By Caroline Wright
A child sees his mother’s health fading. He experiences the presence of his mother’s love – from her dying days to her death – which is illustrated by a sweet looking creature. The creature keeps the child company through his grief, not trying to make him happy, just being present.
This book could be useful in guided discussion – an adult with a child or used in a group setting. The sweet illustrations and simple text can be used to guide the discussion, such as: What do you think is happening to the mother? What are the dad and child doing in the picture? What is cremation? What are some ways people use cremated remains? What are activities you do now that you did with your person? Children can be guided to draw a picture of their own “comfort creatures”.
Bone & Bread
By Saleema Nawaz
Set in Montreal, the novel is narrated by an older sister whose younger sister dies after struggling with an eating disorder for many years. The book moves from the present to the past and back again, bringing to life the people in the sisters’ lives and the tragedies they endure. Their father dies suddenly when they are young and then their mother dies when they are teens. The narrator touches on the quirkiness of their mother, their ties to Indian culture via their father and uncle, and the complicated relationship between the sisters and the oldest sister’s son.
This book can be used with older teens and young adults to discuss complicated relationships, eating disorders or multiple losses. It offers cultural diversity, which is not easy to find in books related to grief.
The Phone Booth
In Mr. Hirota's Garden
By Heather Smith
Based on a true story, a tsunami (an unusual sea wave that hits the land with force and speed) floods a village that causes the death of many people. A boy’s neighbor sets up a phone booth with an unconnected black rotary telephone that he uses to “talk” to the person who died. The boy then starts to make “calls” to his father, who “was snatched by the ocean.”
Unlike many other grief related books, this book addresses the situation of communal grief while focusing on personal loss. The concept of grieving for one’s person during a time when others are also grieving can be useful during periods of natural disasters, war, or a pandemic. The book highlights the healing practice of talking to the person who died, which some children find challenging to do and could benefit from being normalized as a coping skill.
The Girl With More Than
By Laura GEringer Bass
Briana has enough on her mind with the struggles of middle school relationships and a younger brother on the autism spectrum. When her favorite parent dies, she takes on more responsibility for her brother while their mother struggles with her own grief. Briana finds herself hearing her father’s voice, which guides her as she deals with all that’s being asked of her.
Adults grieve, too, and while that grief may look different, it can have a profound effect on children. Having guided discussions can help pre-teens and young teens understand how death can change a family and how grief will look different for each member. For young people, grief can be complicated with role changes at home, the relationships with their peers, and school work. This book offers fertile grounds for discussions in small groups or classroom.
by CHarlotte Agell
The saying, “misery loves company,” is tossed in favor of an I’m okay with your sadness approach. The pink hippo, Elba, carries a huge block (which represents sadness) and doesn’t participate in fun activities. Along comes Norris, a happy-go-lucky green alligator who doesn’t take on Elba’s sadness and does not judge her for it. Norris continues to invite Elba to gradually do activities together, from sitting on her block at first, to having a picnic in the rain, until at last, Elba – still dragging her block (albeit getting smaller) – goes to visit the ocean with Norris.
This book can help normalize grief for young children. Somewhat older children will appreciate learning that grief does not need to be fixed. Through the image of the block, this book highlights that sadness can stay with us and grief is a lifelong journey that will change, but may continue to be present.
A Terrible Thing Happened
By Margaret M. Holmes
Sherman Smith saw something “terrible”. He tried to forget about it, but it didn’t work. By keeping it in, he began to feel a lot of emotions – worry, sadness, anger. When Sherman begins to act out in school, he sees someone so that he can talk about and process what he saw.
This book is good for any child that have witnessed some kind of trauma.
Where Do They Go?
By Julia Alvarez
More a meditative poem than a book with a story line, Where Do They Go? gently addresses the emotional side of death.
The book asks questions that a child might want to know, but are a bit abstract.
When Dinosaurs Die
by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
This book is a good resource to introduce the topic of death, and addresses the thoughts and feelings that may come up.
This book takes the child though different reasons for someone’s death, as well as the feelings of grief. It categorizes other topics such as what it means to be dead or alive, as well as customs surrounding death.
By Caron Levis
Gus and Ida are two bears who live in a zoo. They do everything together: eat, play and swim. One day, Gus mentions he wishes he could see the city from the outside of the zoo. Ida explains that he doesn’t have to “see the city to feel the city.” Ida assures Gus that the city is with them “always”. When Ida becomes ill, their time together is different – yet they still share good and bad days together. Eventually Ida dies and though Gus has some rough days, he remembers that Ida is with him always – like the heartbeat of the city – when he goes to her favorite spot and thinks about all their memories.
This book is a great way to talk about memories and how to stay connected with someone who has died.
By Susan Paradis
Edna the elephant is struggling with some bad memories. She tries to cover them up but feels like she is too tangled in them. Eventually someone comes along to help, but Edna isn’t ready. The person waits patiently, and eventually Edna lets her help.
This book is for children who have been affected by trauma and those who want to understand others’ experience of trauma.
by Charlotte Moundlic
This book is about a child who is grieving his mother who died. He is overcome by and doesn’t know what to do with the whirlwind of emotions. He tries to do a lot of things to keep the memory of his mother alive, including keeping all the windows closed so that he can keep the smell of his mother from fading. One day the boy’s grandmother opens the windows and he is extremely upset, until she shows him how his mother is closer than he thinks even though she is not alive.
This is perfect for normalizing the emotion what come with grief in children who are struggling with the how to handle a death.
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss
By Pat Schwiebert
Tear Soup tells the story of Grandy, who experiences the death of her husband and makes tear soup as a coping mechanism.
This book will help older children understand the grief process and normalize whatever emotions they’re feeling.
Death Is Stupid
By Anastasia Higginbotham
Death Is Stupid tells the story of a boy who lost his ‘Gramma’. It takes the reader through some unhelpful things that someone might say to a child, and validates fears, concerns, and emotions surrounding the death of a loved one.
This book is for children freshly experiencing the death of a loved one.
Always and Forever
by Alan Durant
In Always and Forever, a group of animals are dealing with the death of their friend Mr. Fox. They struggle with thinking about how they will be able to deal with life without him. Their friend Squirrel comes along and helps them connect with their memories of Mr. Fox, and reminds them that he is with them always through those memories.
This book is great to talk about memories and how they help stay connected with someone who has died.
By Zetta Elliott
Mehkai, nicknamed Bird by his grandfather, is coping with his grandfather’s death when he loses his older brother to a drug overdose. As he struggles to make sense of his life, he finds a sanctuary in drawing. Bird allows children who might be dealing with tough home lives to connect with and relate to this character.
This book is best for children who have lost a loved one to addiction.
Life Is Like the Wind
By Shona Ines
This story is a good introduction to death and great for explaining death to young children. This story also introduces theories that people have that people believe about what happens to a loved one after they die.
This book is great for a child who has had a loved one die, or just an introductory book about death in general.
Goodbye Little Dude
by Rebecca Trotsky
This book is about a young boy named Jonathan who is dealing with cancer. On his way home from treatment, he comes across a little turtle who is lost. Jonathan adopts the turtle, names him Little Dude, and makes him a class pet so that his friends can take care of him when he goes to treatment. As Little Dude gets stronger, Jonathan gets weaker. After Jonathan’s death, his classmates have LIttle Dude to remember him by.
This book is for children who have lost a classmate through a terminal illness.
My Many Colored Days
By Dr. Seuss
My Many Colored Days takes the reader through different moods and emotions on different days, and associates a color with each emotion.
This book is great to validate different feelings a child might feel when someone dies, even if they don’t quite understand why they might be feeling that way on any given day.
Moody Cow Mediates
By Kerry Lee MacLean
Peter, aka “Moody Cow,” has a rough day from start to finish. His day started with a bad dream, and with frustrating things happening in-between, he gets so mad that he throws a ball through his window! His mother sends him to his grandfather, who validates Moody Cow’s anger, and teaches him how to meditate so that he can settle his mind.
This book teaches children how to meditate and settle their minds when they are frustrated.
The Invisible String
by Patrice Karst
When twins Liza and Jeremy are awakened by a storm, they find their mother and ask if they can stay close to her. She assures them that she would always be close to them even when they weren’t together, and tells them about the “invisible string” that connects them. They ask her a series of questions about different places they might be, and she assures them that anywhere they are, they are still connected to those that they love though the invisible string – even family members who have died.
This book teaches children that they will always be connected to their family and friends, even those who have died.
You’ve Got Dragons
By Kathryn Cave
This story uses dragons and a metaphor for worries and fears. It allows children to know that everyone at different points in their life has dragons that seem impossible to vanquish. The more one tries to ignore their dragons, the harder it is to get rid of them, but if the dragons are acknowledged, then they eventually go away on their own.
This book is great for helping children address their worries and fears, and helps teach coping skills.
By Jonathan London
Liplap is coping with his grandmother’s death. He fashions a snow bunny that reminds him of this grandmother, but still gets sad thinking about the fact that his grandma is not around anymore. Liplap’s mother tells him an “old rabbit’s tale” that when rabbits die, they become stars. Liplap wished that his grandma was one of the stars that looked as white as her fur. Once he makes his wish, he believes the star is his grandma.
This book is great for children who are struggling to feel connected to a loved one who has died.
Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories
by Audrey Penn
Chester Raccoon’s friend Skiddel Squirrel dies in an accident. Chester and his friend are trying to make sense of it, and cope with what that means for them. They find comfort in different memories of Skiddel.
This book is great to help children in memory making of a loved one who has died.