Cordell sets the scene for this story before the titles page when we see a wordless sequence: a child playing with her dog, followed by a scene of packing items away, then a family group of three sad-looking people beneath which are the words, ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’ The title page has an image of a butterfly on a rock in the middle of water, symbolising one supposes, transformation.
We then move to a house by the lakeside and on the lake is an island. It’s to that island, Louise rows, thinking as she does of her beloved Charlie and how much he loved that island. Once ashore, having secured the boat, she spends some time surveying the surroundings and then gives vent to her feelings of sadness and anger. “I’m leaving!” she announces, thwacking a tree trunk with a large stick. (In keeping with her mood, all this is painted in sepia watercolour.) Then from all around coloured butterflies appear, and a chipmunk, followed by two deer. ‘Something new and good was happening on the island. / Something new and good was happening in Louise.’
Suddenly with a RROOAARR a large bear appears. Louise is scared and also angry – angry about Charlie; angry at the bear. She roars back and leaving the bear that’s now lying on the ground, starts walking back to the boat. Before departing though she looks back and recognises something in the dejected bear. It’s that ‘familiar sadness’.
Circular illustrations then show the following days when Louise returns to the island: sometimes only she feels better, some days only Bear is better. Gradually however, both girl and animal share better days, both changing, gradually healing on the island. Changes too happen at home as winter approaches. Still Louise continues her island visits but one morning Bear is hard to find. He’s busy preparing for a winter sleep. Time to say goodbye. “It’s not fair … “ Louise thinks as she rows away. But in this end there is a new beginning.
Perfectly paced to emulate the slowness of grieving and healing, heartfelt and a wonderful place for children to reflect on and talk about, loss and sadness, and the place of nature in the healing process.