The main character in Before I Leave is a young hedgehog, Zelda, who must leave her best friend Aaron, because her family is moving away to another town. Her parents, and her friend Aaron, assure Zelda that everything will be okay, but she feels scared and doesn’t know if she will be alright. The author/illustrator, Jessixa Bagley, uses very few words. Yet she creates a distinct mood of loss and then lifts that mood with the potential of a new beginning.
In the first pages of the book, we see the two friends, Zelda and Aaron playing. There are scenes showing them playing together in all four seasons, but the most poignant are the scenes of their last day together. Jessixa Bagley's illustrations set a wonderful tone for this book, which, it turns out, is about creating a life-long friendship.
Many families move at some point and this is a great story to share with your kids about that experience. My daughter attends second grade at a different school than where she went to first grade. This was a big transition for her, one we have discussed many times. She still writes to some of her first-grade friends and she's had a few play dates and phone calls with them. Luckily, this is possible because we still live in the same town. Zelda wasn't so lucky. However, illustrations at the end of the book show the possibility of her continuing friendship with Aaron through letter writing.
Leaving someone you love can be difficult. But this story shows the bright side of transition, such as knowing you can take certain things with you — good memories, uplifting letters, and heart-warming feelings — and ends with the beginning of an understanding that life can also be good in a new place.
Before I Leave is intended for children ages 5-8.
Jessixa Bagley is an author and illustrator originally from Portland, Oregon. She spent many days in her childhood combing the Oregon Coast for the perfect sand dollar. Now, she lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and son in a castle in the sky.
Olivia Sears is the mother of two daughters and a board operator and deejay at Montana Public Radio. Her interests and hobbies include reading, writing, cooking, beading, and playing and learning with her children. Some of her family's favorite reading adventures have to do with Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, Junie B. Jones, Beatrix Potter, Ramona and Beezus, and anything from David Shannon. Olivia learned a love of reading from her mother and keeps these words from Edmund Wilson in mind when writing her reviews: "No two persons ever read the same book."