Title: Because of That Crow
Author: Beverley Brenna
Publisher: Markham, Ontario/Brighton, MA: Red Deer Press, 2020
Genre: Middle grade contemporary fiction, with a touch of magic
Audience Age: 8 to 12
Themes/Topics: grief, parents’ death, healing, coping, hope
Opening Sentences: Everything was different because of that crow. Harris knew it. And he was pretty sure the others knew it, too. Grampa, and Mrs. Featherbuster, and Henry and Lucy Harder. And even Tessa. As for Pete—well, Harris figured that old dog probably knew it, too, if truth be told.
Synopsis: The drawing nine-year-old Harris creates at the beginning of the book shows just how much is missing in his life: there’s a space where Gramma should be, because she died four years ago. And there’s a big space where Mom and Dad should be, because they died in a car accident three years ago. Harris survived that accident, and grief and guilt have tied him in knots ever since. He feels responsible, although he wasn’t.
Grampa has taken on the care of Harris, his thirteen-year-old sister Tessa, and their three-year-old sister, Pinky. She was just a baby when Mom and Dad died. She doesn’t remember. But Harris does.
Bev portrays Harris’ grief so well that the reader feels it, too: “Harris felt a wave of sadness wash over him, and then another. He tried to think about something else, something other than his parents and what had happened that terrible night. But the tide of despair rose up around his chest and, for a moment, he lost his footing and struggled to catch his breath.”
Everything seems to be a struggle. Grampy is grumpy, schoolwork is hard, Harris punches a boy out of frustration, their neighbor’s wife is sinking deeper and deeper into dementia (although Harris doesn’t articulate it as such).
Into all this grief comes a crow. An ordinary crow, or an extraordinary crow, depending on your point of view. And by opening his window and his heart to that crow, Harris starts to look at things in a new way, to begin to find a way up from the depths of the grief he was sinking in. He begins to find hope.
I highly recommend this book, especially for kids – and adults – who are dealing with grief.
For Further Enrichment: The place to start is with the interview with Bev in the back of the book. Then go to Bev’s website for a PDF Teacher’s Guide.
Check out this review in the Manhattan Book Review.
At the Cornell Lab website, there is lots of information for kids about birds in general, and # 12 on the page linked here is all about crows.
Availability: In print and available. You might have to get your independent bookstore to order it, though.