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Kids' Books

A Hand to Hold in Loss and Sadness

May 30, 1999|KEVIN BAXTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nothing lasts forever. That's a concept most adults have little trouble with. But just try explaining it to a child, especially a child trying to understand the loss of a parent through divorce, a grandparent through death or even a close friend who simply moved away.

Rabbi Marc Gellman and Msgr. Thomas Hartman offer some real-life suggestions for coping in "Lost & Found: A Kid's Book for Living Through Loss" (Morrow Junior Books; 176 pages; $15), a comforting and priceless guide for children and their parents.

Gellman and Hartman, who co-host the nationally syndicated cable TV show "God Squad," previously teamed to write two children's books ("Where Does God Live?" and "How Do You Spell God?") that try to make sense of life's bigger questions and universal truths. In "Lost & Found," they draw on the lessons of those two volumes, plus the experiences gained through years of counseling, to offer a profound, yet simple, faith-based philosophy for dealing with grief.

But the book is, above all, a comforting guide, one that helps us find the silver lining that surrounds even the darkest of clouds.

"It's often hard to see loss as an opportunity . . . ," the authors write, "but it is essential. Otherwise, we are left with just the pain of loss and not the lessons we must learn in order to grow."

A much more subtle lesson in displaying courage in the face of loss is at the heart of Scott Johnson's young adult novel "Safe at Second" (Philomel, 242 pages, $16.99), which will be released in June. In it, high school phenom Todd Bannister finds himself trying to choose between college and professional baseball after graduation. But then an on-field injury costs Todd the use of an eye and seemingly ends any hope he has of playing baseball.

But with the help of his best friend, Paulie, for whom college and professional sports were never an option, Todd discovers that his misfortune isn't a tragedy as much as it is a blessing in disguise.

Enough about loss. What about gain? For the youngest children, even addition can mean subtraction, as when a new brother or sister arrives to change their lives completely. Joanna Cole helps make sense of that in "The New Baby at Your House" (Mulberry Books, 44 pages, $5.95), a photo-heavy paperback guide that tells kids it's OK to be angry or resentful when a new sibling arrives. But, Cole says, a brother or sister doesn't mean you've been replaced.

"When a family grows," she writes, "love grows too."

The book opens with a common-sense guide that helps parents make sense of the emotions and frustrations that can lessen the joy of a new addition.

And finally, in our ongoing attempt to highlight independent authors and small presses of special note, we'd like to call attention to Koeun Heo, author of a delightful story titled "The Flying Frog." Koeun, however, is better known as a precocious 10-year-old at Wilton Place Elementary School in Los Angeles.

Koeun, who emigrated from Korea seven years ago, was inspired to write her 16-page book about a lonely frog in a wishing well after a trip to the L.A. Zoo. The story is available for $3.95 on the Internet at http://www.1stbooks.com and http://www.1stlibrary.com. Koeun, who gets a cut of the profit, says she's sold only six copies since the book became available this winter. But that hasn't discouraged her: She's written five books since then.

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