Top 10 Best Books for Children About Death, Bereavement and Dying

When children experience bereavement, it can be a very difficult time as they try to cope with unfamiliar feelings and comprehend what dying means. These gentle, reassuring books are perfect for helping children to understand just what they're going through and what happens when someone dies. Ordered by age range, see the list below for the best books for children about death, bereavement and dying.

1. Goodbye Mog

Judith Kerr | 3+

Lovable cat Mog has delighted generations of children with her clumsy misadventures, but Mog is now very old and very tired - so tired, in fact, that she'd like to sleep forever. This book tackles the issue of a pet's death with a wonderful sensitivity and gentle humour, offering a reassuring conclusion to ease the sadness.

2. Always and Forever

Alan Durant | 3+

When Fox passes away, everyone is distraught. Mole, Otter and Hare don't know how they'll go on without their beloved friend. But, months after Fox's passing, Squirrel reminds them all of how funny Fox used to be, and they realise that Fox will never truly be gone as he is still there in their hearts and memories. This comforting book is perfect for showing children that though loved ones may die, we can always remember the happy times we had with them.

3. Michael Rosen's Sad Book

Michael Rosen | 5+

In this award-winning book, Michael Rosen reflects on the sadness he experienced when his 18-year-old son Eddie died. He offers uplifting insights to help young readers deal with complicated and difficult emotions, and shows children that it's okay to be sad. Featuring thoughtful illustrations by Quentin Blake, this book will comfort and soothe children after bereavement.

4. I Miss You: A First Look at Death

Pat Thomas | 5+

This lovely picture book explores the issue of death in a simple, gentle way, explaining the feelings children will experience and answering the questions they may have about this sensitive subject. It is written by a trained psychotherapist, journalist and parent, and features sweet, colourful illustrations.

5. Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine

Winston's Wish | 5+

Produced by a children's bereavement charity, this bright book offers a structure and an outlet for children to explore the difficult feelings that follow bereavement and make sense of their experience by reflecting on different aspects of their grief. It shows them how they can find a balance between remembering their loved one and having fun.

6. Vicky Angel

Jacqueline Wilson | 9+

Jade has a quirky, boisterous and confident best buddy in Vicky - but suddenly, this bubbly best friend is killed in a car accident. This unexpected event evokes shock and bewilderment in characters and readers alike. However, Vicky is such a loud and gregarious character, she's sure to find a way to continue to be part of Jade's life. This story is both enjoyable to read and provides a sensitive introduction to the concept of death for children, with Jacqueline Wilson's inimitable engaging style.

7. Bridge to Terabithia

Katherine Paterson | 9+

Bridge to Terabithia tells the story of Jesse and Leslie, two young misfits who don't get along at first, but soon develop a close and special bond. They embark on all sorts of fantasy adventures in the imaginary land of Terabithia in the woods, but it can only be reached by a rope-swing across a river. However, when Jesse is away one day, tragedy strikes: Leslie drowns in the river after the rope breaks. This book explores with beautiful sensitivity how Jesse copes with this tragic and sudden bereavement, proving both heart-breaking and uplifting for older children.

8. Goodnight Mister Tom

Michelle Magorian

This shocking and illuminating tale follows Willie Beech, a deprived child who lives in London with his abusive mother. When war breaks out and Willie is evacuated to the countryside, he is taken into the home of Tom Oakley, an old man who turns out to be kind and loving. Willie also makes a wonderful friend in Zach, who loves to go cycling. But what will happen when Willie's mother demands he come home - and tragedy strikes? This book features a series of bereavements: the death of Willie's baby sister, his mother's suicide and the death of his friend, Zach. However, it ends with Willie's realisation that Zach will always be alive in his mind and memories.

9. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Annabel Pitcher

Five years ago, 10-year-old Jamie's older sister, Rose, was killed in a terrorist attack. Jamie's parents are traumatised; Rose's twin sister Jasmine has stopped eating, gets piercings and dyes her hair pink. The family is falling apart, and Jamie's mother walked out a few months ago. But Rose is just a distant memory to Jamie. He's much more interested in his beloved cat, his Spider-Man t-shirt, and keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his father. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he's certain this could change everything and maybe even bring the family back together again. This poignant story explores the pain and grief a family can suffer following bereavement.

10. A Monster Calls

Patrick Ness

This award-winning novel features an ancient monster, made up of leaves and branches, who visits 13-year-old Conor O'Malley each night at 12.07am. The monster offers to tell Conor three stories - if Conor will tell his own story afterwards. We learn that Conor's mother is dying of cancer, Conor is bullied at school, and that he has strained relationships with his father and grandmother. After all this agony, it transpires that the monster has come to heal him. Both love and loss are central to this touching tale.

  • AFXHT 3 years +
    3 years +
    • £7.89
    • RRP £7.99
    When Fox dies the rest of his family are absolutely distraught. How will Mole, Otter and Hare go on without their beloved friend? But, months later, Squirrel reminds them all of how funny Fox used to be, and they realise that Fox is still there in their hearts and memories.
  • GMR2 9 years +
    9 years +
    • £3.99
    • RRP £6.99
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    In Michelle Magorian's classic Goodnight Mister Tom, a young Willie Beech is evacuated to the countryside due to the outbreak of the Second World War.

    A sad, deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of a kind old man, Tom Oakley. But then his cruel mother summons him back to war-torn London... Will Willie ever see his friend Mister Tom again?

    Full of characters to both love and hate, moments of grief and joy, and a marvellous, emotion-grabbing narrative, Goodnight Mister Tom will captivate adults and young readers aged 9 and over.
  • AHTPZ 12 years +
    12 years +
    • £7.39
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    Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a 'Fresh New Start'.

    Five years ago his sister's twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart.

    But Jamie hasn't cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spider-Man T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad.

    And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.

    Annabel Pitcher's My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece has been chosen as a World Book Night book for 2015.
  • ADDSJ 3 years +
    3 years +
    • £6.89
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    Judith Kerr's Mog is a lovable character who has delighted generations of readers with her forgetful and accident-prone adventures. In Goodbye Mog Judith Kerr tackles the difficult subject of a pet's death with sensitivity and gentle humour. Goodbye Mog will help youngsters cope with an upsetting situation and offers a reassuring conclusion to soothe the sadness.

  • ACGOW 9 years +
    9 years +
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    Jacqueline Wilson books are always spot on when it comes to understanding the feelings of her young readers and in Vicky Angel she tackles the poignant and moving story of Jade who is trying to come to terms with the death of her bossy best friend Vicky.

    Jade is so used to being with and agreeing with her friend, that she can hardly believe Vicky's no longer there and in fact Vicky still seems to be a huge presence in her life.

    Jacqueline Wilson looks at friendship, bereavement and moving on in this powerful novel.
  • AQBJL 5 years +
    Pat Thomas
    5 years +
    • £7.99
    This reassuring picture book explores the difficult issue of death for young children. Children's feelings and questions about this sensitive subject are looked at in a simple but realistic way. This book helps them to understand their loss and come to terms with it. Written by a trained psychotherapist, journalist and parent, and illustrated by an experienced children's book artist, this is part of an acclaimed and successful series of picture-book non-fiction for Early Years. Books in the series give advice and promote interaction between children, parents, and teachers on a wide variety of personal, social and emotional issues. They are excellent tools for teachers to use during classroom discussions.
  • AOHWL 9 years +
    9 years +
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    Jess Aarons wants to be the fastest boy in the class, but when a girl named Leslie Burke moves into the neighbouring farm his life changes forever. Even though she runs faster than him, Jess begins to think Leslie might be okay - she's clever and funny and not a bit soppy. And it is Leslie who invents Terabithia, the secret country on an island across the creek where he can escape his troublesome family. The only way to reach Terabithia is by rope-swing where Jess and Leslie become King and Queen, defeating giants, sharing stories and dreams, and plotting against their enemies. They are invincible - until tragedy strikes. It is more dreadful than anything Jess had ever dreamed of, but as he struggles to cope with his grief and anger, he finds that his family value him more than he'd thought and that, still King, he could even save Terabithia for the future.
  • QUE2 5 years +
    5 years +
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    Michael Rosen's Sad Book has won several awards for its honest and sensitive look at sadness, how it feels, and what to do to cope with the feelings.

    The author looks into his own unhappiness caused by the death of his son Eddie and offers insight and experience to help young readers dealing with complicated emotions.

    A simple, touching book with thoughtful illustrations by Quentin Blake.

    This children's book has been hand-picked for you by Red House.
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    This book offers a structure and an outlet for the many difficult feelings which inevitably follow when someone dies. It aims to help children make sense of their experience by reflecting on the different aspects of their grief, whilst finding a balance between remembering and having fun. This book is a useful companion in the present, and will become an invaluable keepsake in the years to come.
  • MNSC 13 years +
    13 years +
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    This is a special film tie-in edition of Patrick Ness' A Monster Calls; a novel that won both the Carnegie Medal and Greenaway Medal when it was published in 2012.

    Now adapted into a heartbreaking film (by director J.A. Bayona) starring Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson as the voice of the monster, the book discusses the difficult subject of terminal illness and coming to terms with loss. Based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness is the author of the novel and it's an unforgettable page-turner - just make sure you have some tissues on hand to dry your eyes.

    The story begins with the intriguing sentence: 'The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do...' and what follows is a compelling account of Conor's visions of this creature, who comes to be nothing quite like what he imagined...

    As his mum begins treatments, he starts to see another side of this ancient and wild monster.