Published: Mar. 28, 2007
Updated: Aug. 22, 2011
About Dying: An Open Family Book for Parents & Children Together
by Sara Bonnett Stein
Walker & Company
New York, NY
1974, ISBN 0-8027-7223-4
This book explains death and life using an analogy of a pet dying and applying this experience to the death of a child's grandfather. By learning to cope with the death of a pet, the child learns to mourn the loss of his grandpa. The book is designed as a shared experience between an adult and a child. The text of the book is divided into two parts: the text on the left should be read by the adult several times before reading the large type text to the child. The pictures and the words in large print are to start the talking between the adult and the child.
This book is appropriate for children, ages three to eight. The book takes only a few minutes to read, but is thought provoking. An adult should discuss the pictures and the story with the child.
Another Look at the Rainbow: Straight from the Siblings
by Children Who Have Siblings with a Life Threatening Illness
P.O. Box 7327, Berkeley, CA 94707
1982, ISBN 0-89087-413-0
This book is a summary of 34 children who share their experiences with their terminally ill brothers and sisters. The book is about their reaction when they learned about the illness plus their fear, jealousy and guilt. Each child summarizes what he or she feels about the experiences including the death of their sibling.
This book is appropriate for any child who has a sibling with a life threatening illness. The book takes only a few minutes to read, but is thought provoking. An adult should discuss the topics with the child.
Herman and Friend
by Sandy Priebe
Box 3367, Omaha, NE 68104
This is a story about a 12-year-old girl, Lisa, and her stuffed cat, Herman. Lisa goes to the hospital for many tests and takes along her stuffed animal to help her have courage. Lisa finds out she has cancer and must undergo surgery and chemotherapy treatment. Lisa loses her appetite and her hair. During her hospital stay and treatment, Herman is Lisa’s friend and confidante. The story is about Lisa’s diagnosis, treatment, pain, and finally accepting that she is dying. Lisa comes to terms with her illness and that God is smiling on her.
This book is appropriate for children, ages eight and up, that are very ill, and the adults that care for them. An adult should read the story to the child so that they can answer questions. However, the older child could read it by themselves. The book deals with the treatments, losses, and coping with cancer for the child and helps the adult to help the child with the illness. It takes about 30 minutes to read the book. The story is based on learning to cope with loses and that God is there for the child.
I’ll Always Love You
by Hans Wilhelm
$3.95 in paperback
Crown Publishers, Inc.
225 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
1985, ISBN 0-517-57265-6
This is a story about a young boy and his dog, Elfie. In the story, Elfie grows old and dies one night in her sleep. The boy told her every night that he loved her. After she dies, he is heartbroken but glad that every night he told her that he loved her. A neighbor offers the boy a new dog, and although Elfie would not mind, the boy decides not to take the puppy. Instead the boy gives Elfie’s bed to the neighbor.
This book is appropriate for all children who know someone close to them is dying. It teaches children to tell that someone "I love you!" every chance that they have before it is too late. The book reassures children that one life cannot replace another. It takes about five minutes to read the book. Children, age eight to 12, can read it independently.
It Must Hurt a Lot: A Book About Death and Learning
by Doris Sanford
Portland, OR 97266
1986, ISBN 0-88080-131-5
This is a story with beautiful illustrations about a young boy, Joshua, and his life after his dog, Muffin, dies. At first, Joshua is unable to understand how his dog could die. He cried a lot and memories of the dog were always in his mind. Everyone around Joshua acted differently toward him. This made it even more difficult for Joshua to get over the pain. However, in time, Joshua learns many secrets about losing someone. He shares these valuable lessons with your child. These secrets eventually help Joshua get over Muffin’s death and to grow from it.
This book is appropriate for young children who have suffered any type of loss. It takes about three to five minutes to read the book. The book provides some valuable lessons for children, ages five to 11, so they can deal with their loss. A parent or another adult should read the book to or with the child. In the back of the book, there is a “Letter to the Adult” who is reading the book to or with the child. It provides helpful guidance.
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children
by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen
Bantam Books, Div. Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub. Group, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
1981, ISBN 0-553-34402-1
This is a book that explains life and death by describing beginnings, endings and about living in between. There are wonderful illustrations that tell about plants, animals and people, and that dying is as much a part of living as being born. All living things have their own special lifetimes.
This book is appropriate for young children, under school age. It takes only a few minutes to read to the child. The book shows children that death is a part of living and can be used to open discussions with the child about dying.
On the Wings of a Butterfly: A Story about Life and Death
by Marilyn Maple
Parenting Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 75267, Seattle, WA 98125
1992, ISBN 0-943900-68-8 (Paperback.)
This is a story about a young girl, Lisa, who has cancer and a caterpillar, Sonya, that she finds in her yard. In this story, Lisa identifies with Sonya as Sonya undergoes physical changes to eventually become a monarch butterfly. Just as Lisa undergoes physical changes during chemotherapy as her cancer progresses, Sonya forms a cocoon and sleeps. After the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, Lisa dies and leaves on the wings of the newly hatched monarch butterfly, Sonya. Even though, Lisa’s parents are sad, they see the beauty in all the monarch butterflies that land in their yard after Lisa’s funeral.
This book is appropriate for an adult to read with a seriously ill child who is learning to cope with dying and death. The story is appropriate for children, ages seven and older. This story is a good tool for coping in the face of on-coming loss of the child. As the adult reads the story to the child, you should hug them so they feel your warmth and love. It is not just what is said but how it is said by the parent or adult that is reading the story to the child. This is a story rooted in theology, but respects the child’s doubts, questions, and differences of opinion.
The Canada Geese Quilt
by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
E. P. Dutton, Div. of Penguin Books USA, Inc.
New York, NY
1989, ISBN 0-525-65004-0
This is a book about a ten year old girl, Ariel, and the changes that occur in her life. When Ariel's parents tell her they are expecting a new baby, Ariel feels left out. The grandma and Ariel plan a special gift for the new baby using Ariel’s drawing talent and Grandma’s sewing talent. Then Grandma suffers a stroke, Ariel feels lost and afraid that her grandma will die. How can she come to terms with her grandma’s illness and the thought of her growing old and dying? Finally, Grandma gives Ariel a special gift of a quilt made from a design of Canada Geese that Ariel had drawn. Ariel then feels safe and loved again, and looking to the future even though there are many changes in her life.
This book is appropriate for a child, ages seven and up, who has a loved one who is seriously ill. An adult should read the book to the younger child and discuss the topics that the book raises. An older child can easily read the book independently. Although, the Grandma is seriously ill in the story, she does not die, but is a very changed person from the one Ariel previously knew. It takes about one hour to read the book.
The Education of Little Tree
by Forest Carter
University of New Mexico Press
1976, ISBN 0-8263-0879-1 (Paperback.)
This is a true story of a young Cherokee boy, Little Tree, during the 1930s. When Little Tree’s parents die, he goes to live with his Indian grandparents who teach him the ways of the Indian -- the natural approach to life and death. This is a story of love and respect, along with sad times. The boy learns about the cycle of life and death through his exposure to the hard times living in the Tennessee mountains during the Depression. When Little Tree’s grandparents are considered unfit by law, Little Tree is sent to an orphanage; eventually he is reunited with his grandparents but not for long. Little Tree’s grandparents and a friend die of old age, and Little Tree must go off on his own. This is a warm and happy book filled with love and respect for life. There is humor, tragedy, tenderness and most of all, love.
This book is appropriate for all ages. It has many lessons for everyone. The story informs the heart and educates the spirit. An adult can read the book to younger children and share the lessons on the cycle of life and death. Mostly the book is about love.
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
by Leo Buscaglia
Holt, Rinhart, and Winston
383 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
1982, ISBN 0-03-062424-X
This book is about the peaceful death of Freddie, a leaf. It is a powerful metaphor for the meaning of life and death for all living things. It takes the simple life of a leaf and clearly illustrates various aspects of human life. It shows the happiness that we enjoy in life, the differences in people, and subsequently the different ways that people die. Also, it shows that after death, we still have a purpose for the world that continues to live. Freddie leans about all of these different things from Daniel, the oldest and wisest leaf on the tree. Daniel, who resembles a teacher, provides Freddie with the support to die. Freddie’s peaceful death gives children a more positive look at death; it helps children to understand what happens after death.
This book is appropriate for children, ages 10 to 13 or more mature younger children. The story is a metaphor of life and death. The child may not be able to comprehend all the things that occur in the book and relate it to death. The book provides children, with a terminal illness, a way to look at their own death with less fear and more hope. Also, the book helps children with a relative that has a terminal illness to understand more about death as a part of all living things. The book takes about five to 10 minutes to read.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
by Judith Viorst
$3.95 in paperback
Aladdin Books, Macmillan Publishing Company
866 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
1971, ISBN 0-689-71203-0
This is a story about a boy whose cat, Barney, has just died. The boy’s mother tells him that they will have a funeral for Barney, but first, he must think of 10 good things about Barney. The boy can only think of nine for the funeral. When he snacks with his friend, Annie, they argue whether Barney is in Heaven or in the ground. The boy’s father says that no one knows too much about Heaven, but if there is a Heaven, he is sure there is room for Barney.
This book is appropriate for a child, ages six to 13, whose pet has died. Also you can use the book to introduce the idea of death in way that is familiar and less threatening to children. The book discusses the possibility that there may be no Heaven. This may disturb some children who believe in Heaven. It takes about five minutes to read the book.
The Three Birds: A Story for Children About the Loss of a Loved One
by Marinus van den Berg
$8.95 in paperback
19 Union Square West, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10003
1994, ISBN 0-945354-59-2
This is a story about a bird who decides to leave the nest and go on with her life. She meets a male bird, and when they realize they love each other, they have a baby. They fly together, but one day the mother cannot fly as well. Slowly they watch her until she cannot fly any more, and she dies. The baby bird wants to be with his mother, but his father explains that only birds who cannot fly can live together where his mother is -- in the sun. The young bird decides to bask in the warmth of the Sun because he accepts her death, and he knows that she will watch over him.
This story is appropriate for children whose parent is dying or has died. The story uses simple language, and children, age six to 13, will benefit from the book. It takes about five to seven minutes to read the book.