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Bereavement, Grief & Loss

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Best Children’s Books About Bereavement, Grief & Loss

This list includes children’s books that explore the topic of bereavement, with an emphasis on stories that support children and families to talk and think about the loss of a loved one.

Books can help children to empathise with others, explore big emotions and gently open conversations about difficult experiences including the death of a parent, relative, teacher or friend. The stories on this list have been specially selected by the experts at BooksForTopics to cover the topics of grief and loss as well as stories about finding ways to remember beloved friends or relatives after they die.  These topics are not always easy to discuss with children, but the stories selected on this list are included because they can provide a suitable stimulus for exploring experiences of bereavement and loss.

From animal tales like Badger’s Parting Gifts and The Memory Tree to stories about the loss of a parent or grandparent like Storm in a Jar and Dadaji’s Paintbrush, these stories are here to help explore experiences of grief for children. 

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Children's books about family bereavements

Marguerite McLaren
 & Hayley Wells
Picturebook

Written sensitively and illustrated beautifully, this book gently takes the reader (a child of any age) by the hand and helps them understand that when someone leaves us, that person didn’t choose to do so and a part of them will always live on in the memories and love that they shared. The book gently encourages readers that it is okay to feel different emotions and for those emotions to be displayed in different ways. Written with the support of Child Bereavement UK, with useful tips at the back of the book for supporting a child (or grown-up) going through the bereavement process. Death is often difficult for us to talk about, but this book will hopefully pave the way for those necessary conversations to happen.

Isabel Otter & Katie Rewse
Picturebook
A father and daughter navigate their changed lives together after the loss of a mother. Dad tells Maya all about how Mum used to love spending time in the garden, and the pair find new comfort together in reviving the outdoor space together by clearing weeds, planting seeds and enjoying new growth.
Michael Rosen
 & Quentin Blake
Non-fiction

Although mostly about grieving, Michael Rosen’s Sad Book also explores sadness generally. This is a starkly honest account of a father’s grief, based on Michael Rosen’s own experience of losing his son Eddie. Michael feels sad when he thinks about Eddie and in this book he describes the pain of living with his sadness and some of the things he does to try and cope with it. A beautiful, truly human text with perfectly matched illustrations by Quentin Blake.

 

 

Stories about the death of a grandparent

Benji Davies
Picturebook
A beautiful story about the loss of a beloved grandparent. When Syd and his Grandad go into the attic, they find themselves on a sailing ship travelling to a jungle-covered island. They have fun exploring the wonderful island and befriending its animals. Syd knows it will soon be time for him to go home, but Grandad decides to stay. Saying goodbye is hard as Syd returns home by himself, but he knows that Grandad will be happy staying in this beautiful place.
Rashmi Sirdeshpande
 & Ruchi Mhasane
Picturebook

Dadaji’s Paintbrush is a sumptuous story of a young boy’s special relationship with his grandfather, set in a small village in India.

This is a beautiful story that deals with the difficult subject of the loss of a grandparent in a gentle and understanding way.  The beautiful Indian setting that will be unfamiliar to many readers highlights the universal experiences of love and loss, showing that no matter where you are, some human experiences unite us all.

The illustrations are simple and beautiful and we particularly liked how the colours linked with the main character’s emotions. We also loved the evocative and sensory setting descriptions in the story – we could almost taste the mangoes!

As well as gently exploring the topic of grief, the story is ultimately filled with hope and draws out the values of art, community and legacy. There’s so much to unpack in this stunning story.

Ross Montgomery
 & David Litchfield
Picturebook
The boy loves his grandmother - a retired prize-winning architect - very dearly. He especially loves to snuggle up and look at photographs of her famous projects and listen to her promises to build him an extraordinary house. When his grandmother passes away, the boy is heartbroken. He looks in her garden at the building materials and sets about to build a new, enormous metal grandmother, who joyfully seizes his hand and takes him on an amazing journey to reach a beautiful house, where he finds the perfect space for grandmother at its heart. A gentle story about loss and ways to celebrate the legacy of those who pass away.
Samuel Langley-Swain
 & Katie Cottle
Picturebook

Storm in a Jar is the story of a young boy called Arlo, who has a loving relationship with his Nana. When his Nana passes away, Arlo chooses to keep her special sweetie jar as a keepsake, taking it everywhere with him. The jar keeps the memory of his Nana alive and provides him with comfort. Slowly, however, Arlo’s sadness turns to confusion and anger and the contents of the jar become dark and cloudy, like a storm. Before long, Arlo releases his anger and the jar releases its storm. But, with the help of his parents, Arlo begins to understand his feelings and that his Nana has gone on to a safe and happy place.

This poignant tale accurately portrays the feelings children experience when they lose someone they love. It shares the importance of remembering those we have loved in positive ways, using simple, understandable language. The illustrations are clear and add further detail to the story. For example, the sharp-eyed reader would notice that Arlo has a hearing impairment, he comes from a mixed-race family and doesn’t appear to notice that he has also inherited a pet tortoise from his Nana who rides the waves of the storm along with him.

At the back of the book, there are also two added extras: a ‘Stormy Bottle’ sensory craft to help with anxiety and anger; and a ‘Storm in a Jar’ science experiment. This would be an excellent book for a child suffering from a bereavement or as a starting point for a class discussion in a PSHE lesson.

Children's stories about the loss of a teacher

Hilary Robinson
 & Mandy Stanley
Picturebook
A gentle story for children about the loss of a teacher. A girl and her primary school classmates deal with the illness and death of their young teacher, Miss Evans. From first hearing about their teacher's illness, to seeing her visit school in a wheelchair having lost her hair and subsequently hearing the sad news that she has died. The children work with the other teachers to find ways to remember Miss Evans, including creating a tree full of memory leaves.

Animal stories about grief and the loss of a loved one

Susan Varley
Picturebook

Badger’s friends are very sad after he passes away. The friends begin to recall the special things he gave to each of them when he was alive – memories and blessings that mean that even though their friend is no longer with them physically, he will always have a place in their hearts. The publisher has also produced some accompanying resources in association with the charity Child Bereavement UK, aimed at using the book to support bereaved children.

Britta Teckentrup
Picturebook
A quietly moving picture book offering a gentle and comforting story of bereavement. After fox dies, his friends come together to remember him and share the good times they had with him. While they are reminiscing, a little plant begins to grow in the spot he died. Over time, it grows into the tallest tree in the forest and one that provides shelter to all the animals.
John Dougherty
 & Thomas Docherty
Picturebook

Bertle and Hertle (one a turtle, one a hare) are the best of friends and are always found together, having fun, playing and helping each other. That is, until one day, when Hertle disappears, leaving only a black hole where he should have been.

Bertle looks for his friend everywhere, getting angry at the hole and pleading with it, until he eventually lets his sadness at the missing Hertle surround him. Luckily for Bertle, the wise and kindly Gerda the bear understands what he is feeling and encourages the turtle to fill the hole with all the amazing memories he has of Hertle and their time together.

The Hare-Shaped Hole is a beautiful, touching and poignant book that accurately depicts what it feels like to lose someone or something very important to you. The heart-warming ending, full of colour, could bring the most stoic of readers to tears. As someone who has both lost a parent this year and supported a child losing their own, this book was particularly on-point and I have yet to read another which so accurately depicts the feelings of grief and memories of loved ones.

I would highly recommend this as a book for children who are experiencing loss  – and to adults too! I shared the book with several colleagues, all of whom read the book cover-to-cover in one sitting, many of them stating they wished there were books like this when they were young. The illustrations are beautiful, highlighting the feelings and emotions of our characters. The ‘hare-shaped hole’ changing in colour is particularly effective. The story is written in rhyme, which helps to keep the gentle tone throughout. A beautiful story of love, loss and grief.

Todd Parr
A simple but effective picture book explaining the different emotions felt after the loss of a loved one. The bright and bold illustrations depict a goldfish losing its friend in the fishbowl, while the simple text gently reassures as it explains and validates the changing emotions associated with grief. A good choice for younger children and also for children with additional needs.
Jo Empson
Picturebook
A vibrantly illustrated picture book about a rabbit with big personality. The other rabbits love his un-rabbity ways, especially how he fills the woods with colour and music. When rabbit suddenly disappears, the world seems a very sad and different place to his friends. Before long, the other rabbits discover that their friend has left them the materials to make art and music for themselves, and they can use it to celebrate his memory.

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For more support with child bereavement, visit childbereavementuk.org.

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