Monday, August 27, 2012

"The Heart and the Bottle" by Oliver Jeffers

M. received a lovely book for her third birthday called “The Heart and the Bottle” by Oliver Jeffers. I was unfamiliar with Jeffers’ work before seeing this book but knew that the gift giver was a big fan of his books. The first time I flipped through the book I thought the illustrations were wonderful and that the story was cute, if a little sad. Obviously, I wasn’t paying attention to the message in the illustrations.

Last night, M crawled into my lap and I convinced her to let me read “The Heart and the Bottle.” Lately, she has been obsessed with Madeline and only wants to read that book over and over again. While I was reading I pointed out things in the illustrations and asked M. questions about what she saw. As we turned the pages I finally got the true meaning of the book and broke down crying.

Essentially, “The Heart and the Bottle” is about a little girl who is endlessly curious about the world around her and experiences these things with (who I take to be) her father. (As an aside, while I was reading reviews most people take the older man to be her grandfather and Jeffers has said he prefers to leave the interpretation up to the reader. So, father fits my personal experience better.) One day the little girl runs to show something to her father and finds his chair empty. At this point she decides to close her heart in a bottle so she can’t be hurt again. She grows and loses the sense of wonder at the world, only feeling the weight of her heart. It is only when she meets a little girl (who probably reminds her of herself) that she tries to free her heart.

M. wasn’t sure why I was crying (I just told her it was a sad story) so I’m not quite sure what she got out of the story aside from enjoying the illustrations. Either way, I think this book is a great addition to any library, young or old, and provides a great message about loss and grief.

{Image sources: LittleElfMan & where is my tomato}