Review Blog

Feb 24 2013

The lilac ladies by Jenny Hughes and Jonathan Bentley

cover image

Little Hare Books, 2013. ISBN 978 1 921894 23 7.
(Age: 4+) Warmly recommended. Picture book. Age. Death. Friendship. The routines of older people are beautifully illustrated in this wonderful reminder that people will not always be here. Four older women, Ida, Nelly, Maisie and Rose are the very best of friends and do the same things together each day of the week. Sometimes the women are not as capable as Nelly, but she is always there to help. Monday sees them bowling, Tuesday swimming, Wednesday at the coffee shop, Thursday they dance the tango and on Friday, the best day of the week, they have high tea with Nelly who makes the most superb cupcakes. But one week Nelly is not as active as usual, and the others are a little concerned. Going to her place they find Nelly in bed, and the four old friends talk of things they have done together in the past, until it is time for Nelly to go. The following week the friends no longer wish to do the things they did in the past when Nelly was around to give them a hand, but a week later they decide that they must continue. They might be a little different and they might not be as successful at the activities as when Nelly was there to help them, but they are achievable. Things are certainly different but they are still together and in many ways Nelly is there as well.
The lovely illustrations underline the points about friendship and change, about death and loss being made in the text. The four easily discernible women with their various hair styles, handbags, glasses and jewelry, peer out of the pages beckoning the readers in to look more closely. The readers happily become part of the routines, and share Nelly's expertise at helping her friends when help is needed. The readers will admire the women for being with Nelly as she dies, and congratulate the women continuing the daily activities, learning to adjust to Nelly's absence. The theme of loss and change is one to be lauded, as it is not often tackled in children's books. Here children will see that life does indeed go on after someones death and things may be different in some ways but change is inevitable.
Fran Knight

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