9 Children's Books That Tackle Death and Grief

Death is a hard topic for people to talk about, and it's even more difficult to broach the subject with children. Unfortunately, many kids will have to deal with the loss of a loved one before they are mature enough to truly understand it. The books on this list can help you and your children discuss concepts like death, grief, and healing. When you click links from this website, we may receive advertising revenue to support our research. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

9 Children's Books That Tackle Death and Grief

Title Author(s) More by the Author
1. One Wave at a Time Holly Thompson & Ashley Crowley Orchards Twilight Chant
2. The Thing About Jellyfish Ali Benjamin Positive The Cleaner Plate Club
3. Good Dog Dan Gemeinhart Scar Island The Honest Truth
4. The Secret Hum of a Daisy Tracy Holczer Everything Else in the Universe
5. Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry Susan Vaught Trigger Freaks Like Us
6. Mayday Karen Harrington Courage for Beginners Sure Signs of Crazy
7. Confusion Is Nothing New Paul Acampora How to Avoid Extinction I Kill the Mockingbird
8. Umbrella Summer Lisa Graff Absolutely Almost A Tangle of Knots
9. When the Butterflies Came Kimberley Griffiths Little Forbidden The Last Snake Runner

Helpful Resources for Parents Dealing With Death

Sometimes all a kid needs to get back on their feet is a hug and a reassuring smile. But some emotional scars are deeper than others. If you need professional help, or are looking to join a support group, these organizations are a great place to start:

  1. InfoAboutKids.com: Tools for healthy child & family development
  2. National Alliance for Grieving Children: A nonprofit that offers networking, information, and support
  3. The Dougy Center: A safe place for grieving families to share their experiences
  4. Our House: A grief support center for children, teens, and adults
  5. Foundation for Grieving Children: Assistance, counsel, comfort, and education for children and families

Movies That Can Help Children Understand Grief

Not all kids like to read, so sometimes a more visual medium can help. Here are a few films that can be useful after the death of a loved one:

Title Year Target Audience Age
Finding Nemo 2003 4 & up
Up 2009 4 & up
My Girl 1991 8-12
Fly Away Home 1996 8-12
Hugo 2011 12 & up

How To Talk to Kids About Death

More Lists of Children's Books

  1. 11 Exciting Books To Read With Your Kids
  2. 9 Wonderful LGBT Books for Kids & Teens
  3. 9 Children's Picture Books About Adorable Animals
  4. 10 Exciting Books For Children And Preteens
  5. Best Augmented Reality Books For Kids

In Depth

Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when you're young. It's normal for children in mourning to feel lonely, shocked, angry, or anxious, and it's up to the adults in their life to keep them from getting too overwhelmed. Whether your child recently lost a grandparent, or you want to prepare them for the inevitable ahead of time, books that tackle these issues head-on can be a helpful tool. In no particular order, here are nine works that discuss this difficult subject in a kid-friendly way.

#1. "One Wave at a Time: A Story about Grief and Healing" by Holly Thompson. Following his dad's death, Kai struggles with sadness and fear. As he and his family deal with the absence of their father, they eventually cope and heal, thanks to the support of friends and relatives. Difficult moments are well-represented, making this work a handy guide to approaching the healing process after a loved one's passing.

#2. "The Thing about Jellyfish" by Ali Benjamin. A 2015 National Book Award finalist, the author's debut novel strongly appeals to middle-schoolers and beyond. Deftly capturing the triumphs and struggles of early adolescence, the story follows Suzy, who believes that her best friend did not die of drowning, but was actually stung by a rare jellyfish. Wrapped up in the authentic and moving first-person perspective, readers will be captivated by Suzy's heartfelt journey as she explores life, death, and the challenges of handling complex emotions.

Deftly capturing the triumphs and struggles of early adolescence, the story follows Suzy, who believes that her best friend did not die of drowning, but was actually stung by a rare jellyfish.

#3. "Good Dog" by Dan Gemeinhart. The acclaimed author's wonderfully written novel revolves around Brodie, a dog who can't move on to the afterlife until he knows his beloved owner is safe. Readers will easily love and sympathize with this loyal pooch as the heart-wrenching tale is told through his perspective. Brodie knows that he's taking a big risk by breaking the rules of heaven, but he's willing to do whatever it takes to save his best friend.

#4. "The Secret Hum of a Daisy" by Tracy Holczer. After her mom's death, Grace is left to live with a grandmother she has never met. As she tries to deal with her new situation, she begins to find clues in an unusual treasure hunt, which reveals astonishing discoveries about her loved ones and, more importantly, about herself.

#5. "Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry" by Susan Vaught. Dani's Grandma Beans has Alzheimer's and gives her a secret key and envelope. While it doesn't make sense at first, Dani begins to realize these could all be related to the race riots in the 1960s and the family mysteries that surround them. The author manages to discuss intense political and historical injustices in a way that kids can understand, and masterfully cuts between the interconnected worlds of past and present.

Dani's Grandma Beans has Alzheimer's and gives her a secret key and envelope.

#6. "Mayday" by Karen Harrington. Led by a lovable young protagonist, this heartwarming story is centered on Wayne's struggles with a perplexing world. After his beloved uncle dies, Wayne and his mother survive a horrifying plane crash. Faced with an array of difficulties, he has to find ways of coping with an emotionally abusive father, an intimidating grandfather, and a breakup with his dearly loved girlfriend.

#7. "Confusion Is Nothing New" by Paul Acampora. In this satisfying tale of loss and learning, Ellie Magari finds out that her mother has passed away. She had never met her mom and now her hopes of seeking her out have been lost forever. Left with nothing but a box filled with 80's music, Ellie tries to learn about this woman and why she left her all those years ago.

#8. "Umbrella Summer" by Lisa Graff. From the start of this radiant story, readers will instantly feel for Annie, whose brother Jared recently died of a heart condition. Now, the young girl has become preoccupied with keeping herself safe to cope with her sorrow. She feels that wearing a bike helmet while riding a car or reading medical books all the time will protect her from harm.

Now, the young girl has become preoccupied with keeping herself safe to cope with her sorrow.

No matter how much she tries to distract herself, Annie is still dismayed by the fact that Jared will no longer be celebrating birthdays with the family. But over time, with the help of her loving support system, she manages to re-discover happiness.

#9. "When the Butterflies Came" by Kimberley Griffiths Little. This magical story of love, family, and faith is told through twelve-year-old Tara's perspective as she struggles with her grandmother's death. Following this devastating loss, her mother abandons her. During Grandma Claire's funeral, Tara sees mysterious butterflies fluttering around while a peculiar man takes her and her sister back to their grandmother's house.