Whisper Whisper Jesse, Whisper Whisper Josh: A Story About AIDS (1992), written by Eileen Pollack and illustrated by Bruce Gilfoy, is an early picture books that explores a young boy’s experience processing grief after losing his uncle to AIDS.
The text-heavy story pairs wordy prose with detailed sketches of a boy as he describes the secrets and whispers that fill his home. Unlike most stories that explore similar themes and foreground the close relationship between uncle and nephew or niece, Jesse is estranged from his Uncle Josh and only meets him after he becomes ill. Jesse’s mother explains that his father and uncle had a fight, but the reader, like the child, never learns why. Jesse’s sick uncle moves in with the family, which makes his mother happy, because she missed her brother, Josh. Continue reading
Too Far Away to Touch (1995), thoughtfully written by Lesléa Newman and movingly illustrated by Catherine Stock, follows a young girl as she processes her beloved uncle’s AIDS-related illness.
The child, Zoe, loves her uncle, Leonard, who takes her on adventures in New York City when he visits her. On one visit Zoe plans to tease him by pretending she’s found his lost marbles in his thick head of hair. Things don’t go quite as planned because he’s wearing a beret when he arrives, so Zoe saves the trick for later. Continue reading
Losing Uncle Tim, written by MaryKate Jordan and illustrated by Judith Friedman, was published by Albert Whitman & Company in 1989. It is narrated in the first person by a boy, Daniel, who is processing the illness and eventual death of his uncle due to an AIDS-related illness.
The story is breathtakingly painful. It beautifully captures the relationship between Daniel and his uncle, Tim, as well as Daniel’s deep emotions. Friedman’s illustrations, which face Jordan’s text, look like snapshots from a photo album. This technique provides a sense of intimacy and urgency as the story progresses. Continue reading
Tiger Flowers (1994)*, written by Patricia Quinlan and illustrated by Janet Wilson, is an emotionally engaging story told from the point of view of a boy who loses his uncle and his uncle’s partner from illnesses related to HIV/AIDS. The warm and accessible picture book directly engages HIV/AIDS but has a more subtle approach to addressing homosexuality.
Readers are introduced to the young boy, Joel, as his sister wakes him up to ask about their uncle Michael. Joel reminds her that Michael has died. Continue reading
A Name on the Quilt (1999), published by Antheneum Books, was written by Jeannine Atkins and illustrated by Tad Hills. Simple, but warm illustrations face evocative text that describes the family and friends of Ron, a man who passed away from AIDS complications, sewing a quilt to memorialize him. Continue reading