Grief: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about grief?

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

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.

When it comes to children’s stories about grief, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like No Matter what 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 grief 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.

Where the Red Fern Grows book
#1
Where the Red Fern Grows
Written by Wilson Rawls
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
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.

“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
#2
Ida, Always
Written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Mr. Staccato

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 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.

Wherever You Are book
#3
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.

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.

Something Very Sad Happened book
#5
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.

  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. The Memory Box - 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.

  4. Always Remember - 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.

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.”

The Goodbye Book book
#11
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.

One Wave at a Time book
#12
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
#13
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.

I Miss You book
#14
I Miss You
Written by Pat Thomas and 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.

  1. 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.

  2. Grandpa's Stories - 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Old Yeller - 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.

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.

Goodbye to Goldie book
#20
Goodbye to Goldie
Written by Fran Manushkin and 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.

The Rough Patch book
#21
The Rough Patch
Written and illustrated by Brian Lies
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Hope for Haiti book
#22
Hope for Haiti
Written and 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.

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden book
#23
The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden
Written by Heather Smith and 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.

    Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!