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Grief: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best kids 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, 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 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!

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Top 10 Books About Grief

#1
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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.”

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#2
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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.

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#3
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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.

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#4
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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.

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#5
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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.

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$16.80
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#6
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The Rough Patch
Written & 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.

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#7
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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.

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#8
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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.

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#9
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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.

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#10
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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.

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Table of Contents
Scroll to books about Grief and...

Books About Grief and Bereavement

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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.”

Buy book
$16.99
Bookshop
$14.44
Amazon
$13.99
Used $3.65
Prices as of Jan 23
Add to list
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.

Buy book
$7.99
Bookshop
$6.79
Amazon
$6.71
Used $0.25
Prices as of Jan 23
Add to list
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.

Buy book
$16.99
Bookshop
$14.44
Amazon
$16.99
Used $16.99
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Honorable Mentions
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  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. Mayday - 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.

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

  4. I'll Always Love You - 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.”

Books About Grief and Loss

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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.

Buy book
$16.99
Bookshop
$14.44
Amazon
$16.99
Used $16.99
Prices as of Jan 23
Add to list
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.

Buy book
$18.99
Bookshop
$16.14
Amazon
$14.19
Used $8.10
Prices as of Jan 23
Add to list
The Goodbye Book
Written & 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.

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Honorable Mentions
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  1. Dance Like a Leaf - As her grandmother’s health declines, a young girl begins to lovingly take the lead in their cozy shared autumn traditions. Poetic prose paired with evocative illustrations by Mexican illustrator Claudia Navarro make for a beautiful celebration of life and a gentle introduction to the death of a loved one.

  2. Maybe Tomorrow? - A heartwarming story about loss, healing, and how to be a friend during hard times.

  3. Line Tender - Funny, poignant, and deeply moving, The Line Tender is a story of nature's enduring mystery and a girl determined to find meaning and connection within it.

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

Want to see books about loss?

Books About Grief and Dogs

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The Rough Patch
Written & 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.

Buy book
$17.99
Bookshop
$15.29
Amazon
$9.99
Used $4.41
Prices as of Jan 23
Add to list
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.

Buy book
$17.99
Bookshop
$15.29
Amazon
$17.99
Used $17.99
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Add to list
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”–

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  1. A Home for Goddesses and Dogs - 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.

  2. Every Missing Piece - A stunning voice-driven novel about grief, family, and putting the pieces back together for "fans of Rebecca Stead and Erin Entrada Kelly" (BCCB) and "readers who enjoyed The Thing About Jellyfish (Booklist).

  3. City Dog, Country Frog -
    In spring, when City Dog runs free in the country for the first time, he spots Country Frog sitting on a rock, waiting for a friend. “You’ll do,” Frog says, and together they play Country Frog games. In summer, they meet again and play City Dog games. Through the seasons, whenever City Dog visits the country he runs straight for Country Frog’s rock. In winter, things change for City Dog and Country Frog. Come spring, friendship blooms again, a little different this time. <p/>Mo Willems’ spare, poignant text and Jon J. Muth’s expressive watercolors team up to tell a story that will resonate with readers of all ages.

  4. Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business - Fresh Off the Boat meets Junie B. Jones in this first novel in an adorable new chapter book series about Mindy Kim, a young Asian American girl who is starting a snack business!

Want to see books about dogs?

Books About Grief and Feelings And Emotions

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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.

Buy book
$17.99
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$15.29
Amazon
$16.80
Used $3.50
Prices as of Jan 23
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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.

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My Big, Dumb, Invisible Dragon
Written by Angie Lucas & illustrated by Birgitta Sif
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When a young boy loses his mother, an invisible dragon swoops in and perches on top of his head. A most unwelcome guest, the dragon follows him to school, sleeps on his chest at night (making it hard for him to breathe), and even crashes his birthday party. As the boy comes to terms with his mother's death, however, his relationship with the dragon changes in surprising ways.

My Big, Dumb, Invisible Dragon is a story for children dealing with loss, particularly the death of a parent. Although grief is a heavy topic, Angie Lucas and Birgitta Sif handle it deftly for children, using the metaphor of the dragon, a light tone, and touches of humor. The book shows that healing takes time and that it's OK to experience a wide range of emotions as you process a really big loss.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. The Thing About Jellyfish - 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.

  4. Goodbye to Goldie - 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.

Books About Grief and Parents

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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.

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The Boy and the Gorilla
Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer & illustrated by Cindy Derby
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
This profoundly moving tale about a grieving boy and an imaginary gorilla makes real the power of talking about loss.
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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.

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  1. Upside-Down Cake - A young boy recounts the past year of his family’s life in this carefully crafted and sensitively illustrated chapter book. Soon after the narrator’s ninth birthday and his dad’s fortieth birthday, celebrated together with a deliciously gooey pineapple upside-down cake, Dad becomes sick. Before long it’s obvious he won’t be getting better. As his father grows weaker, the narrator struggles with anger, guilt, fear, and grief-emotions that intensify when his father finally passes away. Ultimately the narrator realizes that all his feelings are normal. What’s more, it’s okay to be happy, even to celebrate his next birthday with another upside-down cake. Basing the story on the experiences of her own family, Carol Carrick has written a moving and restorative book for any child who must confront loss.

  2. Hope in the Holler - *

  3. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe - Winner of the Pura Belpré Award

  4. Many Worlds of Albie Bright - Fun science meets humor and heart in this adventure about a boy who is searching for his mother . . . in a parallel universe.

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Books About Grief and Friendship

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Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Sometimes a story comes along that just plain makes you want to hug the world. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is Dan Gemeinhart's finest book yet -- and that's saying something. Your heart needs this joyful miracle of a book. --Katherine Applegate, acclaimed author of The One and Only Ivan and Wishtree

A 2020 ILA Teachers' Choice
A 2019 Parents' Choice Award Gold Medal Winner
Winner of the 2019 CYBILS Award for Middle Grade Fiction
An Amazon Top 20 Children's Book of 2019

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Five years.

That's how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.

It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.

Coyote hasn't been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished--the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box--she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days...without him realizing it.

Along the way, they'll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there's Gladys...

Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all...but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her "once upon a time" into a "happily ever after."

This title has common core connections.

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King and the Dragonflies
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
In a small but turbulent Louisiana town, one boy's grief takes him beyond the bayous of his backyard, to learn that there is no right way to be yourself.
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The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole
Written by Michelle Cuevas
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

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.

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  1. 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

  2. Summerlost - The first middle grade novel from internationally bestselling author Ally Condie comes to paperback.

  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. Another Kind of Hurricane - The world, itself, seems to bring together Henry, whose best friend died near their home in the mountains of Vermont, and Zavion, who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina, so that the boys can help each other heal.

Books About Grief and Family Life

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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.

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The Miraculous
Written by Jess Redman
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

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.

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My Jasper June
Written by Laurel Snyder
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

"This book is a treasure--a touching story of friendship, loss, and finding beauty in the everyday, with characters who stay with you long after you've turned the final page. I absolutely loved it."--R. J. Palacio, New York Times bestselling author of Wonder

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  1. 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.

  2. Chasing Redbird - Zinnia Taylor has looked at those words, embroidered on a sampler hanging in her aunt Jessie’s kitchen, for as long as she can remember. In her 13 years Zinny has rummaged through the spaghetti of her life, hoping for a meatball, but often finding lumps of mud instead.<P>Zinny lives in Bybanks, Kentuckey, with too many brothers and sisters – a mess of “tadpoles” and “pumpkins” is what her uncle Nate calls them. When Zinny discovers a mysterious, overgrown trail that begins on her family’s farm, she’s determined to clear it, from start to finish. She’s finally found a place of her own, a place where she can go, away from her family, to hear herself think. But what Zinny didn’t realize is that the mysteries of the trail are intertwined with her own spaghetti of unanswered questions and family secrets, and that the trail – and her passion to uncover – is leading her on a journey home.<P>Newberry Medal winnner Sharon Creech’s new novel is a powerful, beautifully crafted story about a young girl discovering that life is a tangle of mysteries, surprises and everyday occurences – a journey that often needs unravelling and that sometimes must be traveled alone.

  3. After the Worst Thing Happens - Left reeling after her thoughtless mistake causes a terrible accident, 12-year-old Army Morand channels her grief to help someone in need. Army Morand feels like her life has been blown to bits when the worst thing imaginable happens–her beloved dog dies. It was an accident, but it was also Army’s fault. She can’t seem to stop hiding from everything and everybody including her best friend JennaLouise. But then Army sees Madison, the little girl who moved in across the way, climbing a tree and walking down the street unsupervised. Her family is not neglectful, just overwhelmed. Army finds herself overcome with the need to help Madison’s family to make sure another worst thing doesn’t happen–which becomes even more challenging when a big storm threatens her town. After the Worst Thing Happens is a bittersweet story about a girl surprised by the force of a growing need inside her to reach out and lend a hand while trying to escape the swirling sadness of her own sudden loss. In the end, it is about finding love and hope and friendship in very surprising places.

  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 Grief and Culture

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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.

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A Map Into the World
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

Filled with wonder and sorrow and happiness.
--Alison McGhee, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Someday
A heartfelt story of a young girl seeking beauty and connection in a busy world.

As the seasons change, so too does a young Hmong girl's world. She moves into a new home with her family and encounters both birth and death. As this curious girl explores life inside her house and beyond, she collects bits of the natural world. But who are her treasures for?
A moving picture book debut from acclaimed Hmong American author Kao Kalia Yang.

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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.

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  1. Boy in the Black Suit - A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book. <p/>Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more–and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down–in this “vivid, satisfying, and ultimately upbeat tale of grief, redemption, and grace” (<i>Kirkus Reviews</i>) from the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award-winning author of <i>When I Was the Greatest</i>. <p/>Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died–although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. Crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy stuff than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness–and who can maybe even help take it away.

  2. The Rock Maiden - When her fisherman husband fails to come home after a storm at sea, the beautiful maiden Ling Yee is heartbroken. Every morning, she puts her baby on her back and clambers to the top of a cliff looking for any signs of his return. But day after day, she is disappointed. The villagers try to convince her to give up her vigil. “No,” she would say, “He will come home soon.” Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Heavens, takes pity on her grief and turns Ling Yee and her child into stone so that they would mourn no more. The fisherman eventually finds his way home―only to discover that his wife has been transformed into the Rock Maiden. Will the family forever be kept apart? Or will devotion and faithfulness ultimately be rewarded? Find out in this re-envisioning of an old Hong Kong legend by award-winning author Natasha Yim, featuring stunning illustrations by renowned Finnish artist Pirkko Vainio.

  3. Three Lucys - A young Lebanese boy must learn to cope with loss and hope for a peaceful future after losing one of his beloved cats when his village comes under attack.

  4. Millions - Two brothers, Damian and Anthony Cunningham, discover a huge sum of cash, and must decide how, or even if, to spend it, all while the bank robbers who actually stole the money pursue them.

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Books About Grief and Social Themes

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A Stone for Sascha
Written & illustrated by Aaron Becker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

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.

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Sweet, Sweet Memory
Written by Jacqueline Woodson & illustrated by Floyd Cooper
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

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.

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All the Dear Little Animals
Written by Ulf Nilsson & illustrated by Eva Eriksson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

One summer's day we started a business called Funerals Ltd., to help all the poor dead animals in the world. Esther did the digging, I wrote the poems, and Esther's little brother, Puttie, cried.

Early readers will love the dry humor and wonderfully rounded story of All the Dear Little Animals. Nilsson perfectly captures the child's perspective, balancing compassion and humor. This is a very funny story about a topic that touches all of us.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Messy Life of Blue - "Readers will laugh out loud, cry, and commiserate with her every step of the way....The protagonist is a feisty, mixed-up, phenomenal delight." Kirkus Reviews

  4. 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.

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