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The Fall of Freddie the Leaf - a Story

Essay by   •  June 22, 2011  •  Book/Movie Report  •  2,112 Words (9 Pages)  •  2,556 Views

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Dealing with death as an adult is hard enough, but it is often forgotten that children going through this are experiencing it for the first time and are unsure of how to react or cope with a loss. Talking to a child about death must be geared towards the child's age and experiences. Death is an inescapable aspect of life everyone will one day deal with. Death is not easy to explain to a child. Luckily, there are books such as The Fall of Freddie the Leaf that are geared towards helping children understand and deal with the loss of a loved one.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf is labeled as a story of life for all ages. This book can speak to children of a wide range of ages about not only death, but also the different phases of life. Freddie felt lost each time the season changed but he realized the value of it. He sees how the trees and the leaves have purpose. This helps one see that each life has a purpose that may not be immediately obvious. Although children of all ages can benefit from this story, it is made for the reading level of children ages four through eight.

The children reading this book fall under Erikson's stages of initiative vs. guilt and industry vs. inferiority. During the play age (three to five years old) the children are looking for purpose and are going through initiative vs. guilt. If children are given the opportunity to plan activities and make up games, they develop a sense of initiative and feel secure as a leader. If a child is not given this chance, the child develops a sense of guilt. The child may feel like a nuisance to others and remains a follower. Ages six through twelve fall under Erickson's Industry vs. Inferiority stage. During this time, children have the capability to create and learn new skills which gives children a sense of industry. When a child feels inadequate or inferior among peers, "the child can develop issues in competence and self-esteem. (Arlene F. Harder, 2002).

The readers of The Fall of Freddie the Leaf are also relatable to Piaget's System of Cognitive Development (preoperational thought and the stage of concrete operations). The stage of preoperational thought covers ages two through seven. Egocentrism is very apparent in this stage. According to Dr. Thomas Keenan (2002), Piaget focused more on the limitations of the preoperational stage. One of the limitations is egocentrism which refers to the child's tendency to think one-sidedly. Magical thinking and animism come to play during this time. Preoperational thinking is animistic which refers to children giving life-like qualities to inanimate objects. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf is entirely animistic. Children tend to believe that all animals, things, and objects are living and have emotions. Both children and adults are aware that plants are living, however, children do not realize plants are not equipped with a nervous system or a brain. When coping with a death, children can better understand the process through Freddie's emotions and experience. A child is aware that he/she is alive, so the child applies being alive to everything. The stage of concrete operations applies to those who are aged seven through eleven. Children in this stage use naturalistic thinking. Children often personify death as what they believe is evil (clowns, boogeyman, etc.). In The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, death was the changing of seasons.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf is a book that can be enjoyed by people of almost any culture, ethnicity and socioeconomic community. The book attracts people who believe in an afterlife (noncorporeal continuation). As Daniel was falling from the tree, Leo Buscaglia wrote (from Daniel) "Goodbye for now, Freddie" (Buscaglia). Daniel plans to see Freddie again someday. This could be belief in heaven and hell, reincarnation, the hereafter, or any other type of afterlife. Aside from that, I believe this book is for anyone.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf relates all three of Maria Nagy's developmental stages. In stage one, children believe that death involves a continuation of life, but at a reduced level of activity and experiences. The children in stage one are under the impression that death is like sleeping and the person has the ability to one day return to normal life. These children are not aware of nonfunctionality. At the end of The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, Freddie was detached from his branch, fell to the ground and went to sleep. Freddie didn't die, he fell asleep. The author wrote this book to explain death to all ages. Those who are in stage one would not understand the book if the concept of sleep was not included.

In stage two, children personify death but understand that the dead stay dead. Death can be anything from the grim reaper to a clown. In The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, death is the changing of the seasons. When the season of fall came around, Freddie's friends were torn off the tree's branches. When the season shifted to winter, Freddie was the last leaf and finally fell from the tree. Another aspect of stage two is fear and anxiety. Children want to know what happens to them after they die. When the season changed to fall, Freddie expressed his fear of the unknown to Daniel.

In the words of Leo Buscaglia,

""I'm afraid to die," Freddie told Daniel. "I don't know what's down there."

"We all fear what we don't know, Freddie. It's natural," Daniel reassured him. "Yet, you were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?"

"Does the tree die, too?" Freddie asked.

"Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life."

"Where will we go when we die?"

"No one knows for sure. That's the great mystery!"




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