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4.7 out of 5 stars67
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 31 May 2011
My nearly 3 year old son chose another Oliver Jeffers book (How to catch a Star)in the library about a year ago, loved it and began asking for more Oliver Jeffers.
The Heart and the bottle didn't disapoint. It keeps to the winning formula of initial simple story, easily learned by rote so a small child can 'read' back to themselves, and quirky, clear illustrations that both support the initial story and tell a deeper tale on their own.
Now I'm a bit dim & didn't pick up the bereavement theme until read through number 3, but without saying anything I passed on a copy of the book to a friend whose recently lost her mother, and her 2 year old picked it up straight away (won't say how that'd be a spoiler). By no means is this a morbid book, however if you have lost family members whether through death, divorce, whatever, and your small child is starting to ask those big questions, this book may be a comfort and aid to discussion.
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Winner of the Key Stage 2 Fiction Category in the English Association's 2011 English 4-11 Best Children's Illustrated Books Awards

It is often the simplest words and pictures that convey the most potent messages and in this beautifully conceived book, Oliver Jeffers has achieved just such a rare marriage. Text and illustration combine - apparently effortlessly - to tug at our heartstrings in such a way that we know this is a book we will not easily forget.

Jeffers focuses on the big issues - life, love, learning, death and understanding, and he does this successfully, in under 300 well-chosen words. Language of such simplicity also serves to underline the power of the visual. One of the most telling spreads has no words at all, but an expanse of white space speaks volumes.

The book tells the story of `a girl, much like any other', her curiosity about the world and how she shares this with her grandfather, `until the day she found an empty chair'. Not knowing how to deal with this, she puts her heart into a bottle to keep it safe. However, locking up one's heart locks up one's feelings, and as she loses her curiosity so her life loses its joy and richness. But some time later, she meets a girl much like she once was, someone `smaller and still curious about the world', someone who helps her to release her trapped heart so that she is able to fill that once empty chair and enjoy life again.

The book has many messages to consider and offers us lessons to learn. At a time when our own curiosity is often satisfied at the click of a button, and the answers delivered on to a screen, Jeffers shows us how real learning is best done through first-hand experience or by conversation with someone whose experiences go beyond our own. The book shows us the value of relationships based on shared trust and love. It reassures us to realise that we all have times of sadness and despair, when we don't know what to do, but that even if it takes time, these feelings can be overcome. This is especially true in terms of love and loss, but Jeffers conveys hope and optimism with a lightness of touch that is masterful.

A word must be said about the design. The sunny yellow jacket suggests the ultimate happy ending, but this cleverly conceals a myriad of images on the cover itself, some of which are repeated in the following pages, inviting our own curiosity about the world in which we live. The first twelve pages are full double-page spreads, spilling over the page edges, echoing the breadth of the girl's world. This halts suddenly when her grandfather dies, the pages become single spreads, with more written text, the illustrations are fragmented vignettes reflecting the girl's fragmented world. The double-page spread returns only when the girl meets the young companion who reawakens her curiosity. The endpapers also play their part, with the opening line-drawn images giving us the back story of the girl and her grandfather, whilst the final pages show a biological diagram of the heart, reminding us that it is after all just a muscle with a practical function.

Oliver Jeffers has given us a small masterpiece in this brilliantly conceived book that underlines the pleasure and profundity that the best picturebooks can provide, for children of all ages.
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on 14 March 2010
'The Heart And The Bottle' is a simple tale told from the perspective of a little girl, capturing beautifully the charming sense of wonder and amazement of this world from a child's viewpoint, and their excitement and curiosity of the vastness that surrounds and awaits them.

The book follows the adventures of the little girl and her grandfather as they share their days and years whiling away their hopes, dreams, and their wonders of this world, seemingly inseparable in their love for the wonder of this world and one another.

The little girls sense of wonder soon turns to one of sadness with the passing of her loving grandfather. Here in the books central theme, Jeffers brilliantly captures the little girls sense of loss and mourning of her grandfather as she attempts to protect her heart from ever being hurt again by placing it in the only safe place she knows - in a bottle. Now all alone, her sense of wonder and love with the world has gone. With such sadness, we see the little girl grow into a young lady, while all of the time her heart and emotions are safely protected inside the coldness and emptiness of the bottle, allowing nothing to hurt her ever again.

It is only when she is touched by the curiosities of another young child that she remembers the time when she felt that same sense of wonder, and she comes to realise that although keeping her heart safe, the bottle has become a burden, making the world appear a cold and empty place. The young child she meets helps her to remove her heart from the bottle - and we see the girl and her heart back where they belong, in a warm and loving place.

Jeffers illustrates brilliantly with an extraordinary deftness of touch, tackling the traditionally adult theme of love and loss and all of the sadness and emotions with which that entails with a wonderfully lightness of touch that few other artists or illustrators seem able to do.

His storytelling and illustrations in this charming book offer to children a rare opening to learn and explore the important and complex emotions involved with the loss of a loved one, with which we all inevitably encounter throughout our lives - for with the wonder and amazement of life, also comes cruelty, sadness, and ultimately death. A rare subject, brilliantly tackled, that no child should be without! I cannot wait to see the motion picture of this book.
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on 3 November 2010
Each new book from Oliver Jeffers brings fresh delight to me and my grandchildren. Delight's possibly not quite the word in the case of The Heart and The Bottle because the theme is sombre and thought-provoking for both me and the children...but it still creates a frisson. In it, Jeffers has the courage and the poetic skill to tackle the 'impossible' theme of mortality with an honesty and lightness of touch that's remarkable.

His drawings, here as ever are subtle and allusive, as are his words. He makes his readers work - look, think, interpret, infer, and in the case of books that are best read together that's the starting point of the shared exploration.

Some people think children should be shielded from unhappy thoughts of loss and separation and I'd agree that we don't need to be morbid or mawkish. But here's a book that winds gently through the puzzlement and emotions of bereavement and leaves us a great feeling of both legacy and hope. Children can cope with it? Of course. Can the adults?
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on 12 April 2011
I'm a fan of Oliver Jeffers so my review is biased. His illustrations always make me smile and I find they connect easily with kids. They love the colours and the naive childish quality of the drawings.

I came across this book in Tate Britain, they have a great kids section, as I read it I became emotional and had to walk away back into the gallery.

It's a book about loss. But as with all the best books it deals with it sensitively and leaves you understanding that this is part of our lives and life goes on.

I have bought it for others and they in turn likewise. My kids loved it and they are both in their early twenties. This book traverses ages and connects them.

Oliver Jeffers is a true gem, buy the book, check out his website.The Heart and the Bottle
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on 18 December 2014
I thought this book was completely beautiful and something very magical from the moment I opened it. My son, who was 7 when he received a copy of it...not so much. It ended up gathering dust under his bed, ignored for the longest time.
But then, my mother died. And this book has become more than just a book, it's become a catalyst if you like, a way for him to cope with what is his first bereavement, a way for him to remember her and a reason for him to talk and tell stories and not lock them away like the girl in the story.
And all I can say about that to him is "I told you so."
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on 13 January 2013
Handles death in an elegant manner without using the word death. Good for younger children, and older. My son lost his Great Grandfather at age 2 and he had a red chair, which became empty. This book has helped me to intorduce death to my son and talk about missing our precious relative. Another classic from Jeffrs.
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on 15 July 2015
Saw this in a bookshop without knowing the story - when I read it I was moved to tearsand had to buy it. Not for a child (at the moment anyway - fortunately I don't know a child who has been bereaved) but for some of my adult friends who, like me, are trying to come to terms with loss and who might have hidden their heart away to protect them from their feelings. Superbly written and illustrated.
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on 18 December 2012
I bought this book after spotting it in a shop in a section named 'Children's books that adults love'. I am 29 years old, I read a lot, and I can honestly say this is one of my favourite books of all time.
I really is beautiful, it also made me cry.. but in a good way. The empty chair gets me every time.

I would recommend this to anyone, with or without children.
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on 16 April 2014
If you have any doubts about purchasing this book, forget them, get it.

I am a fan of Oliver Jeffers anyway, but I think this book is extra special. Definitely a tale for grown ups as well as the young ones. It is a story of a little curious girl who loses her grandfather and how she deals with her grief (by putting her heart in a bottle to keep it 'safe'). About 3 pages in I was actually teary eyed! Like another reviewer here has said, it is the empty chair that got me.

Anyway, this book is obviously great to read to your kids (or yourself) if dealing with a loss, but my daughter has suffered a bit of bullying and nastiness this year at school, and I used this book as a talking point about how life events can change our behaviour/ feelings. It is also told in the usual beautiful Jeffers simplicity that it is just generally a lovely tale regardless of circumstance. Get it.
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