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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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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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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 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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on 16 October 2015
this is a really lovely book, I bought one for a friend who is just finished her counselling training and she loves it, plus I got myself one and it is ideal for those who are beareved and those who help their journey through loss.
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on 15 December 2015
i had to read it twice to get the bereavement theme
i won't share it with my children (i'm worrying my son with SPD will be uncomfortable with the story) but it's been immensely helpful for me
not that i've recently lost someone, not that i am bereaving, but because i relate to the heart-locking concept of the story, i tend to lock my heart so that i don't get hurt, and in the process, i tend to lose all the beauties of the world, the wonders of nature, the giggle of my children, i get obsessed with things that are not as important as the kindness i once had when i had my heart and my soul within me.
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on 24 March 2016
Beautifully illustrated and deceptively simple, this book is a little delight. However, I don't think it's necessarily for everyone and is probably - conceptually at least - better suited to slightly older children for whom it would be a perfect gateway into discussions around the subject of loss and solitude.
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on 3 January 2016
A wonderful book for a young child, we've read it so many times, it's lovely and heart-warming. A good way to introduce a concept of loss (death) in a very lovely, clever way that children can understand and apply in other life situations (like a loss of a toy or a pet). I will definitely keep this book for my children and grandchildren, it's a classic and is clever, funny and heart-warming just as you would expect from the author! <3
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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 5 April 2016
Bought this to read with my five year old son as a way into discussing our loss of my father in law. We love Jeffers' other books but I loved the way that death is in no way explicitly mentioned - there's simply an empty chair - but my son immediately made the link to his own situation and he initiated a conversation about the activities of the characters in the story and his own reading with his granddad as we read. It was important to me that we treated his grief on his own terms, and this book was a beautiful way in. We read it a few times and I think the mixture of lightness of touch, serious approach to children's grief and ultimate positivity really
helped my son at a tough time. It helped his parents too!
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on 8 June 2011
This simple story touches on incredibly complicated issues. The moral is simply about the dangers of letting grief harden your emotions. The little girl loves her grandpa who dies, and in response to her grief she locks her heart up in a bottle and as a consequence loses all the sense of wonder that previously filled her world. Only another little girl whose sense of wonder remains intact is able to get the heart out again. Important messages, but rather difficult to communicate with younger readers when reading this at bedtime! Expect some very difficult questions from the little ones ...........
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