Help Children Cope with Grief in French Toast Sundays

The death of a loved one can be hard to grasp for anyone, particularly young children. French Toast Sundays, a new Apples & Honey Press book by Gloria Spielman, can be used to jumpstart a conversation with children during such a confusing time.

In a Jewish home, death often corresponds with shiva, a seven-day period during which family and friends visit the mourners, bringing comfort, prayer, and food.  Young children may feel lost in the hustle and bustle of relatives and strangers coming and going. They will be able to relate to Mina’s experiences in this gently moving story. During the week after her grandma dies, she moves from being upset and resentful to feeling some satisfaction and pride in her new status as keeper of grandma’s secret French toast recipe.   

According to the Jewish Book Council, "This simple story speaks to children and adults alike. The illustrations are realistic, yet soft and easy to look at. The level of the text makes the book an excellent read-aloud for children ages 4 to 8. The story is particularly appropriate for children who have experienced the loss of a loved one, as it can be a source of gentle comfort."

Kirkus Reviews says, "For many families, the death of a grandparent is observed with both religious and secular customs, and all should find a note of reassurance and comfort here. Food is an intergenerational bond, and this sensitive portrayal gets it just right."

Here are some suggestions for using the book. Read straight through the story with children, while looking at and discussing the illustrations. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their feelings, being sure to listen and offer your full attention. Prompt children to process the experience by asking questions about the story and about their own family experiences.

Discussion Questions 

  1. 1. Does your family have any special traditions or foods that you do or make every week\month\year?
  2. 2. Why do you think Mina’s grandma didn't want to climb the tree? 
  3. 3. Why is everyone sad in this story? What happened to make this Sunday different?
  4. 4. Why does Mina run away to her favorite branch?
  5. 5. Why do you think some people are laughing, during shiva on Monday? Why doesn't Mina laugh?
  6. 6. Mom and Uncle Al are sad that they don’t know their mom's secret French toast recipe. How do you think Mina feels when she makes French toast for them?
  7. 7. Spending time with family and friends, talking about Grandma, gradually helps Mina and her family feel a little better. What helps you feel better when you’re feeling sad?
  8. 8. Mina has a special memory of sharing Sundays with her grandma. What special memories do you have of someone you have lost? How does it make you feel when you think of that memory?

 French Toast Sundays will be released February 1. Pre-order your copy on Amazon.


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