"I'll Be the Water" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
Death is difficult for adults to handle, the finality and loss overwhelmingly. For children, death can be doubly hard. Books can help with explaining loss and “I’ll Be the Water,” by Alee Aspinwall does so beautifully.
It’s the story of a little boy, his granddad and the relationship they share, a bond strengthened by fishing and ordinary real-life experiences.
One day Joshua has a realization. He notices his grandfather is getting old, and in the honest way that children have the boy asks if that’s the case. It isn’t long before Joshua must accept another fact—his grandfather has to go to the hospital for tests that don’t turn out well. Though Joshua’s parents tell him everything will be okay, Joshua is worried and confesses this to his grandfather.
“Are you afraid of dying, Grandpa?” the boy asks.
Rather than avoiding the question, the grandfather offers his take on death. He tells Joshua that he doesn’t know what to expect in the hereafter but he does know how he’s felt since his wife died.
“…I don’t think of her as being gone, because each memory of her is like a special gift I can unwrap again and again. And that’s a gift I want to give to you, too.”
The grandfather uses fishing to further illustrate what he believes.
“…Today, you and I are like two fish swimming together in this lake. When I die, things will be different. I won’t be a fish anymore, but I’ll become something even better. I’ll be the water. You might think I’m not with you, but we’ll be closer than ever because you’ll be surrounded by my love…”
This wise book has soft illustrations by Nicole Wong that mirror the tranquility its words express.