Children’s books about death

Children facing the death of a loved one or even a beloved pet may have trouble facing the difficult range of emotions and responses. Reading stories can help kids imagine others going through the grieving process and let them know that they are not alone. The following is a list of recommended titles for younger children.

Always and Forever by Alan Durant, Illustrated by Debi Gliori
Published by U.S. edition: Harcourt, 2004; 24 pages, ISBN: 0-15-216636-X
Ages 3 – 6

Otter, Mole, Fox and Hare live happily together, each responsible for some aspect of the work that families share. Then Fox becomes ill and dies. Otter, Mole and Hare are steeped in sadness. “Fox’s family missed him so much. They felt lost without him.” They grieve throughout the winter. In spring, when Squirrel comes to visit, she tries to comfort them without success, until she begins to remember the funny things she doesn’t miss about Fox—like his awful cooking and his disastrous attempts to fix things. Alan Durant acknowledges the importance of time, laughter, and above all, memories, in a picture book about death—and life, and love–for young children. (Ages 3-6) © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, used with permission.

I Miss You: a first look at death by Pat Thomas, illustrated by Lesley Harker.
Published by Barron’s, 2000; 27 pages; ISBN: 978-0-7641-1764-0

The simple book written by a counselor explores the issue of death for young children. It discusses in a matter-of-fact way why people die, the rituals of funerals and other memorial services, different cultural beliefs about what happens after a person dies, and the range of emotions children may go through as they grieve their loved one. Also includes a one-page guide for adults with ideas for helping children grieve in a healthy and natural way.

The Old Dog by Charlotte Zolotow, Illustrated by James Ransome
Published by HarperCollins, 1995; 32 pages; ISBN: 0-06-024409-7
Ages 3 – 8

When Ben awakens one morning and finds that his dog doesn’t respond with the usual tail wagging when he pets her, he calls his father from the breakfast table. “She’s dead,” his father tells him. All day long Ben thinks of his dog and the the things they used to do together. Charlotte Zolotow’s outstanding text explains and comforts simultaneously while James Ransome’s detailed oil paintings aptly show the sadness of a young African-American boy grieving the death of a beloved pet. Revised and newly illustrated. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, used with permission.

Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker, Illustrated by Janet Wilson
Published by Kids Can Press, 2002; 32 pages; ISBN: 1-55074-957-9
Ages 4 – 8

A young boy describes the final day of his dog’s life, a day his family has proclaimed Jasper’s Day. Their aging, beloved pet has cancer, and they have decided to end his suffering. But first, they spend a day doing many of the things Jasper has loved over the years. Then the boy and his mother wait at home while their father takes Jasper to the vet. When he returns, the family buries Jasper in their yard. “Today was the hardest day of my life,” the boy says. “But I’m glad we celebrated Jaspers Day. Because it was a good day, too.” Marjorie Blain Parker’s sensitive, realistic story about the illness and death of a pet addresses the topic with emotional honesty. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, used with permission.

Goodbye Mousie by Robie H. Harris, Illustrated by Jan Ormerod
Published by Margaret K. McElderry, 2001; 24 pages; ISBN: 0-689-83217-6
Ages 3 – 6

“When I woke up this morning, I tickled Mousie’s tummy. But Mousie didn’t wake up.” A small boy’s reaction to his pet mouse’s death is handled with great sensitivity by his parents and with great skill by author Robie Harris. “I have something very sad to tell you,” the boy’s father says with his arm around the child. “Mouse is . . . dead.” In this important and comforting story, the child expresses his anger, and then grief, with tears. But he also has other outlets as he prepares a box in which to bury Mousie, putting in some of his pet’s favorite things, and then goes through the ritual of a burial. His confusion and fear about death are also touched upon. “Dead,” says Daddy, “is very different from sleeping.” Harris’s text is an exemplary treatment of a difficult subject for children and adults alike. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, used with permission.

A Place in my heart by Annette Aubrey, Illustrated by Patrice Barton
Published by QEB Pub., 2007; 24 pages; ISBN: 1-595-66392-4

Andrew is sad after the death of his grandfather. Rhyming text explores the feeling of sadness and loss when a loved one dies.

Marianne’s Grandmother by Bettina Egger, Illustrated by Sita Jucker; Translated by Christopher Franceschelli from German
Published by E.P. Dutton, 1987; 24 pages; ISBN: 0-525-44335-5
Ages 4-7

At first, Marianne remembers only her grandmother’s death and funeral. As she recalls details of their experiences together, she finds that actively remembering helps her to overcome her grief. Beautiful watercolor paintings convey some of Marianne’s memories. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, used with permission.