Water Bugs & Dragonflies:
Explaining Death to Young Children
Author: Doris Stickney
Illustrator: Gloria Claudia Ortiz Hernandez
Publisher: Pilgrim Press
Waterbugs and Dragonflies is a graceful fable written by Doris Stickney who sought a meaningful way to explain to neighborhood children the death of a five-year-old friend. The small book is beautifully illustrtated by artist Gloria Ortiz Hernandez. (Goodreads)
I picked up this small paperback the other day and, since it is only 26 pages long, quickly flipped through it while admiring the talented illustrations by Gloria Hernandez. Doris Stickney writes a cute little tale of a water bug community in a pond. The bugs notice that at times some of their own climb a stem of a plant to the surface of the water, never to be seen again. Noting this, one little water bug declares that one day he will go to the surface and come back to tell his friends what he finds.
However, the transformation he experiences, from a water bud to a dragonfly, prevents him from breaking the surface of the water to return to his friends. He has glorious wings and he loves to soar through the air. He is happy and knows that one day his friends will experience this too and they will understand.
While not told on a spiritual level, this story can be adapted to explain to children, whether with a religious context or not, the concept of death and moving on.
What I like about this story is the simplicity of the concept. It is not complex and allows children to visualize the similarities between humans and the characters in this short story. There is a section at the back to guide parents/caregivers through explaining death in a more spiritual manner, if desired. Overall, it is a wonderful aid to help children with the loss of a loved one.