The Best Children’s Books About Death
It's a difficult topic. These books can help parents lead the conversation with skill and sensitivity.
Kids, especially toddlers, are emotional tuning forks. They sense if we’re anxious, despondent, or just plain sad, which, in these uncertain times, most of us are. When the COVID-19 pandemic will have run its course, if ever it does, chances are that all of us will know, directly or indirectly, at least one person who died from it. And that’s pretty terrifying, especially for kids, which is why it’s smart to have some of the best children’s books about death on hand when it’s time to talk to them about this deeply frightening reality.
The younger the child, the less they grasp what death really means (insofar as any of us do). And that’s where children’s books can play a critical role, explaining something incomprehensible and confusing in clear, concise, age-appropriate language. They also give parents a way into the topic, without being too forceful or pedantic, so kids feel empowered to open up about what they’re going through.
“Kids are hearing a lot of stuff and they’re not understanding what they’re hearing. It’s scary. You need to involve them in the conversation,” says Dr. Dina L.G. Borzekowski, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health who studies how media impacts the health and well-being of kids.
When talking to kids about death, says Borzekowski, “Don’t talk down to them. Use words that people are using. Use the word ‘virus.’ If they don’t understand something, explain it in simple declarative sentences and concrete terms. Get a grasp of what they know. You can see if there are some myths or exaggerations you need to address.”
The best children’s books about death use such simple language, don’t sugarcoat or dismiss the difficulty of the experience, and ultimately validate kids’ feelings. It can be hard for parents to know what to say and when to say it; these children’s books about death can help guide the conversation.
When a child loses a grandparent, that's likely the first time they experience firsthand what death really means. In this book, Asha travels with her parents from America to India to mourn her grandmother. Asha deals with anger, sadness, and loss, and she learns that she can store memories of her grandmother forever. It's a lovely story featuring a non-white protagonist, and it's for kindergarten and up.
A beautiful classic from the author of 'Goodnight Moon ' that's been reissued and now features the work of award-winning illustrator Christian Robinson, this book tells the story of children who find a dead bird. It has no heartbeat. They say goodbye to the bird and realize that in nature, there's a cycle to life. Perfect for preschool and up.
The tragedy of losing a beloved pet hits kids (and adults) hard. In this book, a little boy tries to think of 10 good things about his cat Barney, who just passed away, to say at the feline's funeral. It helps children learn to articulate their feelings. Ideal for first grade and up.
Kids feel grief for any number of reasons: Someone they know died. Or maybe a parent left the home. Or maybe they lost their best friend. This book explains why feeling sad is normal and explains that there's no right way to feel. It's for kids in first grade and up.
A gentle, graceful look at loss told in prose, from the bestselling author of 'How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.' This book, for kids 3 and up, doesn't give any easy, pat answers. It's a conversation starter that asks questions: When somebody dies, where do they go? Do they go where the wind goes when it blows?
Death is frightening. It's mysterious. And it's incredibly difficult for preschoolers to understand how from one day to the next, someone could just be no more. In clear, concise, age-appropriate language, this book looks at both death and its emotional aftermath.
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.
This article was originally published on