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Children's Fiction Death & Dying

Toby's Very Important Question

by (author) Jean Lemieux

illustrated by Sophie Casson

translated by Sarah Cummins

Formac Publishing Company Limited
Initial publish date
Nov 2004
Death & Dying, General, Emotions & Feelings
Recommended Age
5 to 10
Recommended Grade
1 to 5
Recommended Reading age
5 to 10
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2004
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2004
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2011
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


On the morning after Christmas, Toby's family begins the day like any other holiday. All of a sudden everything changes when someone phones to tell them that Toby's aunt has died in a car accident. They pack up and drive to his grandparents' house in the country where all the family are gathered.
After the ceremony at the funeral home, everyone goes to the family home. Toby notices that although everyone is very sad, they are also able to smile, chat and even sing. He wonders why people can be both happy and sad. He also wants to know what happens when a person dies.
This story brings out all the questions a curious child might ask when someone dies in a family.

About the authors

When Jean Lemieux finished his first novel, a chance encounter at a Salon du livre led to the publication of another -- this time, a book for young adults. He met an editor with Québec/Amérique Jeunesse who persuaded him to write a short story for a young adult anthology she was preparing. Instead of the one story required, he submitted three. The first story, "Retour à Saint-Malo" was included in the anthology, Ici. The second story was destined to become Lemieux's successful young adult novel, La Cousine des États. The third is to be expanded into a book for adults. Whether writing for adolescents or adults, Lemieux demonstrates an abiding interest in human relationships. He is fascinated by the energy and enthusiasm of youth and is intrigued by the similarities he sees between an adolescent's search for self-awareness and the broader, historical issues implicit when tracing a family's roots or searching for cultural identity. Jean Lemieux is not only an author but also a doctor. Although he and his family live in Quebec City, they still have a strong attachment to the Iles-de-la-Madeleine where they lived for many years.

Jean Lemieux's profile page

SOPHIE CASSON has illustrated The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock, a finalist for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, Quelle pagaille! by Danielle Marcotte and Laurence-Aurélie Théroux-Marcotte, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, and Helen’s Birds by Sara Cassidy. Her highly acclaimed illustrations are inspired by Japanese woodblock prints and World War II–era posters. Sophie’s award-winning work has also appeared in the Globe and Mail, the New York Times, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times and Nature, as well as in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Sophie lives in Montreal, Quebec.


Sophie Casson's profile page

Sarah Cummins' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Jean Lemieux tells Toby's story with great sensitivity and care. He leads children through the emotions Toby experiences in this situation from fear, anger, and helplessness through to acceptance. Sophie Casson's black and white drawings illustrate the emotions Toby experiences and the comfort he takes in his family. Toby's Very Important Question is an excellent book to introduce children to the emotions they might experience and the questions that they might ask in the face of the death of a loved one."

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

"This novel contains not only an interesting plot but proves thought provoking and informative. The characters are appealing ... ideal for beginning chapter-book readers."

Resource Links

Other titles by Jean Lemieux

Other titles by Sophie Casson

Other titles by Sarah Cummins