The Poppies on the Hill
by Ted Landkammer
Christian Faith Publishing

"Sarah was in the fifth grade and walked back and forth to school. After school, she would stop with her friends at Mrs. Brannigan’s house."

Nine-year-old Sarah and her younger brother Joey live with their family in a house in a close-knit community. Whenever Sarah walks home from school with her friends, they all stop at her neighbor Mrs. Brannigan’s house for fresh cookies. One day, when Mrs. Brannigan doesn’t greet the children, Sarah decides to investigate. Learning that her neighbor is feeling ill, Sarah decides to return the kindness she receives by keeping her elderly friend company and taking care of her. The exchange continues with Sarah receiving some poppy seeds to plant on the hill behind her house. When the season is right, Sarah’s hill blossoms in vibrant color, but Mrs. Brannigan passes away before Sarah can share it with her. Heartbroken, Sarah must find a way to properly remember her kind neighbor.

Death is always a difficult concept to introduce to children, and this book approaches the subject in a tasteful and heartfelt way that children will be able to understand easily. Many of the pages of text are paired up with vibrant illustrations featuring soft watercolor backgrounds and bright depictions of the action. There are a handful of lessons and morals that kids can learn through this book, but they are presented in an organic way that children will understand and enjoy because of the human kindness that the story’s characters demonstrate. Though the events of the story can be difficult for young readers to face directly, the idea of memorializing a passed family member or friend is something that young people will latch onto and be enthusiastic about doing in their own communities. Heartfelt and honest without being blunt, this book will teach its audience a valuable lesson about caretaking and being a good neighbor and friend.

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