Always My Brother by Jean Reagan

Becky and her brother John were best buddies, telling jokes, caring for their dog Toby, and playing soccer. John was always there to cheer her up and help her out—until he died. Becky wishes everything could go back to the way it was. When she is surprised and feels guilty about enjoying a friend’s birthday party, her mom wraps reassuring arms around her and says, “Don’t you think he’d want you to laugh, even now?” She gradually realizes that she can still enjoy the things that they used to do together and that the memories of John continue to make him part of their family. Always My Brother is a sensitive, realistic story about the process of grief, acceptance, and recovery. Phyllis Pollema-Cahill’s lovely illustrations bring readers right into the heart of Becky’s family as they struggle to move forward.

♥         ♥          ♥         ♥          ♥

This book touched the very center of my heart.  I felt the sense of loss that Becky did with every turn of the page.  This book deals with what it feels like to lose someone close to you at a young age.  Appropriately worded to be understood at a grade school level I not only loved the gentle words used by Jean Reagan, but also felt the compassion come through in the illustrations by Phyllis Pollema Cahill.

This book is one I would recommend to any one who has a young child in their life who is dealing with grief.  I think this book should be a must in every grade school library.  I know as someone who dealt with this topic at a young age a book like this would have been wonderful.

Please visit Tilbury House for discussion points, classroom activities, literature links and further resources for using this book in the classroom.

Thank you to Natasha at Maw Books, where I won this autographed copy of this book.  I am now donating this book to Harrison Elementary School in our town, in memory of my sister Tara, who died in a house fire when she was 5.  Truly missed every day of my life. 

20 thoughts on “Always My Brother by Jean Reagan

  1. I’m so sorry about your sister!

    This is a great children’s book and I think it’s wonderful that you’re donating it to a school. You rock!!

  2. There are a number of books that deal with the loss of a parent but not near enough that deal with sibling loss which is a whole different kind of grief. Thanks for donating it to a local school. I’m sure it will be much appreciated!

  3. Thank you so much for your great review! I can’t begin to imagine what you went through — knowing that you think our book could help other children in the same very difficult situation means so much. And donating it to the library is a wonderful idea – thank you!

    1. Thanks you Sarah, I am happy to do it. Tara’s life was so short in this world but she had a big heart and made an impact in the lives of those who knew her. Her kindergarten teacher was mine as well and I still see Mrs. Phillip’s around and she still speaks of Tara.

      1. I think it’s a perfect tribute — both the donation and the post. It takes courage to speak so openly and honestly, and I have no doubt that your efforts will be a great comfort to others going through similar experiences. Thank you again!

  4. Sheila,

    I am so, so sorry about the loss of your sister Tara. I love that you and your kindergarten teacher still connect around the memory of Tara’s life. What a treasure for both of you.

    Thank you for such a kind review. Coming from you, knowing your loss, means even more to me.

    Getting this book into the hands of kids who need it in hopes that it’ll help ease their pain is my primary goal. Your review will help this happen. Thank you.

    To learn my story behind the book, you can visit my website:, particularly the sections: “story behind” and “FAQs.” Trying to honor my daughter’s loss of her brother motivated me, especially as I struggled.

    Love, in memory of sweet Tara.
    Jean Reagan

  5. Sorry you lost your sister at such a young age.
    This book sounds excellent. It is a topic that is difficult to deal with no matter what your age. This book will be a good starting point for parents and their children.
    For junior level readers, there is another good book out there. UMBRELLA SUMMER by Lisa Graff is the story of a young girl dealing with the unexpected death of her older brother. It explores how she and others deal with loss. It is a touching, funny and realistic look at how differently we deal with grief and how one can begin to heal.
    It is a book that would work well for adult book clubs and discussion groups.

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