Best Children's Books About Coping with death

The Best 33 Books to Read With a Child Who's Recently Lost a Friend, Family Member, or Pet

Updated Mar. 19, 2019

When a child loses someone special to them to sickness, accident, or old age, it can be hard to know how to cope with the resulting uncharted emotions and questions. Whether they've lost a favorite pet, a friend, or a family member, we'e gathered the best books to help bring a child comfort, understanding, and coping mechanisms through this difficult time in their life.

Wherever You Are book
#1
Wherever You Are
Written and illustrated by Nancy Tillman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This one brings the tears...such a meaningful, beautiful, loving book that is a perfect reminder of love from someone who has passed on or even just lives far away. The illustrations are sweet, and the text talks about all of the things around you that are reminders of love from someone who can't be near.

. . . I wanted you more than you'll ever know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go. . . . Love is the greatest gift we have to give our children. It's the one thing they can carry with them each and every day. If love could take shape it might look something like these heartfelt words and images from the inimitable Nancy Tillman. Here is a book to share with your loved ones, no matter how near or far, young or old, they are.

Where the Red Fern Grows book
#2
Where the Red Fern Grows
Written by Wilson Rawls
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

"Billy has long dreamt of owning not one, but two, dogs. So when he's finally able to save up enough money for two pups to call his own--Old Dan and Little Ann--he's ecstatic. It's true that times are tough, but together they'll roam the hills of the Ozarks. Soon Billy and his hounds become the finest hunting team in the valley. Stories of their great achievements spread throughout the region, and the combination of Old Dan's brawn, Little Ann's brains, and Billy's sheer will seems unbeatable. But tragedy waits for these determined hunters--now friends--and Billy will learn that hope can grow out of despair and that the seeds of the future can come from the scars of the past. This beloved classic is sure to delight readers of all ages as it captures the powerful bond between man and man's best friend. To commemorate more than fifty years in print, this special edition includes historical materials to enrich this treasured novel."

Ida, Always book
#3
Ida, Always
Written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Mr. Stacatto

A beautiful, calming book about two bears that spend their days together at the zoo, loving life and their friendship. Things change one day, however, when Gus learns that Ida is sick and not going to get better. This book introduces a difficult topic and the pain that is often associated with losing a loved one, but it makes you feel like everything is going to turn out alright.

A polar bear grieves over the loss of his companion, based on the real-life Gus and Ida of New York's Central Park Zoo.

Mayday book
#4
Mayday
Written by Karen Harrington
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In the tradition of Counting By 7s and The Thing About Jellyfish, a heartwarming coming-of-age story about grief, family, friendship, and the importance of finding your voice Wayne Kovok lives in a world of After. After his uncle in the army was killed overseas. After Wayne and his mother survived a plane crash while coming back from the funeral. After he lost his voice. Wayne has always used his love of facts to communicate ("Did you know more people die each year from shaking a vending machine than from shark attacks?"). Without his voice, how will he wow the prettiest girl in school? How will he stand up to his drill-sergeant grandfather? And how will he share his hopes with his deadbeat dad? It's not until Wayne loses his voice completely that he realizes how much he doesn't say. Filled with Karen Harrington's signature heart and humor, Mayday tackles an unforgettable journey of family and friendship.

The Invisible String book
#5
The Invisible String
Written by Patrice Karst and illustrated by Geoff Stevenson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Goodfather

I love the lesson shared by this book. I especially love how well the story of the String works literally, like the "tugs" that we feel for each other. It's message about that String connecting even with deceased loved ones is certain to help console any reader, young or old, coping with loss.

Picture book for children 4-8 years of age. A simple story that reminds children they are never truly alone. People who love each other are connected by an invisible string made of love.

Something Very Sad Happened book
#6
Something Very Sad Happened
Written by Bonnie Zucker and illustrated by Kim Fleming
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

A "tool for parents, caregivers, therapists, and teachers to help young children understand the concept of death and begin the process of coping with the loss"--Amazon.com.

No Matter what book
#7
No Matter what
Written and illustrated by Debi Gliori
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Small, a little fox, seeks reassurance that Large will always provide love, no matter what.

The Memory Box book
#8
The Memory Box
Written by Joanna Rowland and illustrated by Thea Baker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Grieving over the death of a special person, a young child creates a memory box to keep mementos and written memories of the loved one. Includes a guide for parents with information from a Christian perspective on helping manage the complex and difficult emotions children feel when they lose someone they love, as well as suggestions on how to create their own memory box.

The Goodbye Book book
#9
The Goodbye Book
Written and illustrated by Todd Parr
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

From bestselling author Todd Parr, a poignant and reassuring story about loss. Through the lens of a pet fish who has lost his companion, Todd Parr tells a moving and wholly accessible story about saying goodbye. Touching upon the host of emotions children experience, Todd reminds readers that it's okay not to know all the answers, and that someone will always be there to support them. An invaluable resource for life's toughest moments.

I'll Always Love You book
#10
I'll Always Love You
Written and illustrated by Hans Wilhelm
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A child's sadness at the death of a beloved dog is tempered by the remembrance of saying to it every nignt, "I'll always love you."

I Miss You book
#11
I Miss You
Written by Pat Thomas and illustrated by Leslie Harker, Pat Thomas
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Explains why people die and what death means, the purpose of funerals, and how people react when loved ones die.

Saying Goodbye to Lulu book
#12
Saying Goodbye to Lulu
Written by Corinne Demas and illustrated by Ard Hoyt
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

When her dog Lulu dies, a girl grieves but then continues with her life.

A Terrible Thing Happened book
#13
A Terrible Thing Happened
Written by Margaret M. Holmes and illustrated by Cary Pillo, Sasha J. Mudlaff
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

After Sherman sees something terrible happen, he becomes anxious and then angry, but when a counselor helps him talk about these emotions he feels better.

Gentle Willow book
#14
Gentle Willow
Written by Joyce C. Mills and illustrated by Cary Pillo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Amanda the squirrel is upset that she is going to lose her friend Gentle Willow, but the tree wizards give advice that help both her and Gentle Willow accept the change that comes with death.

Lifetimes book
#15
Lifetimes
Written by Bryan Mellonie and illustrated by Robert Ingpen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

Explains that different plants and animals have different lifespans and grow up at different rates

What's Heaven? book
#16
What's Heaven?
Written by Maria Shriver and illustrated by Sandra Speidel
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

This treasure of a book, for people of all faiths, is a starting point for parents who must talk about the difficult topic of death with their children. What should parents say when a loved one dies? Heaven is a difficult subject that always comes up at tough times, and Maria Shriver has written a very special book precisely for these stressful moments. What's Heaven? is the story of Kate, a little girl whose great-grandma has just died. She seeks answers, and her mother helps her learn about Heaven. The many questions in this book are real, coming from Shriver's own children, nieces, and nephews when her grandmother Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy passed away. With 900,000 copies of the book now in print, the loving, confident, and ultimately uplifting answers Shriver provides are helping readers' families come together, feel closer to one another, and experience peace during the times when they need it most.

The Dead Bird book
#17
The Dead Bird
Written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Christian Robinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

This heartwarming classic picture book by beloved children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown is beautifully reillustrated for a contemporary audience by the critically acclaimed, award-winning illustrator Christian Robinson. One day, the children find a bird lying on its side with its eyes closed and no heartbeat. They are very sorry, so they decide to say good-bye. In the park, they dig a hole for the bird and cover it with warm sweet-ferns and flowers. Finally, they sing sweet songs to send the little bird on its way.

Waiting for Augusta book
#18
Waiting for Augusta
Written by Jessica Lawson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From the author of The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher and Nooks & Crannies comes a “whimsical, heartwarming,” (Kirkus Reviews) and profound tale of love, loss, and family. Eleven-year-old Benjamin Putter has a lump in his throat, and he’s certain it’s a golf ball. He knows it sounds crazy, but everything’s been topsy-turvy since his father died last month. And he doesn’t know how to fix it. Then, one day, something starts tugging at Ben, telling him to hurry to Augusta, Georgia—home of the most famous golf course in the world. Ben might be going a little crazy, but escaping Hilltop, Alabama, sounds like a darn good idea. (And just maybe it will make that lump go away.) As he makes his way to Augusta, Ben partners up with a mysterious runaway named Noni, and they embark on a journey full of strange and wonderful surprises—and possibly magic—at every turn.

The Thing About Jellyfish book
#19
The Thing About Jellyfish
Written and illustrated by Ali Benjamin
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-13

This stunning debut novel about grief and wonder was an instant New York Times bestseller and captured widespread critical acclaim, including selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist! After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting-things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door.

Bridge to Terabithia book
#20
Bridge to Terabithia
Written by Katherine Paterson and illustrated by Donna Diamond
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

All summer, Jess pushed himself to be the fastest boy in the fifth grade, and when the year's first school-yard race was run, he was going to win.But his victory was stolen by a newcomer, by a girl, one who didn't even know enough to stay on the girls' side of the playground. Then, unexpectedly, Jess finds himself sticking up for Leslie, for the girl who breaks rules and wins races. The friendship between the two grows as Jess guides the city girl through the pitfalls of life in their small, rural town, and Leslie draws him into the world of imaginations world of magic and ceremony called Terabithia. Here, Leslie and Jess rule supreme among the oaks and evergreens, safe from the bullies and ridicule of the mundane world. Safe until an unforeseen tragedy forces Jess to reign in Terabithia alone, and both worlds are forever changed. In this poignant, beautifully rendered novel, Katherine Paterson weaves a powerful story of friendship and courage.

Someone I Love Died book
#21
Someone I Love Died
Written and illustrated by Christine Harder Tangvald
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Discusses death from a Christian perspective, explaining God's plan for everlasting life.

One Wave at a Time book
#22
One Wave at a Time
Written by Holly Thompson and illustrated by Ashley Crowley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

After his father dies, Kai experiences all kinds of emotions: sadness, anger, fear, guilt. Sometimes they crash and mix together. Other times, there are no emotions at all—just flatness. As Kai and his family adjust to life without Dad, the waves still roll in. But with the help of friends and one another, they learn to cope—and, eventually, heal. A lyrical story about grieving for anyone encountering loss.

Finn's Feather book
#23
Finn's Feather
Written by Rachel Noble and illustrated by Zoey Abbott
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Finn runs to show his mother the feather left for him by his brother Hamish, who is now an angel, but she only gives him a big hug. In school, Finn’s teacher responds similarly. Why isn’t anyone as excited as he is? Finn sits quietly, cradling the beautiful, amazing feather. “Why did Hamish give it to you?” asks his friend. “Maybe he wanted to say hi?” wonders Finn. “Maybe,” his friend replies, mischief sparkling in his eyes, “Hamish wanted you to have fun with it.” Finn’s Feather, beautifully illustrated by Zoey Abbot, is a story of love, loss, memory, and presence. It was written by Rachel Nobel following the loss of her son in 2012. This marks the author’s and illustrator’s debut into the world of picture books.

Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs book
#24
Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs
Written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Four-year-old Tommy enjoys his relationship with both his grandmother and great-grandmother, but eventually learns to face their inevitable death.

My Old Pal, Oscar book
#25
My Old Pal, Oscar
Written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Amy Bates
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

After a young boy’s beloved pet passes away, he encounters an adorable stray dog on the beach. The boy tries to walk away and ignore the cuddly creature, but the puppy continues to follow him, undeterred. Though the boy is still dealing with the pain of his loss and feels afraid to care about a new pet again, as the two walk the sand together, the boy slowly opens himself up to the joy of having a new dog in his life and making peace with the past. New York Times bestselling Amy Hest and Amy Bates, the beloved team who created The Dog Who Belonged to No One, have created a touching story about new beginnings and how friendship and love have the power to heal.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.