Recommended Books about Death and Grief for Young People

PS = Appropriate for preschool age children SA = Appropriate for school age children AD = Appropriate for teenagers

Death of a Parent

Alexander-Greene, A. Sunflowers and Rainbows for Tia. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 1999. (SA)
A 10-year-old African-American girl tells how she feels when her father dies and how she and her family express their sadness as well as their love for him. She describes her experiences of learning about her father's death and preparing for and attending the funeral. The story shows how family members can support one another.
Blume, J. Tiger Eyes. Scarsdale, New York; Bradbury Press, 1981. (SA/AD)
This fictionalized account of a teenager whose father has just been killed provides a wonderful analysis of normal feelings.
Brooks, M. Two Moons in August. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991. (AD)
Kieran, a new boy visiting her small hometown for the summer, helps Sidonie and her family comes together again following the death of Sidonie’s mother
Clifton, L. Everett Anderson’s Goodbye. New York: Holt, 1983. (PS)
A simple, poetic story of the death of a young African-American boy’s father.
Cohen, C.K. and Heiney, J. Daddy's Promise. Bloomfield Hills, MI: Promise Publications, 1997. (SA)
A boy whose father died feels angry that his father did not keep his promise be with him and help him learn to play baseball. He is visited by his father in dreams and talks with his mother for support. Eventually he learns that his father can always be with him.
Douglas, E. Rachel and the Upside Down Heart. Los Angeles: Price Stern Sloan, 1990. (SA)
When Rachel is four years old, her daddy dies, changing her life forever. At first Rachel feels so sad; it’s as if her heart has been turned upside down. This is the true story of how Rachel rediscovers happiness while keeping the memory of her father alive in her heart.
Dragonwagon, C. Winter Holding Spring. New York: Macmillan, 1990. (SA)
Following the death of her mother, Sarah and her father struggle through the first painful year. At first separately, then together, they begin to remember Sarah’s mother with joy as well as grief.
Hammond, J. When My Mommy Died. Flint, Michigan: Cranbrook Publishing, 1980. (PS/SA)
(See next listing)
Hammond, J. When My Dad Died. Flint, MI: Cranbrook Publishing, 1981. (PS/SA)
These simple colorings book style publications tell of the experiences and feelings associated with the death of a parent from the perspective of a young child. Activity pages encourage expression of feelings.
Hoffman, A. Green Angel. Scholastic, 2003 (AD)
A fifteen year old girl dives into despair following the sudden death of her parents and younger sister in a fire that was a community-wide disaster. Haunted by loss and the past, she eventually begins to heal through a series of mysterious encounters. A haunting but ultimately hopeful tale.
Holmes, M. Molly's Mom Died. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 1999. (SA)
Molly is an older elementary age girl whose mother died. She tells of the effects of her mother's death on her and how much she misses her mother. The illustrations in this book are especially good and expressive. Not a long book, but very effective.
Holmes, M. Sam's Dad Died. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 1999. (SA)
Sam is an older elementary age boy whose father died. He talks of the effects of his father's death on him and how much he misses his father. The illustrations in this book are especially good and expressive. Not a long book, but very effective.
Leiner, K. Mama Does the Mambo. New York: Hyperion Books, 2001 (SA)
Sofia loved to watch her parents dance together, but since her father’s death, she wonders is she will ever see her mama dance again. Set in Havana, Cuba and sprinkled with Spanish words and phrases, this is a beautiful story from a daughter’s perspective about a family coming to embrace life after death.
Nelson, V.M. Possibles. New York: Paperstar, 1995. (SA/AD)
Just before Sheppy’s father died, he told her that anything is possible, but Sheppy finds that hard to believe. While Sheppy learns more about her father and his past, her brother, mother and she all grieve individually and alone. Eventually, they learn to support one another and mourn together as a family.
Polikoff, B.G. Life’s a Funny Proposition, Horatio. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992. (SA/AD)
As Horatio tries to adjust to the death of his father from lung cancer, O. P., Horatio’s grandfather, mourns the loss of his dog, Mollie.
Powell, S. Geranium Morning. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda, 1990. (SA)
Two friends who lose parents, one suddenly in a car accident and one by illness, learn to share and deal with their grief.
Tiffault, B.W. A Quilt for Elizabeth. Omaha: Centering Corporation, 1992. (SA)
This story tells of young girl who experiences many different feelings after her father dies. With the loving guidance of her grandmother, Elizabeth assembles a patchwork quilt made form the fabrics from her family’s old clothes and belongings. As Elizabeth realizes she has many simple yet vibrant memories of her father, she gains a greater sense of herself and her father’s spiritual presence in her life.

Death of a Sister or Brother

Alexander, S. Nadia the Willful. New York: Dragonfly Books, 1983. (SA)
Upon the death of Nadia’s brother, her father, the sheik, decrees that no one shall mention his name. For Nadia, not speaking about her brother means not remembering him. The headstrong Nadia finds a way to keep memories of her brother alive and helps her father remember, too.
Breebaart, J. and Breebaart, P. When I Die, Will I Get Better? New York: Bedrich Books, 1993.(PS)
This story, as told by a five year old grieving the death of his younger brother, tells of Fred Rabbit’s illness, death and funeral. Over time, Fred’s brother is able to express his feelings and finally play happily with his friends again.
Greene, C. Beat the Turtle Drum. New York: Viking, 1976. (SA/AD)
Joss, a girl in love with horses, plans to rent a horse for her birthday. But her beautiful plan ends in tragedy when she is killed in a fall. This tender book explores the death of a family member and its impact on others.
Hoffman, A. Green Angel. Scholastic, 2003 (AD)
A fifteen year old girl dives into despair following the sudden death of her parents and younger sister in a fire that was a community-wide disaster. Haunted by loss and the past, she eventually begins to heal through a series of mysterious encounters. A haunting but ultimately hopeful tale.
Johnson, J. and Johnson, M. Where’s Jess? Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 1982. (PS)
This very simple story helps a child understand a brother /sister death and suggests useful coping techniques.
Munoz-Kiehne, M. Since My Brother Died. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 2000. (SA)
Written in both Spanish and English, a child shares the feelings and questions that come with a brother's death. Feelings of anger, fear, confusion, and hurt are included. The book ends on a hopeful note about finding comfort in memories and expression of feelings through painting.
Old, W. Stacy Had A Little Sister. Morton Grove, Albert Whitman & Co., 1995. (PS/SA)
Uncomplicated story of a family (Stacy, mother and father) experiencing the death of their new baby by SIDS.
Pattison, D. The Wayfinder. New York: Green Willow Books, 2000. (SA/AD)
While struggling with guilt from the accidental death of his younger sister, eleven year old Win is given the quest to find the Well of Life to save his people from a deadly illness. Win’s journey to the well is also a journey of grief and healing. The author of this fast-moving juvenile fantasy novel lives in North Little Rock, AR.
Richter, E. Losing Someone You Love: When a Brother or Sister Dies. New York: Putnam, 1986. (SA/AD)
In this book, sixteen young people, ranging from ten to twenty-four, who have lost a sister or brother, talk openly about their feelings- their sorrow, fear, loneliness and anger- and their difficulties both at home and at school. This book can be read as a whole or in pieces most useful to a particular child.
Temes, R. The Empty Place, A Child’s Guide Through Grief. Far Hills, NJ: Small Horizons, 1992. (PS/SA)
Feelings and misconceptions are clearly expressed by a brother following the death of his big sister. His babysitter, who has experienced the death of a brother, helps him to understand that his feelings are normal and suggests way to help with the pain.
Yeomans, E. Lost and Found: Remembering a Sister. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 2000. (PS/SA)
A preschool girl recounts her confusing thoughts and feelings after the death of her sister with cancer. She also recounts the number of ways she continues to feel her sister's love. Some very practical and realistic situations are included such as needing a night light and sitting alone on the school bus.

Death or Aging of a Grandparent

Alexander, A. A Mural for Mamita. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 2002. (SA)
This story is told in both English and Spanish in this single edition. A Hispanic girl, Luz, shares her memories of her grandmother who died with cancer. With a suggestion from Luz, the family paints a mural to honor and remember Luz' grandmother.
Aliki. The Two of Them. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1979. (PS/SA)
This story of a loving relationship between a grandfather and a granddaughter is written in verse. The text and illustrations tell of cherished memories following the grandfather’s death.
De Paola, T. Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs. New York: Putnam, 1973. (PS/SA)
A small boy’s loving rituals with his great grandmother are terminated by her sudden death. He experiences the emptiness and later accepts the fantasy that she is upstairs with stars.
Hodge, J. Finding Grandpa Everywhere. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 1999. (PS/SA)
After Grandpa dies, a young boy finds that memories of him and his love live on everywhere he looks. The boy is at first confused when he is told that "Grandma lost Grandpa," and he is determined to help Grandma find Grandpa. Eventually, the boy realizes that Grandpa has died and that his memories can be found in many places.
Johnston, T. Grandpa’s Song. New York: Dial Books, 1991. (SA)
Grandpa is bigger than life and when he sings the whole house quakes. He teaches his grandchildren the “best song in the world” about Grandpa’s sweet voice, but then he begins “feeling fuzzy” and forgetting things. When his birthday comes, the children sing for him and remind him about the “best song in the world.”
Marshall, B. Animal Crackers. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 1998. (PS/SA)
When her grandmother starts forgetting things, has to go to a nursing home and then dies, a young girl tries to remember the good times they shared. One of the good times was that the grandmother would hide animal crackers in her house for the girl to find. This would be a good book to read aloud as there are few illustrations, but the story is well told.
Martin, A. and Archambault, J. Knots on a Counting Rope. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1987. (SA)
A beautifully illustrated story of a Native American grandfather and grandson. The grandson asks the grandfather to once again tell him the story of his birth which they retell together. Despite the grandson's request, the grandfather cannot promise that he will always be with him, but he does promise that his love will always surround him.
Miles, M. Annie and the Old One. Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1971. (SA)
A Navajo girl, Annie, is upset about her grandmother’s announcement that when the new rug is taken from the loom, the grandmother will go to Mother Earth. Annie tries a variety of ways to keep the rug from being completed before she finds an acceptance of the Old One’s eventual death and begins to do her part to weave the new rug.
Ross, K and Ross, A. Cemetery Quilt. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1995. (SA)
When Josie travels to her grandmother’s house to attend her grandfather’s funeral, she learns of a family tradition, the cemetery quilt. And she learns to commemorate her grandfather’s life as well as those of other deceased relatives.
Thomas, J. R. Saying Good-Bye to Grandma. New York: Clarion/ Ticknor & Fields, 1988. (SA)
When a seven-year-old Suzie’s Grandmother dies she goes back with her parents to the small town where Mother grew up to attend Grandma’s funeral. This is a sensitive exploration of grief as well as a loving picture of a family drawn together. Marcia Sewell’s pastel illustration captures both sorrow and joy.
Wright, B.R. The Cat Next Door. New York: Holiday House, 1991. (SA)
After Grandma dies the annual visit to her summer cabin is not the same, but a visit from the cat next door reminds of how things used to be and comforts a grieving grandchild.
Zebrowski, M. Babka's Serenade. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 2002. (PS/SA)
A girl's grandmother, Babka, dies and the granddaughter finds comfort and connection to her grandmother by working and being in Babka' garden. The illustrations are especially bright, engaging, and effective.
Zolotow, C. My Grandson Lew. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. (PS/SA)
Six year old Lewis remembers many special things about Grandpa who died four years earlier. Since Lewis never asked, Mother never told him of Grandpa’s death. Both share their loving memories and find this less lonely than remembering him alone.

Death of a Friend

Bahr, M. If Nathan Were Here. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2000. (SA)
An especially beautiful book about a boy whose best friend, Nathan, has died. His classroom teacher has the boy's class contribute items to a Memory Box for Nathan. A good story for use in a classroom.
Carlstrom, N.W. Blow Me a Kiss, Miss Lilly. Harper Collins Publishers, 1990. (PS)
When her best friend, an old lady and neighbor named Miss Lilly, dies, Sara learns that memory of a loved one never dies. The illustrations are bright and engaging. A touching story of intergenerational connections.
Cohn, J. I had a Friend named Peter. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1987. (PS/SA)
Simple, direct language and drawings tell the story of a child’s loss of a friend. A forward for parents accompanies the story.
Paterson, K. Bridge to Terabithia. New York: Crowell, 1977. (SA/AD)
Leslie and Jess are from different backgrounds, but they form a close friendship and create an imaginary, secret kingdom. The girl’s tragic accidental death marks the end of childhood for Jess, but their shared experiences help him bear the loss.
Smith, D.B. A Taste of Blackberries. New York: Crowell, 1973. (SA)
A little boy feels lonely and guilty when his friend, Jamie, is stung by a bee and dies of an allergic reaction. The boy describes his feelings at the funeral parlor, the funeral itself, and his eventual success in Jamie’s death. After the funeral, he offers to be a substitute son to Jamie’s mother. Realistic but not too intense.

Death of a Pet or Animal

Brown, M.W. The Dead Bird. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1965. (PS/SA)
This classic tells the story about a group of children who find a dead bird in the park and decide to have a burial and funeral. Each day they return to the grave with f lowers. They continue until they forget.
Carrick, C. The Accident. New York: Seabury, 1976. (SA)
A boy witnesses the death of his pet dog that is run over by a truck. He struggles with his own sense of responsibility for what happened, becomes angry, and then withdraws until his father finds him a suitable gravestone.
Cohen, M. Jim’s Dog Muffin. New York: Dell Publishing, 1984. (PS)
After his dog is killed, Jim demonstrates anger and sadness. Friends rally to support Jim in this simple story of the need to grieve.
Fox, M. Tough Boris. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1994. (PS)
Boris von der Borch is a tough and fearless pirate. But when his parrot dies, he cries and cries. This simple, brightly illustrated book provides excellent reinforcement of the acceptability of expressing feelings, especially for boys who learn at a very early age that it’s not ok to cry.
Hemery, K. Not Just a Fish. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation, 2000. (SA)
A story of a girl whose pet fish dies. The loss is not recognized for being as significant as it feels to the child. An aunt helps the situation and the girl by arranging a backyard memorial service for the fish.
Hill, F. The Bug Cemetery. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2002. (PS/SA)
When a boy finds a dead ladybug, he and his sister bury it and hold a pretend funeral. Funerals and burials for bugs become fun and popular in the neighborhood, but when the boy's cat is killed, the funeral is real and sad. A unique story that is funny, sad, and hopeful.
Sanford, D. It Must Hurt A Lot: A Child’s Book About Death. Portland, OR: Multnaomah Press, 1986. (PS/SA)
Describes a boy’s reactions of anger, grief and eventual acceptance when his dog dies. Includes suggestions to parents for helping a child deal with loss.
Viorst, J. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. New York: Atheneum, 1971. (PS/SA)
When Barney, a pet cat, dies his master decides to have a funeral for him. The little boy tries to think of ten good things to say about Barney, but can only think of nine. Finally his father helps him with a tenth. The book is gentle and positive.
Wilhelm, H. I’ll Always Love You. New York: Crown, 1985. (PS)
This warmly illustrated picture book sensitively portrays the close relationship between a boy and his dog. As the years go by and the young narrator grows taller, his beloved companion, Elfie, grows rounder and slower. And then, one night, Elfie dies in her sleep. Grief –stricken, the boy takes comfort in the fact that every night he told Elfie, “I’ll Always Love You.”

General Story Books about Grief and Death

Anderson, L.C. It’s O.K. to Cry. Chicago: Children’s Press, 1979. (SA)
A four year old boy tries to tell his five year old brother that their favorite uncle is dead. In the second part of the book there are questions and answers that relate to the story and to the general topic of death.
Buscaglia, L. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. New Jersey: Charles Slack, 1982. (PS/SA)
This story tells how Freddie and his friends, all leaves, change with seasons, finally falling to the ground with winter’s snow. Both children and adults will respond to this sensitive treatment of the delicate balance between life and death. The photographs are very effective.
Coerr, E. Sadako. New York: Holt, 1983. (PS)
Based on Eleanor Coerr’s previously published Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, this retelling of the story and message of peace, are accompanied by the illustrations of Caldecott medalist Ed Young.
Doleski, T. The Hurt. Manwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1983. (PS/SA)
Justin’s reaction to various upsetting experiences, result’s in a balloon like “hurt” growing bigger and bigger. Finally, through sharing his feelings with his father and experiencing reconciliation, Justin is able to let the hurt go.
Goble, P. Beyond the Ridge. New York: Macmillian Publishing Co. 1989. (SA)
At her death an elderly Native American woman experiences an afterlife believed in by her people, beyond the ridge to a more beautiful world.
Hanson, W. The Next Place. 1997. (PS/SA)
Striking illustrations and a first person text describe "the next place" the storyteller will go. The book presents a very peaceful and attractive description of the afterlife and is not overtly religious--does not identify with any particular religion. Many have found this book very comforting and helpful.
Holmes, M. A Terrible Thing Happened. Washington, DC: Magination Press, 2000. (PS/SA)
Sherman Smith (a raccoon) "saw the most terrible thing." The terrible thing is never defined which allows many children in many different situations to identify with Sherman. He tries not to think about it, but this doesn't work. Eventually, Sherman talks to Ms. Maple who helps Sherman draw pictures and talk. With Ms. Maple's help, Sherman learns to cope and feel better.
Mills, J. Gentle Willow. New York: Magination Press, 1993. (PS/SA)
This tender story brings back the characters from Little Tree (1992) to face the illness and eventual death of Gentle Willow. Amanda the squirrel and the tree wizards address feelings of disbelief, anger and sadness along with love, compassion and caregiving. The story provides children, and those reading the story with them, a “transformational” way of viewing death and dying.
Mills, L. The Rag Coat. Boston, Toronto, London: Little, Brown and Company, 1991. (SA)
Minna proudly wears her new coat made of clothing scraps, including her dead papa’s work clothes. At school the other children laugh at her coat until she tells them stories behind the scraps.
O'Toole, D. Aarvy Aardvark Finds Hope. Burnsville, NC: Compassion Press, 1998. (SA)
With the help of his friend, Ralphy Rabbit, Aarvy Aardvark comes to terms with the loss of his mother and brother. The difficulties and long time needed to begin to feel better after a loss are illustrated well in this story. The illustrations are purposefully not colored so that children can color them as they please.
Schwiebert, P. & DeKlyen, C. Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss. Portland, OR: Grief Watch, 1999.(SA/AD)
Grandy, “an old and somewhat wise woman,” sets out to make tear soup as a way to cope with her loss. With wonderful illustrations, making tear soup is used very creatively as a metaphor for mourning. The story deals with wisdom about coping and about supporting others in their grief. It is a story that is also very appropriate for use with adults.
Simon, N. The Saddest Time. Niles, IL: Albert Whitman and Company, 1986. (PS/SA)
Three separate stories depict children’s experience with the death of an uncle, an eight-year-old friend and a grandmother.
Tresselt, A. The Dead Tree. New York: Parent’s Magazine Press, 1972. (PS/SA)
This book tells the story of the life cycle of an oak tree, poetically and through illustration. Death is portrayed as a natural and necessary part of the life cycle. It is both informative and hopeful.
Varley, S. Badger’s Parting Gifts. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1984. (SA)
Following Badger’s peaceful death, his friends recall their special memories of how he taught each of them something special- Badger’s parting gifts.
White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web. New York: Harper & Row, 1952. (SA)
Charlotte, the spider, and Wilbur, the pig, become loving friends. When Charlotte dies, Wilbur holds her memory close and takes care of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The story describes the sadness experienced by loving friends and how memories are kept alive.

Sources for Grief-Related Books, Literature, and Videos

Centering Corporation
1531 North Saddle Creek Road
Omaha, NE 68104

Compassion Book Service
477 Hannah Branch Road
Burnsville, NC 28714

Note: Special thanks to Chris Brown, MS, CCLS, Director, Child Life and Education, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (1998) for her substantial contribution to this list.
Revised 2/19/04

Download Bibiliography PDF

download bibiliography pdf (230kb)