RETRO BOOK REVIEW | The Poppies on the Hill

the reading glass critic's review
The Poppies on the Hill

The Poppies on the Hill

Written by: Ted Landkammer

RETRO BOOK REVIEW

A short and sweet tale with an important lesson at its heart, Ted Landkammer’s The Poppies on the Hill provides parents with a thoughtful way to discuss the serious matter of death with their children.


The “sex talk” has often been considered as a necessary rite of passage for both children and their parents. But what about the “death talk”? How does a parent even begin a conversation about one of life’s greatest mysteries?


The Poppies on the Hill by Ted Landkammer tells the story of young Sarah. She is a typical little girl who lives in a small town. She is friends with a kind old woman called Mrs. Brannigan, who gives her some poppy seeds one day and tells her how to plant them on the hill behind Sarah’s home. Mrs. Brannigan is ill, however, and when she finally passes away, Sarah honors her friend’s memory by placing poppies on her grave.


The simple prose is ideal for young children. It is easy for them to understand the story and follow along with the events. Coupled with the vibrant illustrations, this is an enjoyable little book that can be read at bedtime. However, what makes it truly special is its inclusion of death in the narrative. What is even more notable is how the author treats the subject with a grace and sensitivity that can help children to understand that there is nothing to fear about dying. Sarah discovering Mrs. Brannigan lying unconscious on the floor could have been a scary moment, but it was framed as an event that necessitated giving assistance to the old woman instead of overwhelming Sarah with emotion.


The denouement–when Sarah and the other children who were fond of Mrs. Brannigan pick poppies and blanket the old woman’s grave with the flowers–is perfectly bittersweet. It shows kids that grieving for a lost loved one does not have to be a negative experience. Instead, if the grief is shared with others, it can be made bearable, and what started out as a sad death can transform into a joyous celebration of life.


Quietly touching with an important message at its core, Ted Landkammer’s The Poppies on the Hill is a well-told story with multiple layers that are worth exploring with young readers.

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