Title: The Dandelion’s Tale
Author: Kevin Sheehan
Illustrator: Rob Dunlavey
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books
Word Count: 974
Wow! That’s all I can say about this breathtakingly beautiful book. I’ve read lots of children’s books in the last year, and this one really stood out to me for its timelessness. The Dandelion’s Tale gets at the heart of what it means to be human by exploring the universal themes of aging, death, remembrance, and the desire to leave a legacy in a way that is both creative and relatable to adults and children alike. I mean, who hasn’t plucked a dandelion from the ground and then blown with all their might to experience the thrill of watching its delicate seed pods float across the air?
At the core of every human being is the desire to feel that their life mattered, that even the most mundane moments of our daily lives aren’t for nothing but are meaningful and serve a greater purpose. Dandelion, in this tale, is no different. The book begins with Dandelion telling Sparrow, “A short while ago, I was so strong, and the brightest yellow you’ve ever seen. Now I’m white and fuzzy and I’ve lost my seedpods. If the wind starts to blow, I’ll lose them all and no one will know I was ever here.”
There it is — Dandelion is a shadow of her former self and doesn’t want to die without leaving her mark on the world in some way. Later she states, “Still, if I could have only one wish, I would wish to be remembered.”
Sparrow comes up with the idea of writing Dandelion’s story in the dirt, like a book, so that it will always be remembered. Dandelion loves the idea and tells Sparrow what she wants him to write. This little section of Dandelion sharing her memories is so poignant it almost brought tears to my eyes. It’s not the big things that Dandelion wants remembered, but the simple everyday moments. She tells Sparrow, “Write that I like the smell of the meadow the day after it rains. Oh, and that I love to look at clouds against a blue afternoon sky. . . and the fun I’ve had talking with squirrels as they look for food in the morning.”
After getting down all of Dandelion’s memories, Sparrow promises to return the next day so that they can read the story again. However, that night there’s a terrible storm. When Sparrow returns the next morning, he finds that the storm was too strong for his “fragile little” friend. And while the storm has washed away the words to Dandelion’s written story, Sparrow remembers and shares it in song — a song so beautiful that soon even the other birds of the meadow are joining in.
A few weeks later, while flying over the meadow, Sparrow notices a cluster of ten baby dandelions right where his friend used to be. He remembers that Dandelion had ten seedpods left, and he knows that these bright yellow flowers are Dandelion’s children. He pays them a visit and says, “Would you like to hear a special story?. . . I’m going to tell you about a great friend of mine.” And so Dandelion’s life and story are carried on in the next generation, and Sparrow knows she will never be forgotten.
The Dandelion’s Tale both inspires and challenges me with its profound theme. Firstly, it reminds me that in the grand scheme of things, it’s the little things that matter. The hundreds of thousands of mundane days that don’t seemingly amount to anything are where the stuff of life is found — if we are wise enough to see it. I need that message — especially now when most days I’m home all day caring for my ten month old son. That amounts to lots of “ordinary” days; but in the end, I know it’s those ordinary days that I’ll look back on and be most grateful for.
Secondly, as I wake up each day with aspirations for writing and publishing children’s books and telling stories, and wondering if my dreams will ever bear fruit to the extent that I imagine, I am reminded that while my dreams are worthy of great effort, the most lasting legacy I can leave will be on those who are the closest to me. If I live and love well in the little things, my legacy will carry on to the next generation. My son will remember me and share my legacy with his children not because of any book I published or other great accomplishment I had, but for the thousands of ordinary days we shared together. I think that’s a message of hope that all of us need — especially when our lives feel extra ordinary, instead of extraordinary.
What children’s book has most inspired you to reflect on the legacy you are leaving?