The Best Books for Teaching Children About Grief

Experiencing grief is never easy, but it can be especially difficult for a child, who might need help grasping the concept and coping with loss. Whether a grandparent, close friend or other relative has passed away, it’s important to handle the subject with delicacy, and to answer any questions the child might have about death in an age-appropriate, realistic way. These books not only explain loss to a little one but also provide some comfort.

The Rough Patch, by Brian Lies

Winner of a Caldecott Honor, this beautiful picture book tells a moving story of a fox named Evan who is grieving the loss of his beloved companion. Evan goes through a period of anger and lethargy, but in the end it is nature and friendship that bring him back to himself. Wise and hopeful. Ages 3-6 years.

Grandpa’s Top Threes, by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus

The perspective here is of a grandchild trying to engage his grandfather who is grieving the loss of his wife. The boy begins to draw his grandfather out and together they are able to talk about Grandma in a way that makes them both happy. An extremely thoughtful and well-crafted story that shows kids a loss in their life from another’s perspective. Ages 2-5 years.

The Goodbye Book, by Todd Parr

Brightly colored and expressive illustrations show children a range of emotions that they might feel after a loss. Centered around a goldfish who has lost his companion and is now alone in the bowl, Parr’s treatment of the feelings that accompany grief and loss is spot-on and reassuring. An excellent choice for helping children who are dealing with many kinds of loss. Ages 5-6 years.

Ida, Always, by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso

Inspired by two polar bears in a New York City zoo, Ida, Always is a tender and life-affirming story of friendship, love and loss. The text and illustrations beautifully express the emotional impact and rebuilding that occurs when we lose someone we love. Ages 4-8 years.

I Miss My Grandpa, by Jin Xiaojing

A girl wishes she had known her grandfather, who passed away before she was born, and asks her family members about what he was like. Each person shares something they remember about her grandfather, painting a picture of him out of memory. Perfect for children who have lost a grandparent or wonder about one they never had a chance to meet. Ages 4-8 years.

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst and Erik Blegvad

An older book that still has a place helping children deal with the loss of a pet. A young boy experiences the death of his pet, a cat named Barney, and his parents suggest he comes up with 10 good things to remember about him. A gentle story that helps children process this difficult situation and think about the joy they shared with their animal. Ages 6-9 years.

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