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The Heart and The Bottle

Posted on Mar 22, 2010

Oliver Jeffers
(Harper Collins Children’s Books)

A little girl, who is thirsty for knowledge and in awe of how the world works, shares a very special relationship with her grandfather. When he dies, she is confronted with his empty chair and a sense of loss that she cannot start to comprehend. Finding herself unable to cope with her sadness, she decides to put her heart in a bottle to protect it from further harm and suffering. The little girl grows up but while her heart remains in the bottle, she finds herself unable to notice the beauty around her which used to leave her awed. That is until one day, she meets a little girl on the beach who reminds her of her old self. Only then can she start to heal her wounds.

How can such simple text and art work convey such a level of emotion? Jeffers has a unique style, which is very uncluttered and unrounded, but yet his books are always highly charged in feelings. This story of loss and love is simple and real, yet, like all of Jeffers’ books, there is an element of the extraordinary (remember the little boy in The Way Home who finds an aeroplane in his cupboard?); this time, the little girl physically removes her heart and carries it around in a bottle. This is such a clever way of portraying an emotion that young children might not able to grasp otherwise. Despite this, the story feels so very real and one cannot help but feel swept away by the emotions.
It’s a wonderful, wonderful book.

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