Saying Goodbye to Barkley by Devon Sillett

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Devon Sillett, Author

Nicky Johnston, Ilustrator

EK Books, Fiction, 2020/Translated into Spanish 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Pet, Death, Feelings, Grief, Sharing memories, Rescue animals

Opening: Super Olivia and her amazing sidekick Barkley did everything together. Good deeds. Sniffing out clues. Catching the bad guys!

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Olivia and her dog Barkley are inseparable. He’s her first sidekick, her partner in crime-fighting. When Barkley dies Olivia is heartbroken. Olivia realizes however that Barkley would want her to share her love with a new pet. She hatches a plan to adopt a dog in need of a home. So Spud — who is very different from Barkley — joins the family. Olivia learns that loves comes in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Spud may be a hopeless sidekick, but the niche she carves in Olivia’s heart will be entirely and uniquely her own.

Why I like Saying Goodbye to Barkley:

Devon Sillett’s Saying Goodbye to Barkley is a sensitive, uplifting and heartwarming first book about death. Both children and adults will relate to the love and unbreakable bond between Barkley and his owner, Olivia. Sillett’s storytelling is compelling and her pacing keeps readers fully engaged.

Losing a pet to death may be a child’s first experience with loss and grief. Saying Goodbye to Barkley acknowledges Olivia’s feelings of sadness when she loses her best crime-fighting partner. She’s too sad to eat and sleep. She dreads waking up because her best friend isn’t snuggling by her side. 

Olivia takes her time to work through her grief and share her feelings of loss. She holds tight to her memories and realizes that Barkley wouldn’t want her to stop doing good deeds. That’s when she comes up with a plan to adopt a from the rescue shelter — not her mother’s idea — but Olivia’s. A signal to readers that Olivia is healing and ready to move on.  After all, Barkley loved rescuing people. Now it’s Olivia’s turn to rescue a dog.

Nicky Johnston’s colorful, large illustrations compliment the story showing Olivia’s journey through sadness to joy. Make sure you check out the end papers for a sweet surprise.

Resources/Activities: This is an opportunity for the children and family to share their feelings of loss and their joyful memories of their beloved pet. Encourage kids share their favorite memories of their pet, collect pictures of their pet and make a collage, draw pictures, and make a memory box. 

Devon Sillett is a former radio producer, turned writer and reviewer. She is the author of The Scaredy Book, The Leaky Book and Tabitha and the Raincloud.  Born in the US, Devon now lives in Australia. She loves books so much so that she got married in a library! Currently she teaches in the writing department at the University of Canberra, where she is also a PhD student, researching children’s picture books. If she isn’t writing or reading, you’ll find her playing with Legos or hide-an-seek with her two sons.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by EK Books in exchange for a review. 


Perfect Picture Books – The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye

Jane Yolen, author and Jim LaMarche, illustrator

Random House,  2011, Fiction

Suitable for: Preschool and Elementary (ages 4 and up)

Theme: Pet Loss, Grief

Synopsis: “The day Tiger Rose said goodbye was a soft spring day, the sun only half risen.  Little brilliant butterflies, like bits of colored paper, floated among the flowers.” Tiger Rose is a gray striped tabby cat who is growing old and knows the end of her life is nearing.  She heads off to say goodbye to the family she loves, Rolf the dog she fights with, and her nature friends.  She finds her favorite napping place near a rose-bush and quietly makes her transition.

Why I like this book:  Jane Yolen’s story is a celebration of Tiger Rose’s life and provides a beautiful, sensitive and reassuring way to explain death to children.   It will bring comfort to children and adults who have experienced the death of a pet or have an aging pet.  Activity:  This is an opportunity for children to share their feelings  and favorite stories about a beloved pet, draw pictures, and make a collage or remembrance book.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

Helping Kids Cope with the Death of a Pet

Good-bye, Sheepie, is written by Robert Burleigh, and illustrated by Peter Catalanotto.  It is a touching story written for children 4 to 8 years of age.  The illustrations are soft and beautiful and add to the somber mood.

Owen and his dog, Sheepie, are best friends. They are constant companions as they play fetch, go for long walks and sleep together at night.  Sheepie is aging, he’s not as playful and he’s starting to sleep more.   Sheepie begins to limp as he walks and Owen has to help his best friend climb the stairs.  One day, Owen finds Sheepie lying under a tree.  His best friend won’t wake up.   Owen’s father is very supportive and helps him understand that Sheepie is dead.  He honors Owen’s grief and they do a special tribute to Sheepie as they bury him in a favorite place.  His father helps his son find closure as they talk about all of Owen’s happy memories of his best friend, and how Sheepie will remain a part of him.

As a child, I remember the neighbor’s cat killing my baby rabbit.  I sobbed and insisted on putting my bunny in a box, digging a grave, burying the box, and holding a service with my younger brother.   It was an early experience of death for me, and I wanted to  honor the short life of  my pet.   So, I thank  Burleigh for writing such a memorable story on a heartbreaking subject of the death of a pet.   The loss of a favorite friend and companion is even more devastating for a child.   Burleigh  handled the subject gently, and his book is a beautiful lesson of loving and letting go; something a child will continue to learn throughout life.

Two other books written for children who have experienced the loss of a pet, are Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven.  Written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant, the books are colorful, uplifting and at times humorous.   The Book Jacket says:  If  you have ever been lucky enough to have a special dog or cat in your life, then you know there is a place called Dog and Cat Heaven.  The vision of both books mirror what many people believe about heaven.    There is a religious element to the books.   Regardless of what you believe, they are good books to help you talk with your child about their grief and what happens to their pet.

Rylant, the author of more than 60 books for children, debuted her first attempts at painting in Dog Heaven.  She is a self-taught artist, who is strongly influenced by the folk artwork of Grandma Moses.  She also illustrated Cat Heaven.   Children will delight in the bold and beautiful  pictures.