The 2023 Barefoot Librarian Book Award Book Review

The 2023 Barefoot Librarian Book Award Book Review 819 1024 Reader Views Kids

Harmony Dances on: A Book About Grief

Mandy Woolf (author)
Elmira Georgieva (Illustrator)
The Book Reality Experience (2023)
ISBN:  978-1922670960
Reviewed by The Barefoot Librarian for Reader Views (03/2024)

Books about grief are difficult to write, but the challenge is even greater when the book is meant for children. But Mandy Woolf does an outstanding job in her book Harmony Dances On: A Book About Grief. It is clear that the author has experienced grief herself and is able to anticipate questions, situations, and feelings a child may have after losing a parent. Through the adults in the story, the author offers comforting answers to questions and realistic ways to help the young child in the book, who has lost her mother, cope with the emotions experienced on her journey through grief.

In Harmony Dances On: A Book About Grief, Harmony’s father answers her questions about her mother’s death and soothes her worries that he will die, too. He explains that she still has adults in her life, such as her grandmother, teachers, and him. He helps Harmony redirect her focus to more positive thoughts, such as her dream to become a dancer and her hopes to travel to Italy. Harmony also gets comfort from her mother’s scarf and dreams of her mother, and her father assures Harmony that her mother’s love will always remain a part of her.

As this book realistically illustrates, grief is not a linear journey. For example, when Harmony is finally convinced to return to her dance class, she feels joyful as she twirls and whirls. But soon a wave of sadness washes over her again. However, her ballet teacher assures her, “It is okay to find joy even when you feel sad.” Along with feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, worry, and fear, Harmony also experiences physical discomforts, such as an upset tummy, a headache, and fatigue. But, bit by bit, sadness recedes, and the “…broken heart begins to heal.” 

The author brings a team of experts to her books, including Susan Smith, Solution Focused Hypnotherapist. This ensures that the book and related activities (located at the end) are age-appropriate, accessible, and beneficial for young children. Children are invited to share their emotions, write down worries, and make a list of positive actions, thoughts, and interactions.  Also included is a list of questions to help spur discussions. 

This book does an outstanding job of giving caretakers and grieving children reassurance, encouragement, and coping mechanisms to help them with their losses and make them feel that they are not alone.  The realistic artwork featuring a diverse character makes the story more relatable to children. Harmony Dances On: A Book About Grief is a very useful tool for dealing with children grieving the loss of a parent.

Harmony Dances On by Mandy Woolf was published in association with Halo Children’s Foundation, an organization in the UK that supports “…children and their families with bereavement.”

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