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.
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 Bird / written 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.
Death Of a Family Member
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.
My Father’s Words / written by Patricia MacLachlan
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.
Eventown / written by Corey Ann Haydu
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
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.