The Copper Tree
When Olivia’s teacher, Miss Evans, dies, the children at her school are encouraged to think of everything that reminds them of her.
Written with touching sensitivity and sprinkled with light hearted moments, “The Copper Tree” is about love and legacy and will help children understand that while sadness is an inevitable part of grief, death is not necessarily the end… for what is left behind can be everlasting.
In The Copper Tree a group of students are introduced to grief when their beloved teacher passes away. They learn that even though she is dead, her memory lives on. Author Hilary Robinson takes a tender and lighthearted approach towards helping young children understand death and the subsequent feeling of loss.
The storyline is very simple. Miss Evans, a primary school teacher is taken ill, her health becomes progressively worse and she dies. Mr Banks asked the children all to write remember notes, and the caretaker, Stan, makes a tree out of copper wire and the remember notes are inscribed on copper leaves, hence The Copper Tree.
There are just enough words to tell the story and talk about people’s feelings in the face of illness and death in a way suited to children. Mandy Stanley has done the pictures - lots of them and just right for the story, filling the 32 pages of the book.
The aim is obviously to help young children come to terms with dying and grieving. The book will certainly be of help in such an event, but I hope that teachers and parents will use it with their children when there is no immediate cause for grief too. Death and dying can be treated as an uncomfortable taboo subject, and thankfully we face it much less among young people than a hundred years ago. But this book deals with the subject in a straightforward way, acknowledging people’s feelings while having lighter touches too. We recommend it.
It's about remembering the good bits of a person and putting them inside you.
Isobel Butters (age 8)
We think it is excellent for pre-schools and infant schools and the only book we know of that addresses the death of a teacher.
This is a book about a serious subject but with a bright and cheerful outlook.
There is humour in the story and lots of smiley faces even through the sadness. We learn that it is good to talk about our sadness, and that better times will come. We even meet the class ‘difficult child’ in the person of Alfie Tate, who erases his name sixteen times from the get well card because he can’t write properly and causes ructions in the class play because he wants to play the giant. Sensitively handled and beautifully produced, this gentle and reassuring text with expressive illustrations will provide help to children facing bereavement in a number of different situations.
A great book for young children facing bereavement.
The Copper Tree gives the clear and unsentimental message that it's quite natural to be sad when someone dies but it also endorses the powerful effects of memory as a means of healing.
A delightful and touching story of life and how we live it, as little people and bigger people, together and on our own. 'The Copper Tree' brings a tear and a smile to my face at the same time.
The Children's University
The perfect story for children who have lost a parent or much loved figure in their life, honest unsentimental and reassuring. It belongs in every school library.
Former Acting Head Teacher
Mount Pellon School, Halifax
The narrative positively and directly addresses the simple needs of young children exploring these feelings of grief and loss for possibly the first time.
I loved this book and whole heartedly commend its use especially for those situations when books about ‘Feelings and colours’ are simply not enough. This book is not a panacea but it delivers a very useful tool for grief with children, simply, safely and without trauma. It is also a really good read.
Revd Dr Paul Fitzpatrick
Lead Lecturer for Bereavement, Grief and Loss
Cardiff Metropolitan University
A book to help explain death to a child
It can be difficult to explain the death of a loved one to a child. A book can provide the ideal opportunity for addressing and exploring issues which are associated with death and an accessible picture book like The Copper Tree can help.
The Copper Tree was chosen by efuneral.com as one of the ‘Top Ten Books for Children Dealing with Death and Grief’.
All Things Bright And Beautiful
The Copper Tree story makes reference to the popular “All Things Bright And Beautiful” and during a few minutes of reflection, after they learn of their teacher’s death, the children are comforted by a piano arrangement of the tune. We are grateful to Rick Wakeman who has so kindly given us permission to include this beautiful arrangement on our website. It comes from his CD/DVD Amazing Grace and you can buy it from iTunes.
Aim of the book
It can be difficult to explain the death of a loved one to a child. A book can provide the ideal opportunity for addressing and exploring issues which are associated with bereavement and an accessible picture book like The Copper Tree is much needed.
According to leading childhood bereavement charity,, a child is bereaved of a parent every 22 minutes in this country – 24,000 children a year – and many more are affected by the loss of someone close, a sibling, grandparent, other relation, friend or significant person, like a teacher, in their life.
Background to the story
Hilary’s sister-in-law, Caroline, a talented teacher and to whom the book is dedicated, lost a long battle against breast cancer at only 39 years old. The children at her school were aware of her illness and The Copper Tree is based on the relationship she had with them whilst she lived with the disease.
The story explores how the children are encouraged to think of everything that reminds them of their teacher and what she imparted to help them understand that, while sadness is an inevitable part of grief, death is not necessarily the end – for what is left behind can be everlasting.
Hilary’s daughters remember receiving Easter cards from their Aunt with “shaky writing” that Caroline had made herself when her fine motor skills were declining.
Hilary says, “They remember her determination to celebrate every occasion – a trick and treat visit at Hallowe’en was fun for parents as well as children! As a result of those bonds it became apparent to me that her legacy would live on in considerable ways beyond her death.”
When a friend of Hilary’s also recently died and their family were critical of the lack of books for young children that featured real people or that simply detailed whimsical notions of heaven, Hilary decided to re-visit the story.
The Tree of Life at St Gemma’s in Leeds
The title The Copper Tree was inspired by a hospice near to where Hilary lives in Yorkshire, which has established a Tree of Life for bereaved family and friends to attach a copper leaf inscribed with the name of a loved one as a lasting legacy.