On my first quick read, I didn't know what to make of this book. On my second read, the illustrations brought to light what I was missing the first time around. It also gave me an appreciation for Oliver Jeffers great talent as a writer and artist.
Although I liked the story myself, I wasn't sure how I felt about it as a children's book. So, I read it a third and fourth time. I think this book may have a place in dealing with some childhood situations, and it might be appropriate for some children. It depends on the child and the adult who is presenting the book to that child. However, I think the adult would most likely find that some explanations would be necessary.
At first, I thought that reading the story with a child could open up dialogue about loss and/or sadness, but my final decision is that, in my opinion, the concept this book offers is too deep for most picture-book-aged children (4-8 yrs) - some mature eight-year-old children might do well with it.
So, you are probably wondering why I gave "The Heart in the Bottle" 4 stars. The answer is, because I think it is a wonderful gift book for older children, young adults, and adults. It is a beautiful reminder of how protecting our hearts can make us feel awkward and heavy as we move through our day-to-day life. It is a reminder of how protecting our heart can make us numb to most everything in life - especially the things we once loved and the things that could bring us joy.
My only disappointment in the story was that I was hoping the little girl who helped the woman get her heart out of the bottle would have brought love full circle. What I mean by this is, in the beginning of the story, the girl who put her heart in the bottle loved the man. Before I got to the end of the story, I thought that the little girl who helped the woman get her heart out of the bottle was the woman's daughter. And it was her love for the child that freed her heart. But that doesn't seem to be the case.
In some ways, the book is complex, which I believe is one of the appealing things about it. Jeffers leaves much for personal interpretation. So, I continue to think about who the helpful little girl really was. Was she simply a stranger who helped the woman? Could it be that the woman got in touch with the pained little girl `within' who put her heart away so long ago? Was it the man reincarnated?:-) Or was it something that hasn't occurred to me yet? It really doesn't matter. What matters is this book touched me. And I believe it will touch anyone who is attracted to it and reads it from the heart.
This is a great read for people who have their heart in a bottle and those dealing with loss, sadness or depression. It is an awareness builder with a lovely message of hope.