“The Invisible Leash” by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; © 2019, Little, Brown and Company. 32 pages
What can you see outside your window?
Take a look: trees, cars, people, other buildings, things you can touch. And those things you can’t see? As in the new book, “The Invisible Leash” by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, you still know they’re out there, right?
It was a Friday and school was over for the week, which made all the other kids excited but Zack was sad. He just wanted to go home, although he wasn’t sure why. Jojo wasn’t there. Jojo wouldn’t be there anymore.
Jojo had been Zack’s best friend for a long time. They played games together and slept in the same room, they loved to go hiking, “and when the moon was full, they howled together as it smiled down upon them.” Life was best with Jojo, and though Mom and Dad told Zack that when the time was right, they could adopt another dog, Zack wouldn’t listen. No other dog would ever be as good as Jojo. Not. Ever.
The only person who seemed to understand was Zack’s friend, Emily. She’d lost her cat, Roxie, a while ago and she told Zack how much she cried when it happened. And then she told him “the very best news ever!”
It was a secret that her grandpa told her: when a pet dies, it’s still connected to you by an Invisible Leash. You can’t see it but “it’s the realest thing in the whole wide world,” Emily said. It “connects our hearts to each other. Forever.”
Zack thought that was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard! How could there be a leash that connected him to who-knows-where when Jojo was gone? Jojo hated leashes, and he knew that Roxie was never, ever leashed.
But Emily kept talking. The Invisible Leash, she said, connects all animals to their people, from beyond to here and back. When you miss one another, she said, you’ll feel the tug on the leash. You’ll know that your pet is with you because the tug feels “like love.”
And if you’re not crying now, your soul is made of ice.
That’s one of the odder things about “The Invisible Leash”: while the story here is a major comfort for children who’ve experienced the loss of a pet, it’s one powerfully emotional book for the adult who’s likewise lost the animal.
Author Patrice Karst presents a concept that kids will eagerly (and easily) grasp, one that doesn’t feel one bit impossible for a child who’s used to worlds of pretend and imaginary beings. It helps that Zack and Emily are Every Kid, and that quiet delights are hidden-not-hidden inside the artwork by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Those things help start the healing as you read aloud.
That is, if you can stop sobbing yourself. Yes, it’s that kind of book.
As a companion to Karst’s “The Invisible String,” this story is perhaps best for kids ages 5-9, or for an adult who needs to read it. Find “The Invisible Leash,” but see to it that you bring tissues, too.