Kids’ Book Review: Review: Bedtime Story

We need to talk
about Bedtime Story. Like, we really need to talk about it: in small
clusters around the water cooler, when we pick up the children from school, while
we cycle down city streets and as we kayak raging rivers. Okay, maybe not that
last one.

But still – we
do need to talk about it.

Chloe Hooper’s
husband has been diagnosed with an aggressive, life-threatening illness and her
children are quite small, just 3 and 6. So, she asks an important and timeless
question – How do we talk to children about death in a way that leaves them
loving life?

It’s probably
important to say that while this is not a book for children, Hooper’s personal
voyage of discovery leans into the above question at every turn, exploring
writing and writers for children in all the ways you can imagine and some that
you cannot. The writing is stunning. The pacing just right.

Once upon a

Your father
found himself

Lost in the

non-fiction narrative contains moments of delicate, tender and exquisitely
crafted poetry which is superbly supported by illustrator Anna Walker’s smudgy,
abstract and very affecting wet-in-wet watercolour paintings. These are
rendered in simple shades of grey and black.

Then, from out
of nowhere,

A narrow track

He began
following it.

He’s following

We’re following

Where it will
lead we do not know…

Hooper takes us
on a ride that is farther away even, than the clouds or the magical lands of Once
Upon A Time. She has us visit with mythical creatures and fractured tales that
belong in other times and places, all the while guiding us through her
husband’s very real and traumatic diagnosis of a rare, probably incurable,

The book is
written to her oldest child who is 6 and then 7 at the time of writing. This
alone is enough to undo me in the first paragraphs, but I bravely keep reading.
If she can write it, I can read it. And the thing is, that I can. I can
read it because it’s so real and raw and heartfelt and curious and probing and
flawed and delightful and charming and messy and bold and ordered and chaotic,
that it holds me in not just one but in many places all at once.

I’m not ashamed
to say that there are moments I weep. For the children. For the adults. For

And there are
times I laugh. Because the beauty and joy is palpable.

I gasp and
catch my breath in places, at the sheer magic and impossibility of what is on
the page; the language and the imagery. Walker’s sporadically placed watercolour
illustrations are a quiet, intense character of tremendous import. Like the deliberate
placement of poetry, these images create moments of exquisite profundity and beauty
as they arrive on the page and then disappear.

At times there will
be a little curl of black, just on the bottom corner or wrapping around the
last word or two in a sentence,

like an ocean

in a swelling

At others, the
incessant driving rain

and bleak

are a murky and
relentless visual force on the page,

chopping and
blocking at those words that we want so desperately

to stop.

Or to change track.

Or to be differently

We need to talk
about this book.

We need to talk
about the searing honesty and courage of a mother who articulates her mistaken
belief that a 3-year old is too young to be affected by his father’s illness.

To talk about humans
whose fierce and consuming love for their family is palpably, demonstrably represented
over and over again.

About small
nesting birds.

We need to talk
about children who are impacted by death, and who need the space and the words
and the permission to feel their feelings and be safe and held and alive and
angry and happy while they walk this disorienting path.

We need to talk
about happy childhoods. And the gentle, but very definite, guidance that this
work of art offers to us.

Tune back in this afternoon to watch the stirring Book Trailer for Bedtime Stories and keep an eye out for more features from Chloe Hooper. 

Title: Bedtime Story
Author: Chloe Hooper
Illustrator: Anna Walker
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, $34.99
Publication Date: May 2022
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781761103513
For ages: 16+
Type: Book for Adults

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