Over the years, one of the hardest and most important things families with children have asked me is for picture books on grief and death when the time arises to have a conversation with a child they love. I have a few treasured ones, but this summer I worked with a local library to update my little library with children’s books on grief and death. I wanted to share with you my recommendations and also offer that if you ever need to borrow these books, they are up for loan… and of course, they are also at your local library too.
By Judith Viorst and Illustrated by Erik Blegvad
This is a sweet story about a cat named Barney who died and the boy owner wants to host a funeral for the cat. His mother suggests finding ten good things about Barney, but the boy can only think of nine and throughout the book searches for the tenth good thing. It is a lovely book about pet loss and finding a way to grieve and honor a loved one after death.
By Dr. Jillian Roberts and Illustrated by Cindy Revell
The back describes this book as “a gentle introduction to the concept of death.” I like this one as it has questions to explore and straightforward answers that are age appropriate. I think this book is helpful on all shelves before a loved one dies, an introduction to the concept of death before a child experiences it. Many pediatricians and child psychologists are saying since the pandemic, many children have an increased awareness of death and lots of questions, this book would be great for these wonderings.
By Audrey Penn and Illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson
This is the same author and raccoon from the beloved children’s book “The Kissing Hand” that many families have loved as a book to help kids start a new school. I love taking a familiar character and seeing how Chester the raccoon and his mom handle another important moment in his life. In this book, Chester loses his friend squirrel from school to an accident. So this book is obviously heavier than the loss of a pet, as it moves into the loss of a friend. But similar to “The Tenth Good Thing About Barney,” Chester spends the book looking to honor the loss of his friend through memories.
By Bonnie Zucker and Illustrated by Kim Fleming
This might be one of the few books I have ever seen that handles death in an age-appropriate way for 2 and 3-year-olds. The book describes the death of a grandmother, but the word grandma is in red so you could sub out that word with the loved one you are addressing like aunt betty and rover. At the end of the book, there is a great section for parents and caregivers about walking with our children in death and grief.
By Todd Parr
Another amazing book by a celebrated children’s author of more than 40 books. In this one, he goes through what you might feel when you have to say goodbye to someone. It is a sweet and hopeful book about a hard and sad topic.
By Fred Rogers and Photographs by Jim Judkis
This book might be published in 1988, but it still holds so many treasured, applicable, social-emotional teachings from Mr. Rogers. It walks you through the love and grief over pet loss. This is a great book, but very specific to pet loss.
By Amanda Rawson Hill and Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
This book invites us to feel and remember those we lost even when they aren’t physically with us anymore. This book offers ways to remember and honor those we love in the everyday of life, whether it is friends, family, or pet loss.
By Matt James
What I love about this book is it describes how children will be at a funeral. This book might be more for adults than even kids haha. Norma is attending her uncle’s funeral and gets to see her favorite cousin. The book shows how kids will beautifully be kids even at funerals, playing, laughing, wondering, and grieving. It shows how Norma experiences the unknowns of her first funeral. This book invites more wondering than it does answer questions, which is lovely.
Today I thank God for the gift of a good picture book to help us of all ages grapple with the hardest things in life. Amen.
-Written by Brittany Porch
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