A good friend headed off to a new life last week. I am thrilled with the happy events that led her to these new adventures, but miss her terribly. I hadn’t expected it to be so hard considering I’m, well, let’s just say of an age when I have experienced my share of changes. It’s renewed my sympathy for any younger person facing a move, either his own or a friend’s. Luckily there are some wonderful children’s books that can serve as a discussion starter or maybe just as a way to validate their feelings. I know I appreciated living vicariously through the petulance of the characters in the first two books!
The title says it all in “Alexander, Who’s Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move” by Judith Viorst. Alexander is age appropriately melodramatic about his impending move. According to him, he’ll never again have a best friend like Paul or a great sitter like Rachel. The new cleaners won’t save anything they find in his pockets even if it’s gum wrappers or an old tooth. Anything is preferable to moving, even living in the weeds next to his friend’s house and getting poison ivy. His understanding parents reassure him that he will find boys his age and a new sitter. His brother tells Alexander that he can sleep in his room if he gets lonesome. Slightly persuaded, Alexander decides that although he still doesn’t like it, he’ll pack He does have one caveat: this is the last time (Do you hear me? I mean it) he’s going to move!
Nancy Carlson’s “My Best Friend Moved Away” is told from the perspective of the one left behind. The protagonist and her best friend started kindergarten together and now she has to go to school all by herself. They had so much fun, hanging out in their fort and exploring new galaxies, but now she “will be bored for the rest” of her life. They shared everything, even the chicken pox, but now who will she share things with? Soon a new family with a girl her age move next door and she realizes that while she’ll miss her best friend, they’ll both make new ones.
“Neville” by Norton Juster is the new kid who comes up with an ingenious way to meet people. His mother encouraged him to “take a little walk down the block.” Arriving at the end, he stood there for a moment and then “put his head back, took a deep breath and called out, NEVILLE.” At first, nothing happened, but before long a boy appeared and suggested they shout together for maximum volume. Soon “children came trotting up from every direction” all shouting Neville. They began asking questions about this mysterious missing boy and Neville answered, not once giving away his identity. When it was time to go home, everyone went their separate ways promising to try again the next day. Neville returned to his new home, decided “not so bad” and went to sleep looking forward to tomorrow.
There are also some non-fiction books that might help. “Good Answers to Tough Questions About Moving” by Joy Berry starts out discussing change as a whole and then narrows its focus, providing practical coping mechanisms like learning all you can about the move and deciding what you can do to make the experience positive. “Moving to a New House” by Nicola Barber focuses less on feelings and more on the equally important process. Perfect for preschoolers and young children, it begins with the “For Sale” sign and ends with the first night in the new place and exploring the new neighborhood.
Originally published in the July 9, 2012 Free Lance-Star.