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I remember when my best friend moved away the summer before ninth grade. Her family only moved an hour north of Miami, but still. It felt like I had a black hole in my life, occupying everything she no longer did and resting on the couch next to me where she should have been lounging. It was hard enough to grapple with her absence from my daily life then, as a teenager. I can't even imagine how I would have handled this if I had been a much younger child.
I think this is one of the reasons I fell in love with Life Without Nico, by Andrea Maturana, with illustrations by Francisco Javier Olea. In this beautiful story, Maia and Nico are best friends who play together constantly, only to have their worlds shattered when Nico and his family have to move away for a couple of years. Maia is sad, lonely and bored, but eventually life moves on and she does the only thing she can-- she makes a new friend and even discovers a new hobby. Suddenly, though, it's time for Nico to come home. Does Maia still have a place for him in her life?
Life Without Nico tenderly explains the process of loss and recovery to young children, something that can be so challenging for parents and teachers alike to discuss. With a light touch - including an illustrative representation of a dark hole accompanying Maia in Nico's absence - Maturana and Olea make this tough concept both tangible and relatable. Even more, it allows kids to understand that with time, the devastating nature of loss begins to lose its initial sting. Life, after all, goes on. This book can serve as a starting point for numerous discussions (including loss, heartbreak, recovery), and it so beautifully illustrates the resilience of children. Remember that song from childhood, "make new friends, but keep the old-- one is silver and the other gold"? That is this book.
Want the book? Get it here! Life Without Nico, by Andrea Maturana