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Local children’s writer-illustrator addresses childhood grief at Village Books

Bellingham writer-illustrator Phoebe Wahl will read her new picture book “Sonya’s Chicken’s” on Aug. 11 at Village Books.
Bellingham writer-illustrator Phoebe Wahl will read her new picture book “Sonya’s Chicken’s” on Aug. 11 at Village Books. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A Bellingham resident’s first picture book addresses childhood grief in a forthright yet heartfelt way with “Sonya’s Chickens,” which is being released next week by Tundra Books, part of Penguin Random House.

“Sonya’s Chickens” tells the story of a young girl who is despondent after a fox kills one of her chickens. Writer-illustrator Phoebe Wahl will read the story and show some of her original art for the book at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, at Village Books, 1200 11th St.

Wahl, 24, who grew up and was homeschooled in Whatcom County, said she wrote the tale a few years ago as a class assignment while attending the Rhode Island School of Design.

“I definitely did not sit down to write a story about death or teaching kids about death,” she said. “It’s a bad thing that happens, but it’s part of the cycle of life.”

Advance copies have earned “Sonya’s Chickens” a 3.88 rating out of 5 stars at the social media site Goodreads.com and a coveted star from Kirkus Reviews, which called it “a reassuring story about death in the natural world, thoughtfully designed and illustrated.”

Wahl’s book joins such titles as “If Nathan Were Here,” “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf,” and “The Tenth Good Thing About Barney,” in helping small children understand the concept of death and bereavement.

“I hope that people come away with a valuable message about handling grief,” she said. “I hope people walk away feeling more open and at peace about things like this, especially with kids.”

Wahl said she tries to create an intimacy with nature in her work, stimulating wistful and nostalgic yearnings in her audience. Among her favorite childhood books are “Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm” and “Miss Rumphius,” an ode to the real Lupine Lady who scattered seeds wherever she went.

See some of Wahl’s artwork at PhoebeWahl.com or find her on Facebook, Tumblr and Etsy.

Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com. Tweeting @ goMittygo and @DressLike ADuck.

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Find Robert Mittendorf’s Out With the Kids column online at BellinghamHerald.com/out-with-kids.

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