Dealing with grief, loss, & bereavement--books for children

A selection of fiction and nonfiction picture books about understanding and coping with loss, grief, and bereavement.

Updated November 11, 2022
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1

Pumpkin and me
Acosta, Alicia
When Pumpkin, my dog, died, everyone at home was sad. The next day, a dark cloud began to follow me around and it felt like I had soap in my eyes and an octopus wrapped tightly around my heart... Written by the renowned child author and psychologist, Alicia Acosta, this uplifting, beautifully...

2

Where do they go?
Alvarez, Julia
Bestselling novelist (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents) and children's (The Tia Lola Stories) author Julia Alvarez's new picture book is a beautifully crafted poem for children that gently addresses the emotional side of death. The book asks, "When somebody dies, where do they go? / Do they...

3

Where Do They Go
Alvarez, Julia.
Bestselling novelist (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents) and children's (The Tia Lola Stories) author Julia Alvarez's new picture book is a beautifully crafted poem for children that gently addresses the emotional side of death. The book asks, "When somebody dies, where do they go? / Do they...

4

Barcos para PapáBoats for Papa
Bagley, Jessixa
Buckley y su mamá viven en una casita cerca del mar. Cada vez que hay un día especial, Buckley construye un barco de madera para su papá. Mamá prepara un picnic y juntos van a comer a la playa. Después de comer, Buckley pone el barco en el agua con una nota que dice "para papá, con cariño", con la...

5

Boats for Papa
Bagley, Jessixa
Buckley and his Mama live in a cozy cabin by the ocean. He loves to carve boats out of the driftwood he finds on the beach nearby. He makes: big boats long boats short boats and tall boats, each one more beautiful than the last, and sends them out...

6

What happened to daddy's body? : explaining what happens after death in words very young children can understand
Barber, Elke
My daddy died when I was (one...two...) three years old. Today we are out in the garden. It always makes me think about my daddy because he LOVED his garden. Sometimes, I wonder what happened to my daddy's body... This picture book aims to help children aged 3+ to understand what...

7

Grandma's gloves
Castellucci, Cecil
From a debut illustrator comes a story about a child who loses a beloved grandparent finds comfort in carrying on the activities they shared in this sweet, genuine look at a universal rite of passage.  Grandma is always on her knees in the dirt, with her gardening gloves on,...

8

Missing mommy
Cobb, Rebecca.
Some time ago, we said good-bye to Mommy. I am not sure where she has gone. Honest and straightforward, this touching story explores the many emotions a bereaved child may experience, from anger and guilt to sadness and bewilderment. Ultimately, Missing Mommy focuses on the...

9

Grandpa's stories
Coelho, Joseph
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...

10

Grief is like a snowflake
Cook, Julia
Grief is like a snowflake. Each snowflake is different and everyone shows grief differently. After the death of his father, Little Tree begins to learn how to cope with his feelings and start the healing process. With the help and support of his family and friends, Little Tree...

11

The pond
Davies, Nicola
A touching picture book for children about a young boy and his family overcoming the loss of his father. This colorful, emotional book is filled with natural imagery, centering on a small pond in the garden, and will teach children not only about death and loss, but the importance of the...

12

When sadness is at your door
Eland, Eva
A comforting primer in emotional literacy and mindfulness that suggests we approach the feeling of sadness as if it is our guest. Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who...

13

You yi ge peng you jiao bei shang /
Eland, Eva,
Simplified Chinese edition of When Sadness is at Your Door

14

When Sadness is at Your Door
Eland, Eva.
A comforting primer in emotional literacy and mindfulness that suggests we approach the feeling of sadness as if it is our guest. Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who...

15

A stopwatch from Grampa
Garbutt, Loretta
A child inherits a treasured stopwatch that belonged to a beloved grandparent in this touching story of loss that explores the stages of grief with sensitivity and wisdom. "When summer started, I got Grampa's stopwatch," a small child says. "I don't want his stopwatch. I want him." Grampa...

16

What to do when I am sad
Geisler, Dagmar
Have you ever been sad? We can be sad for many reasons. Maybe it's raining and you want to play outside. Maybe a friend moved away, or you're sick on your birthday.  Everyone feels sadness in different ways. You might feel like crying all the time, or you may be...

17

Death is stupid
Higginbotham, Anastasia
'She's in a better place now,' adults say again and again when someone dies. But it doesn't seem better, it seems stupid. This forthright exploration of grief and mourning recognises the anger, confusion and fear that we feel about death - but refuses to succumb to banalaties when talking about it....

18

Dance like a leaf
Irving, A. J.
"This beautifully balanced picturebook's rich colours dance alongside its intricately clear-eyed narrative, sensitive but never sentimental.... Certain to become a classic" - Inis magazine, Children's Books Ireland As her grandmother's health declines, a young girl begins to...

19

A last goodbye
Kelsey, Elin.
How do we say goodbye to a loved one after they die? This book broaches a difficult topic in a heartfelt way by exploring the beauty in how animals mourn. From elephants to whales, parrots to bonobos, and lemurs to humans, we all have rituals to commemorate our loved ones and to lift each other up...

20

Ida, always
Levis, Caron.
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...

21

The end of something wonderful : a practical guide to a backyard funeral
Lucianovic, Stephanie V. W.
With gentle humor and quirkiness, this sympathetic book demonstrates how to say goodbye to a beloved pet and give it a proper sendoff. "[The End of Something Wonderful is] really good. It's funny and sardonic and it gets to be touching at the end."...

22

My father's arms are a boat
Lunde, Stein Erik
In this quiet, sad, but ultimately incandescent picture book, we meet a gentle, steady father who calms his anxious son. It's quieter than it's ever been. Unable to sleep, a young boy climbs into his father's arms. Feeling the warmth and closeness of his father, he begins to ask questions...

23

When grandfather flew
MacLachlan, Patricia
A grieving boy remembers his grandfather and the hobby they shared, in this moving evocation of love and loss by a Newbery Medalist. Milo's grandfather is fascinated by birds. He admires their freedom and never loses an opportunity to point out the things that make each one...

24

Gentle Willow : a story for children about dying
Mills, Joyce C.
Written for children who may not survive their illness or for the children who know them, the second edition of this tender and touching tale helps address feelings of disbelief, anger, and sadness, along with love and compassion.

25

The goodbye book
Parr, Todd
From New York Times bestselling author Todd Parr comes this poignant and reassuring story about loss.  With his colorful illustrations, playful humor, and inclusive storytelling, beloved author Todd Parr has long been a favorite among young readers and...

26

Mom's sweater
Perkin, Jayde
What does it look like to live on, even when Mom is gone? In this grounded, sensitive story, a young girl looks for ways of dealing with the anger, loneliness, and jealousy that death can create. Finding comfort in her mother's old sweater, she discovers that grief doesn't necessarily grow...

27

Holes in the sky
Polacco, Patricia
Miss Eula is back! In this heartwarming companion to Chicken Sunday, young Trisha is devastated when her grandmother passes away, but finds joy in bonds with a new friend, her new California neighborhood-and the invincible Miss Eula. There will never be anyone like her...

28

Do fish sleep?
Raschke, Jens
Some people die when they're very old, and some in single digits. Only one thing's for certain: none of us escape it. A fact and absurdity not lost on this winning ten-year-old. Sick since even before Jette can remember, her brother Emil now has died. The...

29

Cry, heart, but never break
Ringtved, Glenn
A poetic picture book about being able to say goodbye to those we love, while holding them in memory. Winner of the 2016 Mildred L. Batchelder Award A Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of 2017 A Choosing Therapy...

30

What happens when a loved one dies? : our first talk about death
Roberts, Jillian
Whether children are experiencing grief and loss for the first time or simply curious, it can be difficult to know how to talk to them about death. Using questions posed in a child's voice and answers that start simply and become more in-depth, this book allows adults to guide the...

Also available as an ebook through OverDrive (Libby)

31

Michael Rosen's sad book
Rosen, Michael
With unmitigated honesty and a touch of humor, Michael Rosen explores the experience of sadness in a way that resonates with us all (all ages).Sometimes I'm sad and I don't know why. It's just a cloud that comes along and covers me up.Sad things happen to everyone, and sometimes people feel sad for...

32

A kids book about death
Schuelke, Taryn
This book dives right into the topic that most adults prefer to avoid talking or even thinking about: death. It explains the practical aspects and gracefully navigates the nuances of emotion and community that surrounds something we all experience.

33

Dadaji's paintbrush /
Sirdeshpande, Rashmi,
BEST OF THE YEAR Chicago Public Library · School Library Journal · Five Books Carnegie Medal Finalist Once, in a tiny village in India, there was a young boy who loved to paint. He lived with his grandfather, who...

34

The memory tree
Teckentrup, Britta
A beautiful and heartfelt picture book to help children celebrate the memories left behind when a loved one dies. Fox has lived a long and happy life in the forest, but now he is tired. He lies down in his favourite clearing, and falls asleep for ever. Before long, Fox's...

35

I miss you : a first look at death
Thomas, Pat
When a close friend or family member dies, it can be sad for kids and difficult for them to express the big feelings they are experiencing. This book will help explain in a gentle way that death is a natural complement to life and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings to have...

36

Lost in the clouds
Tinn-Disbury, Tom
Children find grief difficult and understanding where a loved one has gone, can be a tricky topic to explain... Billy misses his mummy very much. She lives in the clouds. Some days the sun is shining and Mummy's clouds are nowhere to be seen. Those are Billy's favourite days. He...

37

Something very sad happened : a toddler's guide to understanding death
Zucker, Bonnie
Something Very Sad Happened is intended to be read to two- and three-year-old children to help them understand death and process the loss of a loved one. When a loved one dies, it can be hard to know how to explain it to a young child, particularly if you are...

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