on January 17, 2005
Freddy, a maple leaf, is born in the spring, and grows to know his fellow leaves and his surroundings. Although leaves superficially look the same, he learns and appreciates the subtle differences between himself and each other leaf. He admires a larger leaf, Daniel. Daniel has a deeper understanding of life and death. He helps Freddie understand each of his phases of life. Finally, Daniel explains death and letting go.
The book uses the gentle, concrete metaphor of the annual changes in leaves on a tree to help anyone appreciate the different phases of life. Each leaf leaves the tree differently: some drift down quietly, and others fiercely resist the tug of the wind. This shows how each person approaches death differently. Freddy resists until he is withered and brown, the last leaf on the branch. Finally he lets go and experiences a sense of peace.
Although the leaves, die each year, they are part of the tree which lives on, although even it has a finite life. the book discusses the interconnecedness of life and death. however, it does not take a stand on the specifics of a life after death.
This would help children of a wide range of ages appreciate not only death, but also the different phases of life. Each time Freddy the leaf changes with the seasons, it is puzzling but he learns its value. He sees how the tree and the leaves have purpose. this helps one see that life has purposes that may not be immediately obvious. This book is also moving for adults who may be experiencing a life transition. I recommend that anyone, of any age take this book and read it under a tree.
on June 28, 2002
I used this book with a boy a worked with a few years ago. He was 9 at the time, and a close relative had died. Before a colleague showed me the book, I struggled to find the right words to comfort him with, to no avail. The experience was a first hand confrontation with the fact that our culture generally has a great deal of difficulty dealing with the issue of death. Of all the books I've read that attempt to help us deal with this problem, this one is the best.
This simply, poignant story about the changing of the seasons gave me a bridge to talk to the child and helped him make sense of his loss. The language is simple enough for even a young child to understand. The pictures are gorgeous. It helped him cope with and understand his loss. As well, he was inspired to read the story to his classmates (this is a boy who previously hated reading) and it created a "teachable moment" for the whole group.
This book is one that I would reccommend to anyone who is in contact with children. It would be an excellent addition to your personal library because it makes talking about a difficult, painful subject a great deal easier.
on July 10, 2000
THis is an EXCELLENT book! It simply explains the life cycle in a non-threatening way. The birth of a leaf in early spring, followed by the growth, and eventual transformation in fall. It addresses the reason for being. It shows many positives and contributions that you can have in life. Simple but important contributions. This book softly and matter of factly addresses the end of life. It has a calm and peaceful feel. What a tender approach to a difficult topic. It also introduces the cycle of life by approaching spring as a new beginning. Life is part of death. Death as part of life. BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN! Great to read to children of any age. Great book to begin to prepare children for eventual losses...even before they are expected.
on October 25, 1998
I believe that The Fall of Freddie the Leaf is an excellent book for children dealing with the death of a loved one. Honestly I haven't read the book in 9 years but I remember it well. When I was 10 years old my father was dying of colon cancer. The day my mother told my siblings and I (aged at the time 5, 8, 10, and 12) that my father wouldn't make it she read us the book. I still remember the book and how it helped us to understand why our daddy had to leave us. I would recommend this book to anyone with children who are facing the death of someone close to them. It was very memorable obviously because I still remember it to this day and give it a lot of credit in helping us to understand death.
on April 24, 2001
This book is so eloquent and profound, you may not be able to read through it without using up a box of tissues. As a family therapist, I have assisted children with grief on many times. I always strongly recommend this book. In American culture, we have been taught to think of death as unnatural. This is due to many reasons. A few are the youth obsessed media and advancements in science that have dramatically extended life expentancies. Other nations view death as a natural process. It is embraced as a season of life; therefore it is feared less. Freddie helps put death back into a natural perspective. The book has a spiritual, but non-demoninational tone. This is a must have for any home, not just for someone who is grieving. It truly is poetry.
on January 24, 2005
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, written by Dr. Leo Buscaglia is a non-threatening story that explains that everything that lives is part of a natural cycle. This simplistically written 15 page story, accompanied by richly colored photographs, provides understanding by readers of all ages. Most appropriate for students in grades K-3, this story gracefully puts into perspective the naturally balanced relationship between life and death.
The story, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, uses the mentoring approach of an older leaf named Daniel who shows a younger leaf named Freddie that the changes experienced through life are what life is about. As Freddie the Leaf and his companion leaves experience their own changes along with the passing seasons, Freddie learns that death is part of life. This understanding that Freddie develops prepares him for his own calm and peaceful experience as he falls from his branch with the winter's snow.
As a whole, our culture has great difficulty dealing with the issue of death. By using nature's natural change of the seasons as a metaphor, children are inspired to listen to, and read, this story's message. Without compromising personal cultural beliefs or practices, children are exposed to the love and power all humans encompass in being united in the understanding that the "end" is also the "beginning."
An important part of the story, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, is that Freddie was made to feel safe by the clear answers provided for him by the older leaf, Daniel. Children need to feel their questions will be validated and listened to with serious consideration and honest response. This is what gives children a sense of security in the constantly changing world around them.
Grief is a natural process in response to a traumatic event, such as with a death or loss, and one that is experienced uniquely from person to person. The natural process of grief has many forms and can take as long as two years or more to complete. What helps a child move through this process is to provide them with the opportunity to ask questions, provide answers relating directly to what is asked, and to provide positive means for the outlet of their emotions. Most importantly, children need to be assured that they are safe and that their emotions are supported.
For students in grades K-3, the facilitation of a large group activity giving students the opportunity to share an experience they might have had with death or another significant loss, is a healthy invitation for students to begin a long awaited healing process. It also gives students with fear or uneasy feelings related to death or loss, the opportunity to ask questions without the fear of being outcaste by their peers. A list of emotions shared by the members of the group can be recorded, identifying the spectrum of emotions experienced.
Independently, students can be invited to decorate a large leaf cut-out with a picture of a place they feel safe. This place can be in a favorite chair, a specific room, somewhere outside, or even with a special person. On the backside of the leaf, students are then asked to write or dictate any questions or feelings they might have about death or loss, or messages for a special person or pet that has died or who may be very ill.
Once the drawing process has been completed, students can be asked to regroup and share what they drew, and also share any messages or questions they recorded on their leaf. This process should be voluntary. A child should never be forced to speak if not wanting to. The mere act of listening to others share experiences that might be similar can be very healing in itself.
The discussion of death and grief is a natural process and one that is important to understand before bringing it into the classroom. Especially with children, grief is displayed in many different ways, and a teacher or group facilitator needs to be aware of this. As Joyce D. Davidson and Kenneth J. Doka state in their publication titled, Living With Grief, children very often display "short feeling spans" showing that they only can sustain strong emotions for short periods of time. What is most helpful for children in a time of grief is to provide them with time to listen to their expression of what they are feeling, and to allow them time to explore their many reactions to a loss. Sharing stories and memories can assist children to understand that the life and the death process is not isolated to just their experience. By offering tangible support children become more aware of their connection with other individuals and are able to find strength and support from those around them.