Recommended Books About Death and Grief for Children

18 12 2012

Stories can help children cope with trauma and understand their feelings about death. Here is a list of titles parents might find useful as they help their children process the recent tragedy in Newtown, CT. If there is a book you would like to recommend, kindly let us know about it in the Comments section.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (2010) 4 and up

A little girl delights in the boundless discoveries of the world around her with an older gentleman, likely her grandfather. But then the man’s chair is empty, and the girl puts her heart in a bottle to help with the hurt.

Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert (2005) 3 and up

A lovely book that gives a grieving heart permission to process it in its own way.

Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children by Doris Stickney (2010) 4 and up

This book explains the death of a five-year-old friend to neighborhood children through a graceful fable about a water bug that changed into a dragonfly.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages by Leo Buscaglia (1982) 4 and up

“A classic. As Freddie experiences the changing seasons along with his companion leaves, he learns that death is part of life.” —School Library Journal

I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas (2001) 4 and up

This book helps children understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death.

Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley (1992) 4 and up

Badger’s friends are sad when he dies but treasure the memories he left them. “The gentle message holds particular validity for children and is conveyed in a tenderhearted manner,” said Booklist.

A Terrible Thing Happened: A Story for Children Who Have Witnessed Violence or Trauma by Margaret M. Holmes (2000) 4 and up

This book helps children who have experienced trauma understand their conscious and subconscious.

Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker (2004) 5 and up

In this book, a family celebrates their beloved dog’s last day. It’s a book about acceptance, remembrance and the importance of cherishing life’s every moment.

Why Did You Die?: Activities to Help Children Cope with Grief and Loss by Ellen Goldring (2008) 6 and up

This bereavement book contains simple, effective activities to help children and parents communicate about death and the grieving process.

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen (2005) 6-15 years

In his highly personal narrative, sensitively illustrated by Quentin Blake, Rosen shares how he felt after the death of his son, Eddie.

Bird by Zetta Elliott (2008) 8-12 years

Mehkai, nicknamed Bird, is dealing with the deaths of both his drug-addicted older brother and his grandfather. He finds solace listening to his Uncle Son who tells him a story about their African American ancestors flying to freedom, and thinking about his brother and grandfather “high above the clouds, where everything is calm and still.”

A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith (2004) 8 and up

A boy must learn to live not only with the loss of a friend, but with the feeling that he could have prevented it

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (1987) 12 and up

This is a story about a fourteen-year-old girl whose father is shot in a store robbery. It describes the attempt by her, the mother, and the younger brother to cope with the loss in the course of a year.

Sources: Barr Harris Children’s Grief Center and the Association for Library Service to Children




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