Reviews /

When I’m Gone

Authored by Marguerite McLaren
Illustrated by Hayley Wells
Published by Penguin Random House Children's UK

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When I’m Gone is one of the most moving books I have read and one that I found difficult to review, wanting to find the right words to do justice to this powerful portrait of love.

Inspired directly by the experience of author Marguerite Mclaren, it is both sad yet profoundly uplifting at the same time paying tribute to the endurance of love. In fact, the author describes the book as a love letter to her daughters, and love rings out in every word and every illustration. Written from the perspective of a mother who knows they will die urging the children she leaves behind to live life to the full and find joy even though she is not there. It acknowledges the normality of having bad days and feeling confused, angry or sad following the death of someone you love. Importantly, the message that it is also normal to feel happy is very clear. I believe it is essential to use the correct terminology when talking about death, and the word die is used in the book, which gives clarity.  Euphemisms, although meant well, are often confusing at a time when precision is vital. Expert advice from Child Bereavement UK is included at the back of the book, which is extremely helpful.

The illustrations perfectly complement the author’s words, and Hayley Wells has used the perfect colour palette to express the warmth and love within the book. She captures the deep sense of grief expressed so sensitively in the text with incredible use of body language and expression. Some pages made me stop in my tracks; so powerfully do they express the deep sense of anguish of the mother. The endpapers display family photographs and mementoes from before and after the mother’s death and these are heartbreaking as well as joyful. A book that made me weep but also that acted as a powerful reminder to appreciate the present and not take anything for granted. A life-affirming and comforting book, When I’m Gone, is essential to support children and adults dealing with bereavement.