Bedford illustrator creates book to help families talk about grief

Where’s Uncle Al Sarah Harrison Eva Hibbs
Author Eva Hibbs and illustrator Sarah Harrison

A Bedford-based illustrator has collaborated on a new book to help children and families talk about death and how they are affected by grief.

Where is Uncle Al? is a children’s book, written by Eva Hibbs and illustrated by Sarah Harrison, aiming to open conversations about death.

The book was inspired by Eva’s own experience of the loss of her father and her journey to understanding.

In the book, six-year-old Lily’s uncle dies before she is born, but she wants to get to know him. So she asks each of her family members in turn, “Where is Uncle Al?”

“Eva and I have known each other for a while, but it was a particular meeting in a Hoxton conservatory in 2018 where we exchanged ideas about life and creativity – and first discussed working together on this children’s book,” said Sarah, who lives and works in Bedford.

“We both have a background in creative industries and in healthcare & working with young people – a combination which comes together in this book. We are very interested in the ‘empathy picture book movement’, which we see our title being a part of.”

Although the book was already well-underway as the coronavirus pandemic hit, the lockdown gave the duo time to complete the project.

“We had begun working on it already, having taken a draft version of the project to the 2019 Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, to gain industry feedback from publishers.

“When the whole world slowed down during lockdown, it gave us the gift of time to finish the project and propel it out into the world, as an independently published book.

“The timing was unplanned, but also unfortunately serendipitous with the subject matter at a time where more families have experienced loss due to the pandemic. We felt it important to get it out there and available to read now.”

A portion of the proceeds from Where is Uncle Al? will be donated to Action for Children who provide practical and emotional support to vulnerable young people.

The picture book has also been shared with networks at bereavement charities Winton’s Wish and Cruse, who aim to use the book as a resource in their children’s services.

Praise has come from blogger, The Grief Girl Online. She wrote, “This book sparks hope within me: it shows that these questions should not be avoided.”

“This is a gorgeous, colourful book about a real subject that is often hard to explain to children… what happens after death,” said Lucie Jakeman, a nurse at Bedford Hospital.

“This subject is explored in a child-friendly and creative way that’s both reassuring and sure to spark the imagination.”

You can buy your copy – with free delivery – here.

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