Summary of Always and Forever:
A group of animals—Fox, Otter, Mole, and Hare—live together in a house in the woods. Each member has a special role to play in the family. They dearly love one another. During the autumn months, Fox falls ill. He grows thin and pale. One day, he goes out alone, but he does not come back. His family finds him still and cold beneath a tree. The trio bury him under his favorite willow tree. A wintery sadness consumes their once happy home. There is an emptiness where Fox once dwelled—physically and emotionally. The little family is silent and heart-broken. As spring begins to peak out, the trio gets a visit from Squirrel who reveals that their other friends miss them. Mole tells him they have been too sad to go out. Squirrel urges them that life has to go on. Otter asks, “How can it, without Fox?” Despite their sorrow, they ask Squirrel to stay for dinner. Preparing a meal together, they fondly recall what a terrible cook Fox was. While doing the dishes, they remember other comical stories about him. Soon, the house is filled again with laughter. The animals use their talents to build a special place under the willow tree where they remember their beloved friend and companion.
Always and Forever is a touching story. Author Alan Durant depicts the stages of grief and a healthy recovery after a tragic loss. The sweet pictures by Debi Gliori are a beautiful companion to the text. This story could be therapeutic for young people who have lost a loved one because they often believe no one understands how they feel. Always and Forever is an ideal narrative to begin talking about grief. The animals start to heal when they remember amusing stories about their friend and when they create a special memorial for him. Constructing a special place or memorial as well as talking about the lost loved one can help children to heal. Even if a child is not dealing with a loss, reading and discussing different situations help to build empathy or tools for later life experiences.
Though this story is not necessarily one for educational instruction, I want to include books like this for families or educators who need to help children through emotionally trying situations.