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Death, Grief, And Bereavement: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best kids books about death, grief, and bereavement?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to death, grief, and bereavement. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about death, grief, and bereavement.

Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.

When it comes to children’s stories about death, grief, and bereavement, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast to popular sellers like Charlotte’s Web to some of our favorite hidden gems like Where the Red Fern Grows.

We hope this list of kids books about death, grief, and bereavement can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

Top 10 Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement

Where the Red Fern Grows book
#1
Where the Red Fern Grows
Written by Wilson Rawls
Thoughts from The Fun Uncle

I have very fond memories that come flooding back whenever I read this. I love Old Dan and Little Ann (Billy’s two hounds)! Rawls tells an incredible story that tugs at the heart of any reader. There are so many gold nuggets that carry great lessons, like Billy’s determination to catch his first coon, Billy’s diligence throughout the book in caring for his dogs, and the family unity that Billy and his family share. Where the Red Fern Grows is one of the best books there is.

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.”

Wherever You Are book
#2
Wherever You Are
Written & illustrated by Nancy Tillman
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.

picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

. . . 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.

Something Very Sad Happened book
#3
Something Very Sad Happened
Written by Bonnie Zucker & 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.

The Invisible String book
#4
The Invisible String
Written by Patrice Karst & illustrated by Geoff Stevenson
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
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

No Matter what book
#5
No Matter what
Written & 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.

I Miss You book
#6
I Miss You
Written by Pat Thomas & illustrated by Leslie Harker and 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.

Charlotte's Web book
#7
Charlotte's Web
Written by E.B. White & illustrated by Garth Williams
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Sixty years ago, on October 15, 1952, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web was published. It’s gone on to become one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. To celebrate this milestone, the renowned Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo has written a heartfelt and poignant tribute to the book that is itself a beautiful translation of White’s own view of the world—of the joy he took in the change of seasons, in farm life, in the miracles of life and death, and, in short, the glory of everything. We are proud to include Kate DiCamillo’s foreword in the 60th anniversary editions of this cherished classic. Charlotte’s Web is the story of a little girl named Fern who loved a little pig named Wilbur—and of Wilbur’s dear friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider who lived with Wilbur in the barn. With the help of Templeton, the rat who never did anything for anybody unless there was something in it for him, and by a wonderfully clever plan of her own, Charlotte saved the life of Wilbur, who by this time had grown up to quite a pig. How all this comes about is Mr. White’s story. It is a story of the magic of childhood on the farm. The thousands of children who loved Stuart Little, the heroic little city mouse, will be entranced with Charlotte the spider, Wilbur the pig, and Fern, the little girl who understood their language. The forty-seven black-and-white drawings by Garth Williams have all the wonderful detail and warmhearted appeal that children love in his work. Incomparably matched to E.B. White’s marvelous story, they speak to each new generation, softly and irresistibly.

Old Yeller book
#8
Old Yeller
Written by Fred Gipson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

When a novel like Huckleberry Finn, or The Yearling, comes along it defies customary adjectives because of the intensity of the respouse it evokes in the reader. Such a book, we submit, is Old Yeller; to read this eloIquently simple story of a boy and his dog in the Texas hill country is an unforgettable and deeply moving experience. The big, ugly, yellow dog showed up out of nowhere one night and stole a whole side of hanging pork, and when Travis went for him the next morning that dog started yelling like a baby before he was touched. Then he got into the spring water with five-year-old Arliss, Travis took an easy hate to Old Yeller, as they started to call him; in fact, he would have driven him off or killed him if it hadn’t been for brother Arliss’ loud and violent protests, So Yeller stayed, and Travis soon found he couldn’t have got along without him. Pa and Ma and Travis and Arliss lived on Birdsong Creek in the Texas hill country. It wasn’t an easy life, but they had a snug cabin that Pa had built himself, and they had their own hogs and their own cattle, and they grew most of what else they needed. The only thing they and the rest of the settlers lacked that year in the late 1860’s was cash, so the men decided to get together and drive all the cattle up to the new market in Abilene, Kansas, more than six hundred miles away. Travis was only fourteen, but he was proud of his new role as man of the family and determined to live up to his responsibility. It was hard work, too, plowing until his legs ached, chopping wood until his hands were raw and his head was spinning, weeding the garden in the hot sun, toting the heavy buckets tip from the spring, and trying to keep his mischievous little brother in line. But there were pleasant moments, too: his Ma treating him like a man, and deer hunting in the early-morning stillness, and hot summer nights out in the corn patch under the stars with Old Yeller, trying to keep the coons and skunks out of the winter food supply. And there was plenty of excitement, like the fight between the two bulls, and the time Arliss nearly got mauled by the bear, and trying to catch and mark the new hogs. Here the suspense and excitement reach a peak, only to be topped a few pages later when the crazy-sick loafer wolf goes for Ma. Both times it is Yeller who saves them, only the second time it is not lucky for Yeller, as Travis comes to find out. And in finding out, Travis learns just how much he has come to love that big ugly dog, and he learns something about the pain of life, too. Old Yeller is a story that will be read and treasured by many thousands for years to come. In a shorter form, this has appeared as a three-part serial in Collier’s.

Goodbye to Goldie book
#9
Goodbye to Goldie
Written by Fran Manushkin & illustrated by Tammy Lyon
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Katie Woo’s dog, Goldie, was very old. Goldie became sick and died. Katie will miss her friend. She is glad that she has lots of happy memories of Goldie.

Someone I Love Died book
#10
Someone I Love Died
Written & illustrated by Christine Harder Tangvald
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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

Table of Contents
Scroll to books about Death, Grief, And Bereavement and...

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Death

Where the Red Fern Grows
Written by Wilson Rawls
Thoughts from The Fun Uncle

I have very fond memories that come flooding back whenever I read this. I love Old Dan and Little Ann (Billy’s two hounds)! Rawls tells an incredible story that tugs at the heart of any reader. There are so many gold nuggets that carry great lessons, like Billy’s determination to catch his first coon, Billy’s diligence throughout the book in caring for his dogs, and the family unity that Billy and his family share. Where the Red Fern Grows is one of the best books there is.

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.”

Wherever You Are
Written & illustrated by Nancy Tillman
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.

picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

. . . 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.

Something Very Sad Happened
Written by Bonnie Zucker & 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.

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Invisible String - 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.

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

  3. I Miss You - Explains why people die and what death means, the purpose of funerals, and how people react when loved ones die.

  4. Charlotte's Web - Sixty years ago, on October 15, 1952, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web was published. It’s gone on to become one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. To celebrate this milestone, the renowned Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo has written a heartfelt and poignant tribute to the book that is itself a beautiful translation of White’s own view of the world—of the joy he took in the change of seasons, in farm life, in the miracles of life and death, and, in short, the glory of everything. We are proud to include Kate DiCamillo’s foreword in the 60th anniversary editions of this cherished classic. Charlotte’s Web is the story of a little girl named Fern who loved a little pig named Wilbur—and of Wilbur’s dear friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider who lived with Wilbur in the barn. With the help of Templeton, the rat who never did anything for anybody unless there was something in it for him, and by a wonderfully clever plan of her own, Charlotte saved the life of Wilbur, who by this time had grown up to quite a pig. How all this comes about is Mr. White’s story. It is a story of the magic of childhood on the farm. The thousands of children who loved Stuart Little, the heroic little city mouse, will be entranced with Charlotte the spider, Wilbur the pig, and Fern, the little girl who understood their language. The forty-seven black-and-white drawings by Garth Williams have all the wonderful detail and warmhearted appeal that children love in his work. Incomparably matched to E.B. White’s marvelous story, they speak to each new generation, softly and irresistibly.

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Loss

Grandpa's Top Threes
Written by Wendy Meddour & illustrated by Daniel Egneus
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

A young boy’s original game coaxes a grieving grandpa to reconnect with the world in a touching intergenerational story of love and resilience. Henry loves talking with Grandpa, but Grandpa has stopped listening. Mom says to just give him time. But Henry wants to talk to Grandpa now. So Henry tries his favorite game: Top Threes. And something amazing happens: Grandpa starts talking again. Out of a tale of favorite sandwiches and zoo animals, outings and trains, emerges a moving story about love, loss, and the wonder of grannies and grandpas.

Ida, Always
Written by Caron Levis & illustrated by Charles Santoso
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A beautiful, honest portrait of loss and deep friendship told through the story of two iconic polar bears.

Gus lives in a big park in the middle of an even bigger city, and he spends his days with Ida. Ida is right there. Always.

Then one sad day, Gus learns that Ida is very sick, and she isn’t going to get better. The friends help each other face the difficult news with whispers, sniffles, cuddles, and even laughs. Slowly Gus realizes that even after Ida is gone, she will still be with him—through the sounds of their city, and the memories that live in their favorite spots.

Ida, Always is an exquisitely told story of two best friends—inspired by a real bear friendship—and a gentle, moving, needed reminder that loved ones lost will stay in our hearts, always.

Henry and Bea
Written & illustrated by Jessixa Bagley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Henry and Bea are inseparable, but one day Henry suddenly stops talking to his best friend. Bea knows there’s something Henry’s not telling her, but what could it be?

Henry and Bea have always been inseparable…until one day Henry suddenly stops talking to Bea. He won’t chat with her in class, and he won’t sit with her at lunch. Bea can tell something’s going on, and she’s determined to find out what it is.

Then their teacher announces that the class is taking a field trip to a farm, and Bea hopes that this might be her chance to reconnect with Henry. When Henry finds an old cat collar at the farm and starts to cry, he finally reveals his secret to Bea: his cat Buddy died last week.

And even though it’s hard for them both, Bea knows that she’ll be there for Henry, as his best friend, no matter what. From award-winning author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley comes a realistic and ultimately uplifting portrayal of the challenges of childhood friendship.

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Rough Patch - Evan and his dog do everything together. They play and read and eat. But mostly you will find them tending to Evan’s extraordinary garden, where flowers and other good things flourish and reach for the sky. But friends don’t always stay forever, and when Evan loses his, he destroys the place that meant the most to them, and creates something to match his mood. Something ugly and twisted, sad and stubborn, ragged and rough—and he likes it that way. Until one day . . . New York Times–bestselling author Brian Lies has created a breathtakingly beautiful and luminescent book about loss and grief, love and hope, and the healing power of friendship, curiosity, and nature.

  2. The Goodbye Book - 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.

  3. The Fix-It Man - It’s handy having a dad who can fix just about anything. A young girl believes her father is the king of fixing things. But following the death of her mother, she discovers that broken hearts are not as easy to repair as damaged toys and cracked teapots. Together, she and her father find a way to glue back the pieces of her lives. The Fix-It Man is a poignant picture book that explores how a child can cope with the loss of a parent (in this case, the young girl’s mother). Repairing damaged emotions is not as straightforward as gluing a broken kite back together or sewing up a torn toy. And grief affects all members of a family, with each responding in their own way to the loss. By sticking with her father, the young girl is able to strengthen her resilience and ability to cope with one of life’s harshest experiences. The author was encouraged to seek publication for this story after receiving the endorsement of several grief counsellors who work with children and who recognised the need for a book such as this.

  4. Lasting Love - This gorgeous picture-book meditation on loss and family love is a useful tool for children navigating a first experience with death. When a family member or another loved one becomes ill, one of the scariest aspects of their sickness is the way they may change, both physically and in spirit. The feeling of loss can come so early as the person becomes more difficult to recognize. It’s a hard thing for anyone to understand, and especially so for a child. This book offers a helpful visualization of a sick person’s essence as a friendly creature who remains strong and warm, even as the illness progresses. The creature is always around and never tries to cheer the child up, but only serves to keep them company. Caroline Wright and Willow Heath clearly understand that, like the creature, a book cannot “fix” a painful situation or even make it a little better. Instead they simply reflect the pain of loss back to the reader and help them understand that they are not alone.

Want to see books about loss?

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Animals

The Rabbit Listened
Written & illustrated by Cori Doerffeld
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When Taylor’s block castle is destroyed, all the animals think they know just what to do, but only the rabbit quietly listens to how Taylor is feeling

Big Cat, Little Cat
Written & illustrated by Elisha Cooper
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A 2018 Caldecott Honor book There was a cat who lived alone. Until the day a new cat came . . . And so a story of friendship begins, following the two cats through their days, months, and years until one day, the older cat has to go. And he doesn’t come back. This is a poignant story, told in measured text and bold black-and-white illustrations about the act of moving on.

Boats for Papa
Written & illustrated by Jessixa Bagley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Buckley and his Mama live in a cozy cabin by the ocean. He loves to carve boats, each one more beautiful than the last, out of the driftwood he finds on the beach nearby. He sends them out to see and if they don’t come back, he knows they’ve found their way to his papa, whom he misses very much.

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Whole Sky - When a devastating sickness spreads through a thoroughbred farm community, a young horse whisperer is determined to find out why all the foals are dying in this tightly woven, tender coming-of-age novel from award-winning author Heather Henson. Twelve-year-old Sky and her father are horse whisperers—their preternatural tenderness and understanding of horses, and Sky’s uncanny ability to actually understand what they’re saying, become their livelihood during the foaling season at multimillion dollar horse farms. They’re sought after by the most prestigious farms in the country to keep pregnant horses calm and stress-free until they give birth. But this spring, something awful is happening…foal after foal is a stillborn, and no one knows why. And worse for Sky, who lost her mother only months earlier, her most beloved horse is about to have her first foal. In agony, Sky takes it upon herself to figure out what the vets are missing, and stop it before even more foals are lost.

  2. Mary's Song - Twelve-year-old Mary was disabled at the age of four by the same virus that took the life of her mother. While she longs to have a horse of her own, she’s limited to reading horse books. A talented artist, she spends her days on a blanket in the grass sketching the horses at the farm next door. She falls in love with one of the foals and is outraged to learn the filly is considered worthless as it was born lame. Mary befriends and enlists the help of twelve-year-old Laura, whose family owns the horse farm. Against the better judgment of the farm manager, a brief reprieve is negotiated for the foal’s life. The girls conspire to raise money to save her, but time is running out. Sadly, it appears the expensive surgery the foal needs has little chance to correct her problem anyway. Mary isn’t about to give up. She sacrifices what she holds dear, including the trust of her papa, to gain her heart’s desire. Will she lose everything in her struggle to save the foal?

  3. All the Dear Little Animals (Hawthorn Children's Classics) - A picture book for children aged five and up, covering the difficult subject of death in an unsentimental way.

Want to see books about animals?

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Feelings And Emotions

The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya
Written by Jane Kelley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A desperately ill girl and an orphaned African gray parrot find friendship, security and healing when they are inadvertently joined by fate. By the author of The Girl Behind the Glass.

Why Do We Cry?
Written by Fran Pintadera & illustrated by Ana Sender
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

This sensitive, poetic picture book uses metaphors and beautiful imagery to explain the reasons for our tears, making it clear that everyone is allowed to cry, and that everyone does.

In a soft voice, Mario asks, “Mother, why do we cry?” His mother thinks for a moment, and then begins to tell him about the many reasons for our tears. We cry because our sadness is so huge it must escape from our bodies. Because we don’t understand the world, and our tears go in search of an answer. Because we can’t find the right words, and our tears speak a universal language. Most important, she tells him, we cry because we feel like crying. And, as she shows him then, sometimes we feel like crying for joy.

By exploring the causes of our tears, Fran Pintadera’s thoughtful, poetic picture book story defends the right to cry and reinforces crying’s importance as a way to release our pain, to calm us and to help us grow. Though the question is asked by the boy, the illustrations of his mother’s answers feature her as a child, adding a layer of empathy to her message. Ana Sender’s artwork uses color and symbolic images along with facial expressions and body language to beautifully capture the mood and emotion being described on each spread. This warm, reassuring hug of a book provides just the response every adult would want to have to the central question. Supporting social-emotional learning, it makes an excellent choice for discussions about feelings and crying. To extend the concepts in the story, back matter describes the physical aspects and benefits of tears and provides two activities.

August Isle
Written by Ali Standish
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From critically acclaimed author Ali Standish (The Ethan I Was Before), the story of one girl’s journey to a magical seaside town, where she uncovers her family’s long hidden secrets and ultimately finds truth and redemption. Fans of Sharon Creech and Rebecca Stead will be captivated by this story filled with warm humor, mystery, whimsy, and characters you can’t let go. A modern classic in the making! For years, Miranda has stared at postcards of August Isle, Florida. The town where her mother spent her summers as a girl. The town that Miranda has always ached to visit. She just never wanted it to happen this way. When she arrives on the Isle, alone and uncertain, to stay the summer with an old friend of her mother’s, Miranda discovers a place even more perfect than she imagined. And she finds a new friend in Sammy, “Aunt” Clare’s daughter. But there is more to August Isle than its bright streets and sandy beaches, and soon Miranda is tangled in a web of mysteries. A haunted lighthouse. An old seafarer with something to hide. A name reaching out from her mother’s shadowy past. As she closes in on answers, Miranda must reckon with the biggest question of all: Is she brave enough to face the truth she might uncover?

Honorable Mentions
  1. Michael Rosen's Sad Book - With unmitigated honesty, a touch of humor, and sensitive illustrations by Quentin Blake, Michael Rosen explores the experience of sadness in a way that resonates with us all. Sometimes I’m sad and I don’t know why.
    It’s just a cloud that comes along and covers me up.
    Sad things happen to everyone, and sometimes people feel sad for no reason at all. What makes Michael Rosen sad is thinking about his son, Eddie, who died suddenly at the age of eighteen. In this book the author writes about his sadness, how it affects him, and some of the things he does to cope with it — like telling himself that everyone has sad stuff (not just him) and trying every day to do something he can be proud of. Expressively illustrated by the extraordinary Quentin Blake, this is a very personal story that speaks to everyone, from children to parents to grandparents, teachers to grief counselors. Whether or not you have known what it’s like to feel deeply sad, the truth of this book will surely touch you.

  2. Pilu Of The Woods - For fans of Hilda and the Troll comes PILU OF THE WOODS, a heartwarming and bittersweet story of friendship, loss, exploring complex emotions and finding your way home from debut creator Mai K. Nguyen. Willow loves the woods near her house. They’re calm and quiet, so different from her own turbulent emotions, which she keeps locked away. When her emotions get the better of her one day, she decides to run away into the woods. There, she meets Pilu, a lost tree spirit who can’t find her way back home—which turns out to be the magnolia grove Willow’s mom used to take her to. Willow offers to help Pilu, and the two quickly become friends. But the journey is long, and Pilu isn’t sure she’s ready to return home yet—which infuriates Willow, who’s determined to make up for her own mistakes by getting Pilu back safely. As a storm rages and Willow’s emotions bubble to the surface, they suddenly take on a physical form, putting both girls in danger… and forcing Willow to confront her inner feelings once and for all.

  3. Gooney Bird Is So Absurd - It’s a cold January at the Watertower Elementary School—the perfect weather for Gooney Bird Greene to break out her special brain-warming hat! It’s a good thing she has one. Gooney Bird’s brain will need to be as warm as possible this month, because Mrs. Pidgeon is teaching her class about poetry. Who knew there could be so many different ways to write a poem? Haikus, couplets, limericks—Mrs. Pidgeon’s students soon find that writing good poetry takes a lot of hard work and creative thinking. Gooney Bird and her classmates are up to the challenge. But just when things are going well, the kids get some terrible news. Gooney Bird will need all the inspiration her brain can muster to organize the most important poem the class has ever written.

  4. A Stitch in Time - In 1927 Vermont, eleven-year-old Donut, recently orphaned after the death of her beloved pops, stands to lose everything when she learns her Aunt Agnes plans to move her to Boston, but little does her aunt know that Donut has no intentions of leaving her friends or her home.

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Multigenerational

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.

A Stopwatch from Grampa
Written by Loretta Garbutt & illustrated by Carmen Mok
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

“When summer started, I got Grampa’s stopwatch,” a small child says. “I don’t want his stopwatch. I want him.” Grampa used to time everything. A race to the end of the street and back: 24 seconds. Eating bubblegum ice cream: 1 minute, 58 seconds. But now, Grampa’s gone. “There are no more Grampa minutes, Grampa seconds,” the child says. “Time just stops.” As the seasons come and go, the stopwatch becomes a cherished symbol of remembrance, and the child uses it to carry on Grampa’s favorite pastimes and traditions.

Loretta Garbutt uses subtlety and sensitivity to explore the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in this moving picture book story of loss. It features a gender-neutral main character (no first name or pronouns are given) making the story universally relatable. This is a perfect choice for fostering discussions with children about their emotions, particularly the feeling of loss. It also offers a poignant representation of an intergenerational relationship between a grandfather and grandchild. Carmen Mok’s expressive and thoughtful illustrations employ a limited color palette to convey the character’s emotional trajectory. There are curriculum applications here in social-emotional development as well as character education lessons in caring and resilience.

Oscar the Guardian Cat
Written by Chiara Valentina Segré & illustrated by Paolo Domeniconi
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Inspired by the true story of Oscar, a special cat who watches over the residents of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Oscar the Guardian Cat lives at Hope House along with Nurse Dolores, Dr. Goodhelp, and the grandparents of many children who come to visit. The story is told from Oscar’s perspective as he watches over his friends during their most important journey. This is a unique and touching picture book that can be used to help talk to children about their grandparents’ final journey, not as something tragic, but as a moment of reconciliation and understanding. Chiara Valentina Segré has a PhD in molecular oncology and works in science communications. She has published several picture books and novels for children. She lives in Milan, Italy. Paolo Domeniconi studied art and worked for several years in advertising before focusing on children’s book illustration. He lives in Spilamberto, Italy.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Aunt Fanny's Star - Mama Bunny loves her dear Aunt Fanny. But when she becomes too ill to look after herself, Mama Bunny decides to move her in with her family. This means big changes at the Bunny house, of course, but it also means fun and discovery for the three young bunnies as they get to learn all about their funny aunt. She’s a bunny who knows how to enjoy her time until she must say her last goodbye. Aunt Fanny shows them that there is always comfort and consolation in the twinkling stars overhead. This touching, gentle picture book helps children navigate the difficult issues of dealing with the death of a loved one. It shares in simple terms the truth that death affects us all, and that life goes on as surely as there are stars twinkling in the sky.

  2. Finding Orion - The acclaimed author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted returns with an unforgettable tale of love and laughter, of fathers and sons, of what family truly means, and of the ways in which we sometimes need to lose something in order to find ourselves. Rion Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jellybeans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always on stage, and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk. He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially as his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool. Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but feel that that’s not the end of his story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover. He doesn’t know how right he is.

  3. Finding Esme - After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor on Solace Hill, twelve-year-old Esme’s been inextricably drawn to that spot, although her grandmother warns her to stay away. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, and her dog, Old Jack, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor. The bones must be a message from her grandfather, a connection from beyond the grave. But when word gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme struggles to understand who has her best interests at heart, especially as the memory of her grandfather begins to slip away. Full of friendship and adventure, and featuring a palpable Texas setting, Finding Esme is a moving and heartfelt story about family, friendship, and learning to deal with loss. From acclaimed author Suzanne Crowley, this engaging adventure set on a Texas peach farm is just right for fans of Rebecca Stead and Ann M. Martin.

  4. I Miss My Grandpa - For fans of Ed Young and Peter Sis, this breathtaking picture book, from LBYR’s first Emerging Artist Award Winner, Jin Xiaojing, is the perfect read for anyone who has lost a loved one. A young girl has never met her grandpa. He passed away before she was born, but she misses him every day. She often wonders…what did he look like? Grandma says: His face was shaped like the moon, his mouth was good at telling stories, and his hair was as curly as a bird’s nest. With the help of her grandma and the rest of her loving family, will this young girl be able to imagine her grandpa’s face in her mind—and feel the love that he shared with others?

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Siblings

Saturdays Are For Stella
Written by Candy Wellins & illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 44-8

George loves Saturdays.

That’s because Saturdays mean time with Grandma Stella. The two of them love going on adventures downtown to visit the dinosaur museum and ride on the carousel! Even when they stay in, George and Stella have fun together, making cinnamon rolls without popping open a tube and sharing the biggest, best hugs.

Then one day Stella is gone, and George is ready to cancel Saturdays. But when a new addition to the family arrives, George finds a way to celebrate the priceless memories he made with his grandma―while making new ones too.

Raising Lumie
Written & illustrated by Joan Bauer
picture book
Recommend Ages: 10-12

A poignant, hopeful story of a girl and her puppy.

Olive Hudson desperately wants a dog. But that doesn’t seem to be a possibility right now. Newly orphaned, she’s moving in with the half sister she hardly knows and their life is too chaotic to include a dog. But then something wonderful happens: Olive gets a chance to raise Lumie, a guide dog puppy. Discipline. Rules. Lots of hugs. Only the best of the best puppies continue on to become guide dogs, and of course Olive wants Lumie to be chosen. But if she is, that means that Olive will lose her. Once again, the incomparable Joan Bauer tells a touching story that is full of heart and warmth and unabashed idealism.

The Space We're in
Written by Katya Balen
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Ten-year-old Frank has trouble navigating his relationship with his younger brother Max who is autistic.

Frank loves soccer, codes, riding his bike, and playing with his friends. His brother Max is five. Max only eats foods that are beige or white, hates baths, and if he has to wear a t-shirt that isn’t gray with yellow stripes he melts down down down.

Frank longs for the brother he was promised by his parents before Max was born—someone who was supposed to be his biggest fan, so he could be the best brother in the world. Instead, Frank has trouble navigating Max’s behavior and their relationship. But when tragedy strikes, Frank finds a way to try and repair their fractured family and in doing so learns to love Max for who he is.

In her debut novel, Katya Balen uses her knowledge of autism and experience working with autistic people to create an intriguing and intense yet always respectful family story.

For readers of Counting by 7s and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Finn's Feather - 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.

  2. The Miraculous - In the tradition of heartwrenching and hopeful middle grade novels such as Bridge to Terabithia comes Jess Redman’s stunning debut about a young boy who must regain his faith in miracles after a tragedy changes his world. Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis is a miracologist. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. And he believes every single one. But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles can’t exist. So Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. He stops believing. Then he meets Faye—a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and a mysterious old woman who just might be a witch. The old woman asks them for their help. She asks them to believe. And they go on a journey that leads to friendship, to adventure, to healing—and to miracles. The Miraculous is Jess Redman’s sparkling debut novel about facing grief, trusting the unknown, and finding brightness in the darkest moments.

  3. The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole - A girl’s friendship with a lonely black hole leads her to face her own sadness in this original, funny, and touching middle grade novel for fans of Crenshaw and Flora & Ulysses. When eleven-year-old Stella Rodriguez shows up at NASA to request that her recording be included in Carl Sagan’s Golden Record, something unexpected happens: A black hole follows her home, and sets out to live in her house as a pet. The black hole swallows everything he touches, which is challenging to say the least—but also turns out to be a convenient way to get rid of those items that Stella doesn’t want around. Soon the ugly sweaters her aunt has made for her all disappear within the black hole, as does the smelly class hamster she’s taking care of, and most important, all the reminders of her dead father that are just too painful to have around. It’s not until Stella, her younger brother, Cosmo, the family puppy, and even the bathroom tub all get swallowed up by the black hole that Stella comes to realize she has been letting her own grief consume her. And that’s not the only thing she realizes as she attempts to get back home. This is an astonishingly original and funny adventure with a great big heart.

  4. Pay Attention, Carter Jones - Carter Jones is astonished early one morning when he finds a real English butler, bowler hat and all, on the doorstep—one who stays to help the Jones family, which is a little bit broken. In addition to figuring out middle school, Carter has to adjust to the unwelcome presence of this new know-it-all adult in his life and navigate the butler’s notions of decorum. And ultimately, when his burden of grief and anger from the past can no longer be ignored, Carter learns that a burden becomes lighter when it is shared. Sparkling with humor, this insightful and compassionate story will resonate with readers who have confronted secrets of their own.

Want to see books about siblings?

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Grief

Beginners Welcome
Written & illustrated by Cindy Baldwin
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The acclaimed author of Where the Watermelons Grow is back with a story perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, about finding friendship after a tragic loss.

It’s been eighty-three days since Annie Lee’s daddy died, but she still sees reminders of him everywhere. His record player mysteriously plays his favorite songs, there’s shaving cream in the sink every morning, and the TV keeps flipping to the Duke basketball games he loved.

She knows Mama notices it too, but Mama’s been working around the clock to make ends meet. To make matters worse, Annie Lee’s friends ditched her over the summer. She feels completely alone—until she meets Mitch.

Though Mitch is tough and confident on the outside, she may need a friend just as badly as Annie Lee. But after losing so much, Annie Lee is afraid to let anyone get too close.

And Mitch isn’t the only friend trying to break through Annie Lee’s defenses. Ray, an elderly pianist who plays at a local mall, has been giving her piano lessons. His music is pure magic, and Annie Lee hopes it might be the key to healing her broken heart. But when Ray goes missing, searching for him means breaking a promise to Mitch.

Faced with once again losing those who mean the most to her, Annie Lee must make a choice: retreat back into her shell, or risk admitting how much she needs Mitch and Ray—even if it means getting hurt all over again.

Just like in her debut, Where the Watermelons Grow, Cindy Baldwin brings her signature twist of magic to this authentically heartfelt story.

Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge
Written by Kristin L. Gray
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

“Vilonia must prove she is responsible enough to get a dog in order to help her mom get over her grief”—

Hope for Haiti
Written & illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

A young boy finds hope when he is given an old soccer ball to play with in the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Magpie's Library - When Silva and her family visit her grandfather, they find that his health has taken a bad turn. As they struggle with this news, Silva seeks escape in books at the local library. But she gets more than she bargained for when a magpie guides her to a magical room containing books that she can not only read, but also live in. Silva finds herself in the worlds of the characters, who turn out to be real people. People she knows. There’s a catch, though: she soon discovers that the magpie has lured her to these books for selfish and dark reasons.

  2. Sweet, Sweet Memory - Sarah and her grandmother feel sad when Grandpa dies, but as time passes, funny memories of him make them laugh and feel better, in a moving picture book which balances sadness and mourning with the comforting notion of the continuity of all life.

  3. Zombie Tag - Wil is desperate for his older brother to come back from the dead. But the thing about zombies is . . they don’t exactly make the best siblings. Thirteen-year-old Wil Lowenstein copes with his brother’s death by focusing on Zombie Tag, a mafia/ capture the flag hybrid game where he and his friends fight off brain-eating zombies with their mothers’ spatulas. What Wil doesn’t tell anybody is that if he could bring his dead brother back as a zombie, he would in a heartbeat. But when Wil finds a way to summon all the dead within five miles, he’s surprised to discover that his back-from-the-dead brother is emotionless and distant. In her first novel for younger readers, Moskowitz offers a funny and heartfelt look at how one boy deals with change, loss, and the complicated relationship between brothers.

  4. The Garden of Eve - Evie reluctantly moves with her widowed father to Beaumont, New York, where he has bought an apple orchard, dismissing rumors that the town is cursed and the trees haven’t borne fruit in decades. Evie doesn’t believe in things like curses and fairy tales anymore—if fairy tales were real, her mom would still be alive. But odd things happen in Beaumont. Evie meets a boy who claims to be dead and receives a mysterious seed as an eleventh-birthday gift. Once planted, the seed grows into a tree overnight, but only Evie and the dead boy can see it—or go where it leads.

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Dogs

My Old Pal, Oscar
Written by Amy Hest & 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.

Where Lily Isn't
Written by Julie Paschkis & illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Lily ran and jumped and barked and whimpered and growled and wiggled and wagged and licked and snuggled. But not now. It is hard to lose a pet. There is sadness, but also hope—for a beloved pet lives on in your heart, your memory, and your imagination.

I'll Always Love You
Written & 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.”

Honorable Mentions
  1. Rabbit and the Motorbike - Rabbit isn’t sure he’ll ever be brave enough to go on an adventure. He’s a homebody who lives in a quiet field of wheat he dreams of leaving every night. His world is enlarged by his friend Dog and Dog’s tales of motorbike adventures. But one day, Dog is gone, and with him, go the stories Rabbit loves so much. Dare Rabbit pick up the motorbike and live his own story? This timeless fable of the journey from grief to acceptance will touch every reader. For those confronting loss and those eager to explore and experience, Rabbit’s bravery in the face of sadness will console, nurture, and inspire.

  2. A Stone for Sascha - A girl grieves the loss of her dog in an achingly beautiful wordless epic from the Caldecott Honor-winning creator of Journey. This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth. In his first picture book following the conclusion of his best-selling Journey trilogy, Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the private, personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia — and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again.

Want to see books about dogs?

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Bereavement

The Memory Box
Written by Joanna Rowland & 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.

Always Remember
Written by Cece Meng & illustrated by Jago
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A lyrically told, beautifully illustrated book that brings comfort to children–and adults–who have lost someone they love

After Old Turtle swims his last swim and breathes his last breath, and the waves gently take him away, his friends lovingly remember how he impacted each and every one of them. As the sea animals think back on how much better Old Turtle made their lives and their world, they realize that he is not truly gone, because his memory and legacy will last forever.

Jago’s gorgeous illustrations accompany Cece Meng’s serene text in a book that will help chidren understand and cope with the death of a loved one.

The Thing About Jellyfish
Written & 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.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs - Four-year-old Tommy enjoys his relationship with both his grandmother and great-grandmother, but eventually learns to face their inevitable death.

  2. Bridge to Terabithia - 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.

  3. The Afterwards - Ember and Ness are best friends, completely inseparable. Ember can’t imagine what life would be without Ness. Until Ness dies, in a most sudden and unexpected way. Ember feels completely empty. How can this even be real? Then Ember finds a way into the afterworld-a place where the recently dead reside. She knows there must be a way to bring Ness back, so she decides to find it. Because that’s what friends do: rescue each other. But the afterworld holds its own dangers. How far will Ember go to make things the way they were again? Paired with enchanting illustrations from Emily Gravett, A. F. Harrold’s powerfully woven tale explores the lengths we go to for the people we love.

  4. The End of Something Wonderful - It’s painful when children lose their pets, and The End of Something Wonderful helps them handle their feelings when they can’t find the right words. In a warm, understanding, sometimes funny way, it explains how to plan a backyard funeral to say goodbye, from choosing a box and a burial spot to giving a eulogy. Most of all, it reassures kids that it’s not the end of everything . . . and that Something Wonderful can happen again.

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Family Life

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs
Written & illustrated by Leslie Connor
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

A unique masterpiece about loss, love, and the world’s best bad dog, from award-winning author Leslie Connor, author of the National Book Award finalist The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle.

It’s a life-altering New Year for thirteen-year-old Lydia when she uproots to a Connecticut farm to live with her aunt following her mother’s death.

Aunt Brat and her jovial wife, Eileen, and their ancient live-in landlord, Elloroy, are welcoming―and a little quirky. Lydia’s struggle for a sense of belonging in her new family is highlighted when the women adopt a big yellow dog just days after the girl’s arrival.

Wasn’t one rescue enough?

Lydia is not a dog person―and this one is trouble! He is mistrustful and slinky. He pees in the house, escapes into the woods, and barks at things unseen. His new owners begin to guess about his unknown past.

Meanwhile, Lydia doesn’t want to be difficult―and she does not mean to keep secrets―but there are things she’s not telling…

Like why the box of “paper stuff” she keeps under her bed is so important…

And why that hole in the wall behind a poster in her room is getting bigger…

And why something she took from the big yellow dog just might be the key to unraveling his mysterious past―but at what cost?

Award-winning author Leslie Connor crafts a story that sings about loss and love and finding joy in new friendships and a loving family, along with the world’s best bad dog. This uplifting story about recovery features strong female characters, an adorable dog, and the girl who comes to love him.

One Wave at a Time
Written by Holly Thompson & 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.

Cancer Hates Kisses
Written by Jessica Reid Sliwerski & illustrated by Mika Song
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Mothers are superheroes when they’re battling cancer, and this empowering picture book gives them an honest yet spirited way to share the difficult experience with their kids.

Author Jessica Reid Sliwerski was diagnosed with breast cancer four months after giving birth to her daughter. And through all the stages of treatment—surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, losing her hair—she thought about how hard it would be to talk to your child about cancer while coping with it. She wrote this picture book to give other parents and their children an encouraging tool for having those conversations—a lovingly upbeat book that is also refreshingly authentic and straightforward. With its simple text and heartwarming illustrations, Cancer Hates Kisses is relatable to any type of cancer.

Honorable Mentions
  1. An Ordinary Day - An ordinary day in an ordinary neighborhood turns out to be quite extraordinary in this moving story about the circle of life. It’s an average day in the neighborhood—children play, roses are watered, and a crow watches over it all. But then two visitors arrive at two houses, one to help a family say hello to a new baby and one to help a family say goodbye to a beloved pet. This sensitive picture book takes a gentle look at life, death, the bonds of family, and the extraordinary moments that make ordinary days so special.

  2. The Land of Yesterday - A tender and fantastical adventure story perfect for fans of Coraline. After Cecelia Dahl’s little brother, Celadon, dies tragically, his soul goes where all souls go: the Land of Yesterday—and Cecelia is left behind in a fractured world without him. Her beloved house’s spirit is crumbling beyond repair, her father is imprisoned by sorrow, and worst of all, her grief-stricken mother abandons the land of the living to follow Celadon into Yesterday. It’s up to Cecelia to put her family back together, even if that means venturing into the dark and forbidden Land of Yesterday on her own. But as Cecilia braves a hot-air balloon commanded by two gnomes, a sea of daisies, and the Planet of Nightmares, it’s clear that even if she finds her family, she might not be able to save them. And if she’s not careful, she might just become a lost soul herself, trapped forever in Yesterday.

  3. Mockingbird - Ten-year-old Caitlin, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, struggles to understand emotions, show empathy, and make friends at school, while at home she seeks closure by working on a project with her father.

  4. The Girl with More Than One Heart - Briana, devastated by the sudden death of her dad, imagines she has a new heart growing deep inside her belly that gives advice in her father’s voice, providing her with the support she needs to navigate her grief.

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Friendship

My Bison
Written & illustrated by Gaya Wisniewski
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A little girl and a bison get to know each other. One spring morning though, the bison has to go join his kin. He promises the little girl to come and see her again each winter. And so, every winter, they meet up, having a chat by the fire, telling each other all about their adventures, or just enjoying the quiet moments. Friendship grows and with it, tenderness. Years go by, the bison and the girl don’t notice the other getting older, but then one season the bison doesn’t appear.

The Boy, the Bird & the Coffin Maker
Written & illustrated by Matilda Woods
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker and widower, spending his quiet days creating the final resting places of Allora’s people.

Then one afternoon a magical bird flutters into his garden, and Alberto, lonely inside, welcomes it into his home. And when a kindhearted boy named Tito follows the bird into Alberto’s kitchen, a door in the old man’s heart cracks open. Tito is lonely too–but he’s also scared and searching for a place to hide. Fleeing from danger, he just wants to feel safe for once in his life. Can the boy and the old man learn the power of friendship and escape the shadows of their pasts?

With a tender bond that calls to mind The Girl Who Drank the Moon, charming characters reminiscent of The Penderwicks, and the whimsy of A Snicker of Magic, this is a novel to curl up with, an extraordinary work of magical realism that makes the world feel like a warmer and happier place. Complete with dazzling interior illustrations, a gem from start to finish.

Cactus and Flower: A Book About Life Cycles
Written & illustrated by Sarah Williamson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

This bright, gentle, thoughtful picture book explores friendship and natural life cycles for readers young and old

Cactus and Flower spend their days in the desert, side by side. They watch the sun come up; they watch the sun go down. They play with their animal friends. And they grow, slowly but surely. Then one day, Flower loses a petal. Cactus and Flower know what this means. But they know, too, that this is the way life goes: Slowly but surely, petals will fall, and new buds will bloom.

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Stars Beneath Our Feet - “The right story at the right time. . . . It’s not just a narrative; it’s an experience. It’s the novel we’ve been waiting for.” —The New York Times A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that celebrates community and creativity. WINNER OF THE CORETTA SCOTT KING–JOHN STEPTOE AWARD FOR NEW TALENT! MICHAEL B. JORDAN TO DIRECT MOVIE ADAPTATION! SIX STARRED REVIEWS! It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward. His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world. David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge—of adolescence, of grief, of violence—and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors. MORE PRAISE FOR THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET: A New York Times Notable Book A Time Top 10 Children’s Books of the Year A Boston Globe Best Children’s Book of the Year A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year A Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of the Year A Shelf Awareness Best Children’s Book of the Year An ALA-YALSA Quick Pick An ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book “A fast and furious read in which we meet some amazing people, people that stay with us. David Barclay Moore is an exciting new voice. We definitely haven’t heard the last of his brilliance.” —Jacqueline Woodson, Newbery Honor and National Book Award–winning of Brown Girl Dreaming “The Stars Beneath Our Feet is about the weight of the world on the back of a child, and the creative tools necessary to alleviate that pressure. I found myself rooting for Lolly, and you will too.” —Jason Reynolds, Coretta Scott King Honor Award Winner for As Brave As You

  2. The Memory of Forgotten Things - In the tradition of The Thing About Jellyfish and When You Reach Me, acclaimed author Kat Zhang offers a luminous and heartbreaking novel about a girl who is convinced that an upcoming solar eclipse will bring back her dead mother

  3. Instructions for a Secondhand Heart - A moving novel about grief, guilt, and the unpredictability of love, for fans of Everything, Everything and All the Bright Places. Jonny knows better than anyone that life is full of cruel ironies. He’s spent every day in a hospital hooked up to machines to keep his heart ticking. Then when a donor match is found for Jonny’s heart, that turns out to be the cruelest irony of all. Because for Jonny’s life to finally start, someone else’s had to end. That someone turns out to be Neve’s twin brother, Leo. When Leo was alive, all Neve wanted was for him (and all his glorious, overshadowing perfection) to leave. Now that Leo’s actually gone forever, Neve has no idea how to move forward. Then Jonny walks into her life looking for answers, her brother’s heart beating in his chest, and everything starts to change. Together, Neve and Jonny will have to face the future, no matter how frightening it is, while also learning to heal their hearts, no matter how much it hurts. The final book will feature select illustrations from “Jonny’s” sketchbook.

  4. All Three Stooges - While preparing for their bar mitzvahs, comedy-obsessed Noah and Dash find their friendship threatened by a personal tragedy.

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Culture

All the Ways Home
Written by Elsie Chapman
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Sometimes, home isn’t where you expect to find it. After losing his mom in a fatal car crash, Kaede Hirano—now living with a grandfather who is more stranger than family—developed anger issues and spent his last year of middle school acting out. Best-friendless and critically in danger repeating the seventh grade, Kaede is given a summer assignment: write an essay about what home means to him, which will be even tougher now that he’s on his way to Japan to reconnect with his estranged father and older half-brother. Still, if there’s a chance Kaede can finally build a new family from an old one, he’s willing to try. But building new relationships isn’t as easy as destroying his old ones, and one last desperate act will change the way Kaede sees everyone—including himself. This is a book about what home means to us—and that there are many different correct answers.

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden
Written by Heather Smith & illustrated by Rachel Wada and Heather Smith
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

When the tsunami destroyed Makio’s village, Makio lost his father…and his voice. The entire village is silenced by grief, and the young child’s anger at the ocean grows. Then one day his neighbor, Mr. Hirota, begins a mysterious project—building a phone booth in his garden. At first Makio is puzzled; the phone isn’t connected to anything. It just sits there, unable to ring. But as more and more villagers are drawn to the phone booth, its purpose becomes clear to Makio: the disconnected phone is connecting people to their lost loved ones. Makio calls to the sea to return what it has taken from him and ultimately finds his voice and solace in a phone that carries words on the wind.

Inspired by the true story of the wind phone in Otsuchi, Japan, following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Grandpa's Stories
Written by Joseph Coelho & illustrated by Allison Colpoys
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

One young girl reflects on a year with her beloved grandpa. She remembers the fields and parks they explored in the springtime and the old toys they fixed up in the summer. She remembers the handmade gifts they exchanged in the fall and the stories Grandpa told by the fi re each winter. But this year, the girl must say good-bye to Grandpa. In the face of her grief, she is determined to find a way to honor him. She decides to record her Grandpa stories in the notebook he made for her and carry Grandpa with her as she grows. An honest and relatable depiction of loss, Grandpa’s Stories celebrates life and the ways in which love lives on.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Miles to Go - A powerful and poignant story of two young girls’ friendship, family, loss, and loyalty, set in 1940s Saskatchewan. “Beryl Young’s novel Miles to Go is sparse, poetic and, at times, perfectly heart wrenching. It subtly captures the coming of age of two young prairie girls. The beauty of this story is in the little things, the life things. In short: it’s wonderful.”—Arthur Slade, Governor General’s Award-winning author of Dust “This is a tender story about two friends dealing with tragic personal loss. Beryl Young captures a snapshot of small town life in the 1940s. Lovingly told, realistic, sad, and, like life, often very funny.”—Harriet Zaidman, teacher-librarian and writer, Winnipeg, Manitoba Miles to Go is the story of a friendship between two twelve-year-old girls in a small Saskatchewan town. In the spring of 1948, each girl faces a heavy personal loss and challenges that threaten their friendship. Through a hard few months the girls learn the meaning of loyalty and the value of keeping a promise. Loosely based on the author’s own experiences of growing up in rural Saskatchewan, this book’s timeless themes and authentic emotion will speak to young readers.

  2. Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me - Not long after arriving in North America from China, a young girl and her father bump into a kind old man at their local park. They have no idea that he has been teaching young people music for over fifty years. Mr. Mergler can hear music in a way that most of us can’t, and he knows this little girl has a talent that, with encouragement, will grow into something magical. He gives her a gift that will tie them together forever

  3. Kira-Kira - kira-kira (kee ra kee ra): glittering; shining Glittering. That’s how Katie Takeshima’s sister Lynn makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people s eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia it’s Lynn who explains to her why people stop on the street to stare. And it’s Lynn who with her special way of viewing the world teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill and the whole family begins to fall apart it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering — kira-kira — in the future.

  4. The Spirit of Tio Fernando: A Day of the Dead Story - It’s the Day of the Dead and Nando and his mother are going to honor Tío Fernando. Nando, named for Uncle Fernando, listens as his mother tells him that later, at the cemetery, they will meet with Tío Fernando’s spirit. Es el Día de los Muertos y Nando y su Madre van a honrar a Tío Fernando. Nando, nombrado en honor de Tío Fernando, escucha a su Madre decirle que mas adelante en el cementerio se van a encontrarse con el espirito de Tío Fernando.

Want to see books about culture?

Books About Death, Grief, And Bereavement and Social Themes

Missing Jack
Written by Rebecca Elliott
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-18

Toby’s cat, Jack, is THE best cat EVER. But Jack is getting old - and Toby will miss his furry best friend terribly when he’s gone. Then Toby meets a crazy cat called Humphrey. In this charming and beautifully illustrated picture book Rebecca Elliott addresses the difficult subject of a child’s first experience of the death of a pet with warmth, sensitivity and well placed humour. Awards: 2011 JUNIOR MAGAZINE DESIGN AWARDS Most Promising New Talent- SHORTLISTED, 2011 NASEN AWARDS (National Association of Special Education Needs) Inclusive Children’s Book of the Year - SHORTLISTED, 2011 NURSERY WORLD AWARDS Three to Fives New Launch - FINALIST, 2010-11 PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE Children’s Book of the Year - FINALIST, 2012 - KATE GREENAWAY MEDAL - LONG LIST, 2012 - DOLLY GRAY CHILDREN’S LITERATURE AWARD - WI

Race to the Bottom of the Sea
Written & illustrated by Lindsay Eagar
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Can a clever young inventor uncover a ruthless pirate’s heart of gold? Thrilling sea adventure takes on a hint of steampunk in the second book by the author of the acclaimed Hour of the Bees. When her parents, the great marine scientists Dr. and Dr. Quail, are killed in a tragic accident, eleven-year-old Fidelia Quail is racked by grief — and guilt. It was a submarine of Fidelia’s invention that her parents were in when they died, and it was she who pressed them to stay out longer when the raging Undertow was looming. But Fidelia is forced out of her mourning when she’s kidnapped by Merrick the Monstrous, a pirate whose list of treasons stretches longer than a ribbon eel. Her task? Use her marine know-how to retrieve his treasure, lost on the ocean floor. But as Fidelia and the pirates close in on the prize, with the navy hot on their heels, she realizes that Merrick doesn’t expect to live long enough to enjoy his loot. Could something other than black-hearted greed be driving him? Will Fidelia be able to master the perils of the ocean without her parents — and piece together the mystery of Merrick the Monstrous before it’s too late?

The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast
Written & illustrated by Samantha M. Clark
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A boy washes up on a mysterious, seemingly uninhabited beach. Who is he? How did he get there? The boy can’t remember. When he sees a light shining over the foreboding wall of trees that surrounds the shore, he decides to follow it, in the hopes that it will lead him to answers. The boy’s journey is a struggle for survival and a search for the truth—a terrifying truth that once uncovered, will force him to face his greatest fear of all if he is to go home. This gripping adventure will have readers hooked until its jaw-dropping and moving conclusion. Samantha M. Clark’s first novel heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice.

Honorable Mentions
  1. The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook - In this warmhearted middle-grade novel, Oona and her brother, Fred, love their cat Zook (short for Zucchini), but Zook is sick. As they conspire to break him out of the vet’s office, convinced he can only get better at home with them, Oona tells Fred the story of Zook’s previous lives, ranging in style from fairy tale to grand epic to slice of life. Each of Zook’s lives has echoes in Oona’s own family life, which is going through a transition she’s not yet ready to face. Her father died two years ago, and her mother has started a relationship with a man named Dylanùwhom Oona secretly calls ôthe villain.ö The truth about Dylan, and about Zook’s medical condition, drives the drama in this loving family story.

  2. Missing May - This critically acclaimed winner of the Newbery Medal joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content. Ever since May, Summer’s aunt and good-as-a-mother for the past six years, died in the garden among her pole beans and carrots, life for Summer and her Uncle Ob has been as bleak as winter. Ob doesn’t want to create his beautiful whirligigs anymore, and he and Summer have slipped into a sadness that they can’t shake off. They need May in whatever form they can have her — a message, a whisper, a sign that will tell them what to do next. When that sign comes, Summer with discover that she and Ob can keep missing May but still go on with their lives.

  3. Stricken - Naomi doesn’t expect anything unusual from her annual family trip to visit her grandparents in Ireland. What she finds is a country hit by an unexpected virus that rapidly infects the majority of the Irish population over the age of twenty-one, turning its victims aggravated, blank or violent. Naomi and her friends must survive on their own, without lucid adults, cut off from the rest of the world, until a cure is found.

  4. The Doll's Eye - A beautiful and haunting tale for independent readers from the author of The Inn Between All Hadley wants is for everything to go back to the way it used to be—back when she didn’t have to share her mother with her stepfather and stepbrother. Back when she wasn’t forced to live in a musty, decomposing house. Back when she had a life in the city with her friends. As Hadley whiles away what’s left of her summer, exploring the nearby woods and splitting her time between her strange, bug-obsessed neighbor Gabe and the nice old lady that lives above the garage, she begins to notice the house isn’t just old and creaky. It’s full of secrets, just like appearance of a mysterious dollhouse and the family of perfect dolls she finds. Oh, how she wishes her family were more like those lovely dolls! Then one day, Hadley discovers a lone glass eye rolling around the floor of the attic. Holding it close one night, she makes a wish that just might change her world forever. The Doll’s Eye bears Marina Cohen’s trademark eerie style and beautiful writing.

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