Author: Catherine Urdahl
Illustrator: Janine Dawson
With the recent worries about H1N1, hospitals have adopted strict visitation policies, especially regarding children. When parents or grandparents are hospitalized, faced with the unknown, children often imagine the worst. Emma’s Question by Catherine Urdahl tenderly explores this difficult life crisis.
With her grandmother in the hospital, everything in Emma’s life seems off kilter. Now, Grandma can’t to be the guest reader in her kindergarten class or take her for bagels on Wednesday. What’s worse is there’s a question “that scritches and scratches at the back of Emma’s throat”. Something she’s afraid to ask and her mother is upset to hear.
This book gives voice to the worries young children have when someone they love is ill. It gently addresses the small changes in the child’s world, as well as the child’s worst fear. “Are you going to die?” Emma asks her grandmother. “Not today, I have a Chutes and Ladders game to play.” Grandma answers. Urdahl does an excellent job straddling the delicate balance between reassuring the child that Grandma is okay without giving false promises. The humorous watercolor illustrations evoke a sense of peace and hope and help convey the closeness in Emma’s relationship with her grandmother.
Sometimes it seems safer to ignore big issues like death and illness with young children. Unfortunately, this approach usually increases children’s stress. Emma’s Question provides a framework for an honest approach to a difficult subject.