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General Story Books about Grief and Death

Anderson, L.C. It's O.K. to Cry. Chicago: Children's Press, 1979. (SA)

A four year old boy tries to tell his five year old brother that their favorite uncle is dead. In the second part of the book there are questions and answers that relate to the story and to the general topic of death.

Buscaglia, L. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. New Jersey: Charles Slack, 1982. (PS/SA)

This story tells how Freddie and his friends, all leaves, change with seasons, finally falling to the ground with winter's snow. Both children and adults will respond to this sensitive treatment of the delicate balance between life and death. The photographs are very effective.

Coerr, E. Sadako. New York: Holt, 1983. (PS)

Based on Eleanor Coerr's previously published Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, this retelling of the story and message of peace, are accompanied by the illustrations of Caldecott medalist Ed Young.

Doleski, T. The Hurt. Manwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1983. (PS/SA)

Justin's reaction to various upsetting experiences, result's in a balloon like "hurt" growing bigger and bigger. Finally, through sharing his feelings with his father and experiencing reconciliation, Justin is able to let the hurt go.

Goble, P. Beyond the Ridge. New York: Macmillian Publishing Co. 1989. (SA)

At her death an elderly Native American woman experiences an afterlife believed in by her people, beyond the ridge to a more beautiful world.

Hanson, W. The Next Place. 1997. (PS/SA)

Striking illustrations and a first person text describe "the next place" the storyteller will go. The book presents a very peaceful and attractive description of the afterlife and is not overtly religious--does not identify with any particular religion. Many have found this book very comforting and helpful.

Holmes, M. A Terrible Thing Happened. Washington, DC: Magination Press, 2000. (PS/SA)

Sherman Smith (a raccoon) "saw the most terrible thing." The terrible thing is never defined which allows many children in many different situations to identify with Sherman. He tries not to think about it, but this doesn't work. Eventually, Sherman talks to Ms. Maple who helps Sherman draw pictures and talk. With Ms. Maple's help, Sherman learns to cope and feel better.

Mills, J. Gentle Willow. New York: Magination Press, 1993. (PS/SA)

This tender story brings back the characters from Little Tree (1992) to face the illness and eventual death of Gentle Willow. Amanda the squirrel and the tree wizards address feelings of disbelief, anger and sadness along with love, compassion and caregiving. The story provides children, and those reading the story with them, a "transformational" way of viewing death and dying.

Mills, L. The Rag Coat. Boston, Toronto, London: Little, Brown and Company, 1991. (SA)

Minna proudly wears her new coat made of clothing scraps, including her dead papa's work clothes. At school the other children laugh at her coat until she tells them stories behind the scraps.

O'Toole, D. Aarvy Aardvark Finds Hope. Burnsville, NC: Compassion Press, 1998. (SA)

With the help of his friend, Ralphy Rabbit, Aarvy Aardvark comes to terms with the loss of his mother and brother. The difficulties and long time needed to begin to feel better after a loss are illustrated well in this story. The illustrations are purposefully not colored so that children can color them as they please.

Schwiebert, P. & DeKlyen, C. Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss. Portland, OR: Grief Watch, 1999.

Grandy, "an old and somewhat wise woman," sets out to make tear soup as a way to cope with her loss. With wonderful illustrations, making tear soup is used very creatively as a metaphor for mourning. The story deals with wisdom about coping and about supporting others in their grief. It is a story that is also very appropriate for use with adults.

Simon, N. The Saddest Time. Niles, IL: Albert Whitman and Company, 1986. (PS/SA)

Three separate stories depict children's experience with the death of an uncle, an eight-year-old friend and a grandmother.

Tresselt, A. The Dead Tree. New York: Parent's Magazine Press, 1972. (PS/SA)

This book tells the story of the life cycle of an oak tree, poetically and through illustration. Death is portrayed as a natural and necessary part of the life cycle. It is both informative and hopeful.

Varley, S. Badger's Parting Gifts. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1984. (SA)

Following Badger's peaceful death, his friends recall their special memories of how he taught each of them something special- Badger's parting gifts.

White, E.B. Charlotte's Web. New York: Harper& Row, 1952. (SA)

Charlotte, the spider, and Wilbur, the pig, become loving friends. When Charlotte dies, Wilbur holds her memory close and takes care of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The story describes the sadness experienced by loving friends and how memories are kept alive.

Wiles, D.  Each Little Bird That Sings.  New York: Scholastic, 2005.  (SA/AD)

Ten year old Comfort Snowberger has a special perspective as she lives in the residential part of a funeral home in a small southern town.  Far from being depressed or frightened by her surroundings, Comfort is full of spunk and insight into life, people and service to others.  Her best friend, Declaration Johnson, is beginning to have her doubts about spending time with Comfort which comfort naturally finds disturbing.  More immediately disturbing, however, is the presence of her younger out-of-state cousin whose histrionics create scenes and embarrassment for Comfort.  In the mix are a flood, a brother named Tidings, a dog named Dismay and a comic and tender story about life, friendship, family and even death.  A highly readable juvenile novel.

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