We’ve moved out of the era of Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon and into contemporary children’s books that tackle what can be difficult subject matter for adults, much less for kids, to digest: divorce, LGBTQ families, environmental issues, immigration, and even dementia.
Vanessa Vassar does not shy away from writing about her own heavy-hitting subject, the death of her 13-year-old daughter, Sky.
In her debut children’s book, Evan and the Skygoats (Leaf Storm Press, 48 pages, $18.95), the Albuquerque author writes of the loss of a daughter and — for her 3-year-old son, Evan — the loss of a big sister, which Evan struggles to understand. As part of Vassar’s healing process, she adopted three goats, which became a catalyst for her family to find moments of joy again.
Ophelia Cornet’s whimsical illustrations throughout the book were inspired by a conversation with Vassar, in which the author said she often felt like a floating figure in one of Chagall’s paintings as she was grieving.
Evan and the Skygoats is as gentle and imaginative as it is poignant. At its heart, it’s a story about grieving, family and friends (and goats) supporting one another through the process, and how healing sometimes begins with something as seemingly simple as laughter.
Meet the author and illustrator at a reading, discussion, and book signing at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at op. cit. books in the DeVargas Center, 157 Paseo de Peralta; 505-428-0321, opcit.com. — Lauren LaRocca