So there's these couple of donkeys, Squire and Daniel. I love these little guys.
Squire and Daniel are the best of buddies, and they enjoy their sweet little donkey life together until one day when Daniel gets taken away. We don't know where he goes, or who takes him, or why he must leave, but his little donkey eyes look sad as he's led away.
(And let me tell you, his sad face has become an important detail to two little boys I know. Because when people tell you your dad is in a better place, you start to wonder if he was thankful to leave you behind. Daniel's face shows us goodbyes are hard, no matter what, that he didn't know what waited for him, and he wished to take the ones with him he loved. It's a big deal, my friends. Never underestimate the communication skills of a brilliant illustrator.)
So then there's only Squire, and he must somehow learn to do all of these sweet little donkey things without his buddy Daniel. We watch him remember the things they did together, we watch him try new things with new friends and on his own, and we get to watch Squire learn some of the most important parts of grief: that it's deep and wide with lots of colors and emotions, and it's okay to feel how you feel. Including happy again.
It's one of the best books I've found for talking about sadness and loss. And as the best children's books so often are, it's not necessarily just for children at all.
C. S. Lewis said,
"A children’s story is the best art-form for something you have to say. Just as a composer might write a Dead March not because there was a public funeral in view but because certain musical ideas that had occurred to him went best into that form. Where the children’s story is simply the right form for what the author has to say, then of course readers who want to hear that, will read the story or re-read it, at any age… A children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last."
Squire and Daniel is a favorite at our house. These little donkeys have opened up the conversations we needed to have.