Death, Divorce & Other Difficult Topics - AFCC Sessions Part 2

Petra Nagyova Dzerengova
Slovakian author, Petra Nagyova Dzerengova apologised for the excruitiating pronunciation of her name but offered no apology for her choice of subject matter for her Asian Festival of Children's Content presentation.

As Deridre Hanna of Paradise Kids taught me, one thing in life is certain, 10 out of 10 people will die. There is no point trying to hide it. Petra reasoned there is also no reason not to share discussions about these types of issues with young children.

Despite the fact that more and more authors are tackling so called 'difficult' subject matter in children's books, yours truly included, there is still a reluctance to openly share them. Debate on their usefulness continues to circle like a pack of wary hyenas. Petra examined the salient reasons for busting through the doubts, which she supported with examples of a number of picture books that handle the subject (of death) well.

On Death...
  • We try to ignore it in most, but not all, cultures
  • If adults don't talk about it, then they cannot discuss it with their kids
  • Death is being separated from life more and more nowadays 
  • Discussing death and its implications after it happens is often too late
  • We don't need all the answers, just open honesty
Literary examples that portray the concept of death:

  • Death is irreversible
  • Beginnings and endings are normal
  • Love, in death, does not end (this made me think of my own story about loss and grief, The Fix-It Man

  • You don't have to worry about death
  • Become friends with Death when you are full of life 
Again, this was an intensely thought-provoking and emotive session which induced a fair bit of reflection. It also instilled a deep sense of relief and satisfaction that Nicky Johnston and I have gone some small right way in providing children with the very means of guidance and education that Petra described.

For the writers and illustrators out there, more session updates on the way. 😊


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