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*And What Comes After a Thousand?* by Anette Bley
And What Comes After a Thousand?
by Anette Bley
Preschool-grade 2 32 pages Kane/Miller March 2007 Hardcover    

Huh? If I had to come up with a one-word review for Anette Bley’s And What Comes After a Thousand?, a children’s book with an and older man and child gazing at the stars on its cover, that would be it. If you, as I, surmise that a book with this title and cover would focus on the insurmountable task of counting the stars, then you will be just as surprised as I was to learn it is actually a botched attempt to explore the death of an older person and the lasting impact such a loss may have on a small child. Huh? Yes, I could not resist saying it again.

I had to read the first page of this book a few times, each time convinced that either the first page was missing or at the very least stuck to the front cover. There is no real beginning to the story; it just jumps into what seems to be the middle of a conversation about numbers between a child and an elderly man. From there, the book proceeds to discuss their desire to hit a certain target with a slingshot, then to their gardening tasks, and on to a discussion about Native Americans. After these discussions, the older man becomes sick and tired and wants to be laid to rest in the ground, where he can “slowly turn into soil…” After he dies, the little girl tries to deal with the death of her friend, explaining how the garden and counting is not the same without him.

If the description sounds as if a bunch of themes are loosely strung together, then I did a great job reviewing this book. While some of the conversations between the older man and young child do revolve around counting, the link between those conversations and death and dying are tenuous at best. The message seems to be that memories, just like the counting of stars, can continue forever, but this connection is too far-fetched to form the basis of a children’s book.

There are certainly wonderful books on counting and many others that tackle the subject of death in a tender and appropriate manner. This book fails to handle either topic in manner that would justify its purchase. Let’s just hope that what comes after a thousand is not a sequel.

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  Lori West/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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