Book Review: “Cry, Heart, but Never Break” by Glenn Ringtved

A beautifully illustrated children's book approaches death in a magical way

"Cry, Heart, but Never Break" cover

“Cry, Heart, But Never Break” is the first children’s book I’ve ever read that approaches the topic of death in a truly magical way. This one-of-a kind book from Danish author Glenn Ringtved brings together a charming storyline and emotionally engaging drawings to offer a unique and magical view of death. Illustrated by Charlotte Pardi, it take us on a journey to a place we have never been, mentally, physically and spiritually, and teaches us how to view death’s arrival in an entirely new way. 

“Cry, Heart, But Never Break” takes place in a charming Danish village where four children know death will soon come to take away their sweet grandmother, whom they all dearly love. The book begins in the 11th hour as their grandmother lays in bed one night waiting for death’s arrival. 

When death arrives at their grandmother’s door, he is clothed all in black. But upon entering the house, death places “his scythe outside the door” so as to not scare the children. It’s the first indication that death in this story is not the stuff of our Halloween nightmares.

Death then sits at the kitchen table, and the children immediately come up with a plan. They will stall him for a while by taking turns offering him strong coffee till dawn. Death calmly nods for each new cup, but finally will drink no more. 

Illustration from Cry, Heart, But Never Break

Credit: sometimesraw.com

Then in a strong but gentle voice death tells the children a story about how two brothers, grief and sorrow, meet two sisters, joy and delight. I will not reveal any more since this book is too special to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that it helps us see how the emotions of sorrow and grief coexist with and are necessary for us to feel joy and delight.

Children in garden by house with a magical view of death

Credit: kleliaglu.blogspot.com

“Cry, Heart but Never Break” also paints a very different picture of death than the one we are familiar with. While he does arrive dressed in an ominous black robe, we learn that “Death’s heart is as red as the most beautiful sunset and beats with a great love of life.” As the story continues, we realize that how we look at death is all about how we connect different aspects of life. Nothing about the story is predictable. Instead, it unexpectedly fills your heart with magic and joy.

“Cry, Heart, but Never Break” is a book that I guarantee will grab your heartstrings. Written in a deeply personal way, it’s the kind of book that a child will remember and cherish throughout their life, even as an adult.  

I would put this book at the very top of my list of books to give a child to help them understand death. Once the wrapping comes off the gift, simply sit back with them, read, and watch the magic flow.

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