Books & Beyond

When Death Happens

By Anna B.
August 12, 2021

Childhood is often full of joy and exploration, curiosity and questioning. But in addition to wonderful first experiences, children also have their first encounters with less positively-associated subjects, including death. While no book is a substitute for gentle conversations and listening to your child, these titles seek to provide some structure and support for navigating the challenges of a subject often ignored.

If you have a recent title to recommend for this list, we’d love to hear from you.

First Conversations

Goodbye Bookwritten and illustrated by Todd Parr
Illustrations and brief text relate how a person might feel when they lose someone they love.

A Last Goodbye / written by Elin Kelsey, artwork by Soyeon Kim
This book broaches a difficult and scary topic through a gentle and heartfelt exploration of the natural stages of life and loss.

Death Is Stupid / written and illustrated by Anastasia Higginbotham
This forthright exploration of grief and mourning recognizes the anger, confusion, and fear that we feel about death.

You’ll Find Me / by Amanda Rawson Hill, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Illustrations and easy-to-read text highlight ways to find reminders of loved ones in everyday actions, even after they are gone.

The Dead Birdwritten by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson
When they find a dead bird, a group of children bury it in the woods, sing a song to it, and put flowers on the grave.

Something Very Sad Happened / written by Bonnie Zucker, illustrated by Kim Fleming
This book explains death in developmentally appropriate terms for two-and three-year-old children, reassuring the child that it is okay to feel sad, and that love never dies.

After Life: Ways We Think About Death/ written by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox
By showing the fascinating, diverse ways in which we understand death, both today and throughout our history, the book also shines a light on what it is to be human.

Ida, Always / written by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso
A polar bear grieves over the loss of his companion, based on the real-life Gus and Ida of New York’s Central Park Zoo.

Death Of a Family Member

The Pond / written by Nicola Davie, illustrated by Cathy Fisher.
A young boy and his family are trying to overcome the loss of his father. The natural world becomes part of the healing process.

Mom’s Sweater / written and illustrated by Jayde Perkin
After the loss of her mother, a young girl and her dad find a new way to live with grief with the help of her mom’s sweater.

What Happened to Daddy’s Body? / written by Elke Barber, illustrated by Anna Jarvis
Full of questions written in Alex’s own words, and with the gentle, sensitive and honest answers of his mother, this story will reassure any young child who might be confused about death and what happens afterwards.

The Funeral / written and illustrated by Matt James
This sensitive and life-affirming story will lead young readers to ask their own questions about life, death and how we remember those who have gone before us.

Grandpa’s Stories / written by Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoy
A young girl reflects on a year of exploring and laughing with her beloved Grandpa, remembering many special moments as she seeks a way to honor him after his death.

Dance Like a Leaf / written by AJ Irving,  illustrations by Claudia Navarro
As her grandmother’s health declines, a young girl begins to take the lead in their cozy shared autumn traditions.

A Stopwatch for Grampa / written by Loretta Garbutt and Carmen Mok
A sensitive portrayal of loss and grief, told through a grandchild’s inheritance of a stopwatch that belonged to Grampa.

My Father’s Words / written by Patricia MacLachlan
Chapter Book
His family loved him deeply and always knew they were loved in return. but a terrible accident one day changes their lives forever, and Fiona and Finn O’Brien are left without a father.

Pilu of the Woods / written and illustrated by Mai K. Nguyen
Chapter Book / Graphic Novel
Willow, who has been struggling with her emotions since her mother’s death, runs away into the woods and meets Pilu, a lost tree spirit who cannot find her way back home.

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs / written by Leslie Connor
Chapter Book
After the death of her mother, Lydia moves in with her aunts and learns to find a new family of inspiring women and loving dogs.

Eventown / written by Corey Ann Haydu
Chapter Book
The world tilted for Elodee this year, and now it’s impossible for her to be the same as she was before. Not when her feelings have such a strong grip on her heart.

Death Of a Pet

Big Cat, Little Cat / written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper
A moving tale about friendship, new beginnings, and cats.

Rosie and Crayon / written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero
After a long, colorful life, Crayon dies, and Rosie’s world becomes black and white. We follow along as she processes her grief and embarks on the most important journey of all — opening one’s heart to love again.

Addy’s Cup of Sugar / written and illustrated by Jon Muth
In this reworking of the Buddhist parable, Stillwater, a giant panda, teaches Addy that the grief she feels for the loss of her kitten, is part of life and is shared by everybody.

A Stone for Sascha / written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
A young girl, still reeling from her dog’s death, finds solace while picking up stones on the beach during her family’s vacation.