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!
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.