readilearn: Books on Wednesday — The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Cummings

  • Published on October 10, 2018

The Forever Kid interview with Elizabeth Mary Cummings

This week I have great pleasure in introducing Elizabeth Cummings author of The Forever Kid. This post is but one of several celebrating Elizabeth’s beautiful picture book in Romi Sharp’s Books on Tour. Please read to the end of the post for details of other posts celebrating Elizabeth’s work.

About Elizabeth Cummings

Elizabeth Mary Cummings is a British author based in Australia. She writes, advocates for and speaks about storytelling and health matters for families and youth. She is a qualified Primary School teacher and has worked in many schools in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. She is a member of the American Psychology Association and studied psychology and business studies at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland before training to be a Primary School teacher and travelling around the world with her family.

The topics in Elizabeth’s books are of both local and global significance. Elizabeth travels globally to talk about family and mental health matters as well as creative writing.

About The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid, a sensitively written picture book about life after the death of a sibling, is a culmination of four years’ work.  Beautifully illustrated by Cheri Hughes, it is published in Australia by Big Sky Publishing.


It is Johnny’s birthday and, although Johnny is no longer with them, his family gather to celebrate. Johnny’s brother explains to the reader how much Johnny meant to every member of the family and how the family feel closest to him when they remember him on his birthday. The story finishes with the family lying together on the grass telling each other cloud stories, just like they used to with Johnny.

Telling cloud stories in The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Mary Cummings

The interview

Welcome to readilearn, Elizabeth.

Thanks for inviting me.

Elizabeth, what gave you the idea for The Forever Kid?

I got the idea for this book when I was thinking about my uncle who I never met. He died when he was a teenager before I was born. My father often spoke about him and described how sad the family was that he had died, even though he had been ill for a long time before then.

What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from their reading of The Forever Kid?

My hope is to not only share this story but to facilitate a greater awareness in society of grief from a child’s perspective and to start a dialogue with families and their support networks on the matter of death and grief.

What things would you like parents and teachers to help children notice about The Forever Kid?

The story is about a family celebrating a birthday.

Celebrating the birthday of someone no longer present from The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Mary Cummings

How did the children feel about celebrating even when their brother is no longer with them? Talk about what it might feel like when it’s somebody’s birthday and they’re not with you because they live far away. Explain that death is another way that takes people far away from their loved ones.

Just as we cannot always be with our loved ones when they are alive, we are also separated from loved ones by death. This does not mean we do not care about that person anymore. In fact, having a chance to think about them and to remember and celebrate their lives is a way of feeling close to them when you cannot be physically close to them.

What do you notice about the way the illustrations show that the family is celebrating despite this also being a sad day as their brother is no longer with them? Did you notice the clouds in the background and the sea and ship images?

Discussing death of a loved one in The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Mary Cummings

In one illustration, the family are pictured in the ship looking out onto the horizon. Discuss with the children what they think this means.

Explain that the passing of someone from this life through into death is often described as a journey.
Over the centuries, many cultures from ancient Egyptian to contemporary elegies have used the analogy of a ship on a journey in describing someone’s passing from this world.

Ask the children what they think about this use of imagery and whether they have their own ideas about how death might be conceptualised.

What suggestions do you have for children as writers?

Elizabeth Mary Cummings author of The Forever Kid discusses writing with children

Young people should be encouraged to express what it is inside them. They should not feel they have to always follow the rules in the way they express themselves. It is through the innovation of new writers that literature can evolve and reach out to touch others.

When a child is writing, I think it is important that they express their ideas before structure, language conventions, and things like grammar and spelling are focused on, as children can often be inhibited by hearing that they will get it wrong. As a teacher, I have seen this as very prohibitive to students’ ability to express themselves, and the quality of the writing can be lost when the focus is placed on these language conventions rather than on what they say.

thank you writers and illustrators for sharing information about your books and your creative process

Thank you, Elizabeth. I enjoyed meeting you and finding out a little more about your lovely picture book The Forever Kid. It deals with a sensitive issue affecting many families and children, and I appreciate the warmth and understanding with which you have approached it. The underlying feeling that love lasts forever is very strong and enhanced by the delicate beauty of Cheri Hughes’s illustrations.

To find out more about Elizabeth, visit her website: Elizabeth Mary Cummings

Or connect with her on social media:

Facebook: Elizabeth Mary Cummings

Twitter: @EMCummings1

Linkedin: Elizabeth Mary Cummings

Instagram: Elizabeth Mary Cummings


Your own copy of The Forever Kid can be purchased from Big Sky Publishing.


Elizabeth’s other books may be purchased from her shop:

Brave and Strong All Day Long

Dinner on the Doorstep

Mrs T and the Magic Pencil

The Disappearing Sister

The Garbage Guy

The Sweetest Lollipop Lady in the World

The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Mary Cummings blog tour schedule

To find out more about Jacqueline and her book, check out these other posts in Books on Tour.

Monday Oct 1 – Sunday Oct 14

Tuesday Oct 2

Wednesday Oct 3

Thursday Oct 4

Friday Oct 5

Saturday Oct 6

Monday Oct 8

Tuesday Oct 9

Thursday Oct 11

Friday Oct 12

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    Such a necessary issue to be addressed Norah and Elizabeth and, as is emphasised, for the child to be helped in coming to their own expression of the grief they may feel yet are unable to articulate. They may also feel re-assured that if they were to die an early death, they won’t be forgotten ..

    Divorce would also be an important issue for children …?

    Hi Susan,
    Thank you so much for your support of Elizabeth’s beautiful book ‘The Forever Kid’. It does have an important place in supporting children to express and understand their grief. I like that you mention reassurance that they would not be forgotten too. I think that’s something we all desire.
    Divorce is another one of those tough issues for children to deal with.
    I recently went to the launch of a beautiful new picture book about domestic violence, though that term isn’t used. The book is ‘At the End of Holyrood Lane’ by Dimity Powell. I hope to interview her about the book before the end of the year. The topic is also handled very sensitively.

    Fantastic to learn about Elizabeth and her writing here. I was quite fascinated by the topic. Of course nobody likes talking about death. And many kids are kept in the dark when a loved one is lost. Kudos to Elizabeth for coming up with a brilliant and important topic and method to help little ones deal with lost loved ones.
    I remember when my mother died 4 years ago, my little grand niece was only 3. She was already clever and had been to many visits with me and her mom and my sister, and surely new the strange hospital setting wasn’t a fun place to be. And after the funeral we told her my mom went to heaven with the angels where she is happy and not sick anymore, and that she could see us from the sky. Somehow I think those types of stories tend to ease the loss a bit better. 🙂

    Thank you so much for your positive comments, Debby. Elizabeth’s book is perfect for introducing children to the issues of loss and grief, particularly of a sibling. It is true what you say that many of us don’t know how to discuss these issues sensitively with children.
    I am sorry about the loss of your mother. She must have passed at about the same time as my mum. I’m sure your little grand niece was comforted by the understandings you shared with her.

    She was Norah, thanks. I’m sorry about you losing your mum Norah. I lost my mother longggggg before she died. But the little ones only understand their own short, personal time with those who exit their lives swiftly, unaware of a lifetime of dysfunction that person left behind for the others.

    I knew that about your mother, Debby, but couldn’t think how to phrase it in the context of your comment. Sometimes we grieve for what never was as much as or more than we grieve for what was, and that grieving can last longer – a lifetime. Thanks for sharing.

    Norah, beautifully said, “Sometimes we grieve for what never was as much as or more than we grieve for what was.”

    Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing, Robbie. Elizabeth’s book is lovely and a very sensitive way to discuss the issues of loss and grief with young children.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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