The grief of losing a child never subsides.
Vanessa Vassar took the grief and decided to make a difference.
Enter the children’s book, “Evan and the Skygoats.”
The story centers on how young Evan grieves over a loss – the death of his elder sister, Sky. Evan hugs the trees because “that made everything feel better.” His mom said Evan doesn’t have to see her to feel her presence. She tells him that she and Evan’s dad won’t float away; only their thoughts did when they were grieving.
The family accepts an offer of three baby goats. Feeding and playing with them assuages the family’s grieving. And it helps dad and son bond; they sit in a treehouse gazing at the constellations, one of them Capricornus, a goat with a fish tail. Evan flies up with the now-winged goats. Aiding Evan’s flying are his father’s cowboy boots, now transformed into goat boy boots. Soon the boots transform into goat hoofs. They meet magical creatures (constellations) such as Cygnus the Swan and Taurus the Bull.
Yes, the story was inspired by Vassar’s young daughter, Sky, who died in 2010.
“It’s been a work of healing,” Vassar says. “The story is told through my son’s point of view.”
Earlier this year, “Evan and the Skygoats” received three Purple Dragonfly Book Awards.
Less than a month ago, the children’s book picked up the 2021 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Family & Parenting. The book is published by Leaf Storm Press in Santa Fe.
At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, Vassar and book illustrator Ophelia Cornet will take part in the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum’s “Stories in the Sky” program.
The theme for the week is “Seasons of Change.”
“Our book has been a beautiful way to speak with kids of all ages about grief and healing – particularly this year when COVID has affected our children so profoundly – and holidays can be the most difficult time of the year for anyone grieving, young and old,” Vassar says. “The book takes place over various seasons and it follows Evan as he worries about his mom.”
Cornet will have a table where children can draw, meanwhile Vassar will read the book and then have time to have an open dialogue with visitors.
“My son, Evan, will be playing a few songs on cello,” she says.
Vassar is grateful that Anita Fernandez and Maryse Lapierre at the museum are giving her an opportunity for the book reading.
She says no one expects children to die, but it happens and talking about it needs to happen.
“When people ask me the age of the intended audience for ‘Evan and the Skygoats,’ I tell them that it is for children ages 3 to 103,” Vassar says. “Because living in beauty and finding hope, even as we grieve, is a universal experience that can be wished for after any loss. And a thoughtful children’s book should speak to all of us – children as well as their families, friends and teachers who read to or with them.”