs tells kids that their thoughts and feelings are completely normal. Through the story, she also subtly offers coping methods for kids who are really struggling, and a nice introduction guide for parents and pros who have never had to comfort a child who’s dealing with loss.
On the other hand, I was not impressed at all with the illustrations that accompany this story. I would have far preferred to see professional work in a book with this importance; what’s here feels uncomfortably unappealing.
Still, this is one of those things you hope you never need, but you’ll be glad to know is out there. Despite the illustrations, it may be perfect for 5-to-10-year-olds who’ve suffered loss, as well as for parents or caregivers. They might find what’s inside “A Sky of Diamonds” feels just right.