A stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker
Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9780763665968
(Age: 6+) Themes: Grief. Death. Dogs. Imagination. History. Caldecott Award winning author illustrator, Aaron Becker has produced a magical story of the cycle of life. With the most amazing digitally painted illustrations, detailed and encompassing, Becker does not need words to show us a saddened young girl burying her pet dog. Going on the family camping holiday is simply not the same without him and she holds back when other children play happily in the water. But she finds a smooth stone and hurling it up into the sky, the stone reveals the history of the world through its journey from being a piece of extruded rock, to a large monolith hauled onto the hill top by a group of men, to the hand sized stone she now finds in the water.
Over millennia we see the stone first thrust out of the earth, then being used, first as a large standing stone, next as a smaller piece in an Egyptian temple, then smaller still, a building block in a statue of Buddha, then as the keystone in a bridge in China and smaller still it is sculpted and sent to the Americas, where what is left now lies near to the water's edge, a much smaller version of itself.
The endpapers show a map of the world and trace the journey of the stone through its various incarnations from large to small, through Ethiopia and Mesopotamia, India, Burma, China then across the Pacific Ocean to Honolulu to its final resting place where the girl finds it on the western seaboard of North America. The maps show an overview of the world's history sure to intrigue and delight younger readers who will search out more information about the empires that have risen only to fall and be replaced by another.
This is a surprise of a book, worth delving into, capturing readers' imaginations as they put their own words to the pictures, build their own timelines around the stone, and ponder the circle of life as the stone keeps going on in one shape or other. There are so many layers to this book, that it is hard to dwell on any one. But I love the different forms of travel shown through the illustrations, and the differing work done by the individuals shown, as well as their costumes, and the few animals that pop up in the pages, quietly watching the activities of the people and the stone, while the story comes full circle, the stone finally at rest on the dog's grave.