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Do Fish Sleep?

by Jens Raschke

Publishers Weekly This heartrending story by German writer Raschke is narrated by 10-year-old Jette, who describes the death of her terminally ill six-year-old brother Emil in unvarnished prose (“He lay there completely still. And pale, like yogurt”). Her parents are too devastated to offer much comfort. Earlier on, when Emil wasn’t as ill and they were on vacation, Jette asked her father whether fish could sleep. “Dad gave me a funny look and mumbled something. I saw that he didn’t know.” It’s an early hint that the parents she depends on are as lost as she is. Another time, Jette and Emil talk frankly about death, and she offers Emil a version of Heaven that he likes: “pizza heaven, where he can eat as much pizza as he wants all day.” Cartoonish drawings by Rassmus contribute to the straightforwardly painful mood, as when Jette is seen in the back of her car on the way to the funeral home with Emil’s seat empty beside her. Brutally honest about the suffering that follows the death of a young sibling, Raschke’s narrative is at once excruciating, honest, and compelling. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)

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