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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.