We all knew that Brodie was sick,
But we thought he’d get better.
Maybe it was because he talked a
lot about being a chopper pilot.
When the rest of the class had
sport, Brodie sat inside, drawing
pictures of planes and helicopters.
A child narrator tells the story of his class, his teacher and his friend Brodie, who has been sick for a while. Just how long is not clear, but it’s an accepted part of school life that Brodie has to go to hospital sometimes. Even when he’s at school, he doesn’t play sport with them, instead staying indoors and drawing. His illness does not define him, but his ability to draw and his love of flying does. One day he’s going to be a chopper pilot. But Brodie doesn’t get better, he dies. The class, with the guidance of their teacher, Mrs Patawai, have supported Brodie during his illness by treating him as one of them. They have expected that he will get better, even when he’s suggested the contrary. Now they channel their sadness into supporting his family. Illustrations are rich and painterly, have a collage feel to them, and tell their own story about where Brodie has gone.
Brodie is beautifully written, sensitively and imaginatively illustrated. It introduces the concept of death and rather than shy away from it, allows children to face it; to ask the myriad questions it presents. The question of what happens after death is answered in many ways and allows readers to bring their own beliefs, or those of their family or community, without closing the door to beliefs of others. It acknowledges the sadness of loss, and the opportunity to acknowledge the sadness of others because of shared love. Illustrations use a limited pallet of blues and golds and browns, calling to mind sky, earth and sunshine. Brodie was first released in NZ in 2001, and re-released in 2013. It well deserves another outing. Recommended for primary readers and classrooms.
Brodie, Joy Cowley ill Chris Mousdale Walker Books 2013 ISBN: 9781922077752
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
Available from good bookstores and online.