Dealing With Death Through Picture Books

Posted on March 20, 2018

by Krysta S

When my bird Petey died when I was 5, I had never dealt with a loss of a loved one. The concept of death wasn’t completely new. After all, I had watched “Bambi” and “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” but I didn’t really understand what was going on. The book, “The Dead Bird” by Margaret Wise Brown, helped me explore what death was and gave me the tools to grieve. Inspired after reading this book, I planned a burial with my neighborhood friends to honor Petey.

Talking about death, loss and grief is difficult for most adults, let alone children. The truth is that death is inevitable and just like winter to spring we know to expect it. Books can give children great examples of how others process death and grief. Using books to cope with the death of a loved one can not only inspire but also give individuals a vocabulary to express such complex topics. I hope that some of the books below can inspire you to talk about death with your little ones as well as help heal in the process of grief.

6 Children’s Books Dealing With Death

The Dead Bird” by Margaret Wise Brown

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown

This heartwarming classic picture book by beloved children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown is beautifully reillustrated for a contemporary audience by the critically acclaimed, award-winning illustrator Christian Robinson.

One day, the children find a bird lying on its side with its eyes closed and no heartbeat. They are very sorry, so they decide to say good-bye. In the park, they dig a hole for the bird and cover it with warm sweet-ferns and flowers. Finally, they sing sweet songs to send the little bird on its way.

The Goodbye Book” by Todd Parr

The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr

A pet fish who has lost his companion imparts a gentle, age-appropriate message about saying goodbye while touching on the emotions commonly experienced by children in the face of loss.

Where Do They Go?” by Julia Alvarez

Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez

Bestselling novelist and children’s author Julia Alvarez’s new picture book is a beautifully crafted poem for children that gently addresses the emotional side of death. The book asks, “When somebody dies, where do they go? / Do they go where the wind goes when it blows? … Do they wink back at me when I wish on a star? Do they whisper, ‘You’re perfect, just as you are’? …” Illustrated by Vermont woodcut artist, Sabra Field, Where Do They Go? is a beautiful and comforting meditation on death, asking questions young readers might have about what happens to those they love after they die.

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney” by Judith Viorst

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst

My cat Barney died this Friday. I was very sad. My mother said we could have a funeral for him, and I should think of ten good things about Barney so I could tell them …

But the small boy who loved Barney can only think of nine. Later, while talking with his father, he discovers the tenth — and begins to understand.

Saying Goodbye to Lulu” by Corinne Demas

Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas

A young girl and her lovable dog, Lulu, are the best of friends and do everything together. As Lulu ages and starts to slow down the girl shows her compassion by making Lulu comfortable in her bed and helping to feed her. When Lulu dies the caring, young girl must comes to terms with her loss and find a way to say goodbye. This lyrical and touching story will tug at the heartstrings of all readers–young and old.

Grandad’s Island” by Benji Davis

Grandad's Island by Benji Davis

After entering through a secret door with his grandfather, Syd is astonished to find himself on the deck of a ship bound for an island in the distance, but his amazement turns to sadness when his Grandad tells him he has decided to stay on the island andSyd must journey back home without him.

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