Here’s a list I sincerely hope you never have to use. We would all love to insulate our children from life’s tragedies, but unfortunately, we can’t always. If tough stuff hits your family, reading about it can help kids process. It also gives you an important intro into discussing things that can be hard to bring up.
The books are geared towards kids ages 2-5. Thanks again to Cara Aloisio, LCSW for compiling this list!
- When Dinosaurs Die (1998) by Laurie Krasny Brown & Marc Brown
The authors explain in simple language the feelings people may have regarding the death of a loved one and the ways to honor the memory of someone who has died.
- Love is Forever (2013) by Casey Rislov
This book gives caregivers and children a beautiful way to begin talking about loss and grief, and how to keep loved ones close in heart and mind through shared memories.
- I Miss You: A First Look at Death (2001) by Pat Thomas
When a close friend or family member dies, it can be difficult for children to express their feelings. This book helps boys and girls understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death.
- Goodbye Mousie (2004) by Robie H. Harris
One morning a boy finds that his pet, Mousie, won’t wake up. The truth is Mousie has died. At first the boy doesn’t believe it. He gets very mad at Mousie for dying, and then he feels very sad. But talking about Mousie, burying Mousie in a special box, and saying good-bye helps this boy begin to feel better about the loss of his beloved pet.
- Curious George Goes to the Hospital (1966) by H.A. Rey
George goes to the hospital after swallowing a puzzle piece.
- Let My Colors Out (2009) by Courtney Filigenzi
A young child is dealing with his mom’s diagnosis and treatment of cancer. He experiences a range of emotions—scared, sad, jealous, feeling fine, denial, anger—that together form a rainbow of hope through this critical time.
- Franklin Goes to the Hospital (2011) by Paulette Bourgeois
Franklin goes to the hospital for an operation to repair his broken shell, and everyone thinks he’s being very brave. But Franklin is only pretending to be fearless. He’s worried that his X-rays will show just how frightened he is inside. With the help of Dr. Bear, Franklin learns that even though he’s feeling scared, he can still be brave.
- When Pete’s Dad Got Sick: A Book about Chronic Illness (Helping Kids Heal) (2004) by Kathleen Long Bostrom
Tells the story of Pete, a boy whose dad used to run and swing him around, but now can hardly walk, much less play. Pete is hurt and angry and doesn’t understand why this has happened. Pete’s dad tells him that even though he can no longer run, he can still be Pete’s father.
- Was It the Chocolate Pudding? A Story For Little Kids About Divorce (2005) by Sandra Levins & Brian Langdo
Tells the story of divorce in a typical family from the point of view of a young narrator.
- Dinosaurs Divorce (A Guide for Changing Families) (1988) by Marc Brown & Laurie Krasny Brown
- The Invisible String (2000) by Patrice Karst
Addresses children’s fear of being apart from the ones they love, The Invisible String’s message is that though we may be separated from the ones we care for, whether through anger, or distance or even death, love is the unending connection that binds us all.
- A Terrible Thing Happened (2000) by Margaret M. Holmes & Sasha J. Mudlaff
Sherman Smith saw the most terrible thing happen. At first he tried to forget about it, but something inside him started to bother him. He felt nervous and had bad dreams. Then he met someone who helped him talk about the terrible thing, and made him feel better.
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Header photo credit: Robyn Budlender