The Remembering Stone
The Remembering Stone
One young girl.
One perfectly round stone.
A host of memories.
When Alice takes a round, flat stone to school for Show and Share, she finds it does not engage her classmates right away. Not like Zoe’s book about dinosaurs, or Sarah’s new boots, or Liam’s stories about his baby cousin.
So Alice told her class what made her stone so special.
It was perfectly round so you could use it to trace circles.
Sometimes she could trick her dad into thinking it was a quarter.
It was also how Alice remembered her grandpa.
Alice tells the children how her grandfather had taught her how to skip stones across the water. He showed her what kind of perfectly-shaped stone she needed to make the most splashes across the surface of the water before it would sink. One particular black stone he found for her was so perfect she did not want to use it right away, and so she decided to save it “for next time”. Unfortunately, next time never came, as Grandpa got sick and died.
The story makes the class silent and thoughtful, and the teacher thanks Alice for sharing it. At recess, everyone wants to have a look at Alice’s special stone, but, somehow, by the time they get to the playground, it has been lost. Did it fall out on the stairs, or when Alice was swinging on the monkey bars? The girls and boys join in the search, and everyone comes up with a stone that is not Alice’s perfect stone. That one seems to be gone forever.
That day Alice walked home with her pockets full of stones.
When she got home, she laid them on the floor and looked
at every one.
They were all different shapes and sizes. Some were smooth
and some were bumpy. There were grey stones and brown
stones and one that was speckled. Each one reminded Alice
of how her friends had tried to help that day.
Alice and Dad take the collection down to the water’s edge and test them all as skipping stones. When they don’t work well, she collects more and keeps on trying. She is reminded of Grandpa all over again.
The Remembering Stone is a quiet story about a child’s personal journey through grief. The classroom provides a calm venue for Alice to share her memories, and the teacher, Mr. Hawkins, has obviously created a caring atmosphere among his students. The loss of the stone and the subsequent search do not feel like high drama but rather determination to solve a problem.
The illustrations, executed by the author, match the muted feeling of the story with their soft palette of tans and greys, relieved by the occasional note of terra cotta red. Simple, solid human figures are painted in acrylic gouache, with detail added by means of soft pencil outlines. The somewhat bland facial expressions are relieved in the low moments, such as when Alice is walking home at the end of the day without her special stone. There is also a lovely image at Grandpa’s wake where the adults are gathered quietly chatting on the left-hand page of the spread as a downcast Alice sits on the couch cuddling her dog on the right.
Sookocheff has illustrated the “Buddy and Earl” easy chapter book series by Maureen Fergus, as well as several of her own picture books (Solutions for Cold Feet and Other Problems; Lost Things). With The Remembering Stone, she has provided a good resource for public and school libraries looking for a book on childhood loss, one to be shared with a group or an individual child.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia.