The cheerfulness of the story comes to an abrupt halt as Evan's dog dies in his sleep, and a stark picture of Evan crouched over the dog bed beautifully and heartbreakingly depicts the sadness and grief he's feeling.
The tone of the story shifts to one of melancholy and anger as Evan shuts himself away from the world, and hacks his garden to the ground as he attempts to deal with the emptiness in his life without his friend. "But a good place won't stay empty for long," so things begin to grow again in Evan's garden. As plants return, Evan allows them to stay if they suit his spiky, prickly, and foul moods. And soon, a pumpkin vine snakes its way among the weeds, and Evan begins to tend to it. As the pumpkin grows, Evan begins to find a bit of happiness and excitement again, and he decides to venture to the fair with his pumpkin in tow.
While at the fair, Evan is still sad and mourning the loss of his dog, but he enjoys the food and the company of others, and readers will be happy to see Evan out and about again. When the pumpkin wins a prize at the fair, Evan is offered $10 or a puppy, and he initially wants the money, but one peek at the dogs is enough, and the final picture shows Evan and his new friend driving away from the fair together.
THE ROUGH PATCH is a wonderful picture book for young readers or preschool-age kids who are dealing with grief. The illustrations are engaging and brilliantly set the appropriate mood for each page, and anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one will identify with Evan's despair. The tendril of hope that come after a loss is also well established, and Evan's story will linger and help heal those who need it. It's definitely a must-have for a children's library collection.
My thanks to YA Books Central and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
A depiction of friendship, grief, and hope that will resonate