My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Books about bereavement are a big interest to me and I collate ones that I come across in a reading list. I am such a fan of Rebecca Cobb’s work and this book is beautiful.One of the things I think Cobb does really well is that she understands a child’s viewpoint. It’s a book written from the viewpoint of a bereaved child who is trying to understand where Mummy has gone: “Some time ago we said goodbye to Mummy. / I am not sure where she has gone”. There’s so much there in that simple, precise statement. The totality of bereavement is overwhelming to an adult but to a child who is still learning to process concepts such as life and death, it can be blindingly unfathomable. Cobb’s sparse simple text captures that confusion but also that ache of trying to reason out what has happened: “We have been leaving her flowers / But she doesn’t seem to have been collecting them”
Space is another thing that Cobb plays with to stunning effect throughout Missing Mummy. Some of the spreads are so bare and powerfully so; in one, an isolated child stands in the bottom corner of the double page spread and watches the opposite page which is full of children and their mums: “The other children have their Mums. / It’s not fair.” It’s not. It never is. How can it be?
One other smart thing to note about this book are the hidden, non-textual messages in it. I’ve talked a lot before about the complex and elaborate literacies that picture books can teach readers, and it’s something which occurs in Missing Mummy. The endpapers are coloured in a sort of loose squiggle which means nothing at present. It’s one of those features which looks a little bit as though it’s just decorative – and at the start it is. It’s only upon reading that we see that it’s actually the texture of Mummy’s jumper – which has been turned into a sort of comforter by the young bereaved boy, which hasn’t left his side.
Heartbreaking, sensitive and full of a sparse visual and textual elegance, Missing Mummy is rather outstandingly wonderful.