Emma's Question

( 1 )

Overview

A question scritches and scratches at the back of Emma's throat.

Emma is a curious kid. She loves to ask questions—and she loves the silly answers that her grandmother always gives. But now Emma has a very important question, one that she is bursting to ask, one that scritches and scratches at the back of her throat. Her grandmother is sick and has to stay in the hospital. Emma wonders if Grandma will still be able to read to her kindergarten; if she will still make up funny ...

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Overview

A question scritches and scratches at the back of Emma's throat.

Emma is a curious kid. She loves to ask questions—and she loves the silly answers that her grandmother always gives. But now Emma has a very important question, one that she is bursting to ask, one that scritches and scratches at the back of her throat. Her grandmother is sick and has to stay in the hospital. Emma wonders if Grandma will still be able to read to her kindergarten; if she will still make up funny stories over bagels on Wednesdays; if she will still be able to watch her after school. But mostly Emma wonders if Grandma is going to die.

EMMA'S QUESTION helps families to answer the question that all kids face at one time or another. Geared toward young children, the story uses gentle humor and simple explanations to describe what is happening to Grandma in the hospital. Funny, sweet illustrations show the depth and closeness of Emma and Grandma’s relationship.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

What happens when a grandparent falls ill? In her debut, Urdahl does a clear if slightly flat-footed job of setting out five-year-old Emma's ambivalence when Grandma lands in the hospital. She's peeved that Grandma can't keep her promise to read to her kindergarten class; she's lonely without her special companion; and she's just plain frightened. She wants to ask something, but, in a leitmotif, finds that she can't: "The question clawed at Emma's throat. She clamped her lips together." When readers finally meet Grandma, they see why Emma loves her so much. "That's just my dancing partner," she jokes when Emma shies away from the IV stand. More importantly, she responds candidly when Emma blurts her burning question: "Are you going to die?" "Sometime," Grandma replies. "But not now." Dawson (the Lily Quench series) keeps the images upbeat with pastel shades and lots of smiles. Still, it's a scary subject, and Urdahl does not entirely defang it: Grandma is still in the hospital at the end. Ages 5-8. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
Developmentally, young children's response to the serious illness or death of a loved one might seem self-centered. In this story, Emma's first response to the news that her beloved grandmother has been suddenly hospitalized is disappointment that she won't be able to be the guest reader in her kindergarten classroom or provide the loving childcare she usually does. Emma has all kinds of questions about when things will get back to normal. Urdahl sensitively makes it clear that there is also a much more urgent question that Emma is afraid to ask—is Grandma going to die? But once Emma gets to visit the hospital and actually can see Grandma, she is reassured. Grandma is weak but she is very much alive and can playfully express her love for Emma in the way she always has. Dawson's illustrations are upbeat but help demystify things like the IV equipment. The book could be a good way to help young children explore the confusions and fears that they feel in situations like this. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 1

Emma's grandmother has become gravely ill and is hospitalized the night before she is scheduled to read to her granddaughter's kindergarten class. Emma is doubly disappointed because she and Grandma have bagels together in a restaurant every Wednesday and will have to miss a date. But, most of all, the girl is scared. She has a question that she's too afraid to ask. Her mother inquires if Emma wants to talk about her grandmother, but the five-year-old can't formulate the words. When she visits her in the hospital, Emma finally blurts out, "Are you going to die?" Though her mother is shocked by the question, Grandma's answer is frank and honest: "Not today. I have a Chutes and Ladders game to play." And, when her granddaughter presses the issue a bit, the woman concedes that it will happen "sometime, but not now." Large, bright pen-and-ink and watercolor cartoon illustrations help alleviate the sadness of the situation. This open-ended story offers a child-centric vehicle for discussion and is just right for one-on-one sharing.-Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI

Kirkus Reviews
The buildup to the revelation of Emma's titular question takes some time, while Urdahl introduces Emma, her parents and her beloved, hospitalized Grandma. "Are you going to die?" Emma finally asks when permitted to visit, and Grandma, who has already soothed Emma's fears about her I.V. by calling it her "dancing partner," emerges as a hero by using humor and gentle honesty to respond: "Not today. I have a Chutes and Ladders game to play." While Emma and her parents' emotional turmoil leading up to the hospital visit resonates, it's troubling that her parents haven't taken the time to sit down with her to talk. By placing the responsibility of answering and comforting Emma on the gravely ill Grandma rather than on her parents, the book introduces a contextual dissonance, given that its likely users are parents seeking to provide their own children with a literary mirror to their own experiences. Dawson's cartoon-style watercolor illustrations occasionally provide successful comic relief, but often emerge as one half of a contradictory pairing with the seriousness of the text's content. (Picture book. 5-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580891462
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2009
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 2 - 5 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Urdahl is the author of EMMA'S QUESTION and POLKA-DOT FIXES KINDERGARTEN. She lives in Minnesota.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    "Emma's Question" offers parents a perfect segue for discussing personal family issues of illness or death.

    "Emma's Question" demonstrates the special bond between grandparent and grandchild while gently opening up the question of illness and death. In this story, Grandma's illness is a bit of a mystery. It is unclear just how ill Grandma is or if she will ever leave the hospital. This might be an issue for some children or adult readers. On the other hand, the ambiguity makes it possible to mold the story to the reader's specific needs. In the long run, with Grandma's smile and dancing eyes, along with her willingness to answer Emma's questions, Emma seems to feel reassured. The story offers children the message that it is okay to ask questions. It offers parents a perfect segue for discussing personal family issues of illness or death. The combination of Catherine Urdahl's text and Janine Dawson's illustrations clearly conveys Emma's fears and concerns about her grandmother. They also beautifully demonstrate the fun and loving relationship between Grandma and Emma. Being a grandmother myself, I appreciate that Janine Dawson created an updated grandmother instead of an old-fashioned, stereotypical picture book grandma with a bun and glasses.

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