Death in Children’s Books: What is Your View?

Am I Like My Daddy?  is my picture book in the grief genre.  I have lots of ideas for posting about the book and its topic, but it’s not easy, and as I am building this blog I’m not sure being known as the place to read about children’s grief recovery is what I want to  be associated with my blog.  However, from personal experience which I will touch upon another time, I don’t think it’s good to shield kids from the realities of the life cycle.  I don’t think they need more details than they can handle, but sometimes their feelings aren’t considered in an effort to protect them.


When I was probably in the fifth grade I read Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.   I loved the unique friendship between Jess and Leslie in their creation of an imagined world.  When tragedy struck I was unprepared for the emotions it would bring about.  I had the same reaction in Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls when Billy lost his dogs.  I am not sure I learned a “lesson” in these books.  I am positive they did not prepare me for my own personal experiences with the death of a parent, but I do think that children of proper maturity and age should not be shielded from death.  While we hope they will never experience a personal loss, the reality is that some will.  If anything, these books build empathy and compassion and make children realize they aren’t alone when feeling sad.


So, I was wondering, how has death in a children’s book affected you or your children, and how did you handle it?  What do you think? 

19 thoughts on “Death in Children’s Books: What is Your View?

  1. I recommend the book “To Hell With Dying” (excuse the word) by Alice Walker. To me it is a most beautiful book, although I’ve never shared it with a child. I cry every time I read it, even though I know what’s coming. It is so beautifully-done. BTW, I like the way you engage your readers by asking their opinions. I really enjoy your blog, Marcy

  2. I volunteer in my granddaughter’s fourth-grade class, and they have read “Where the Red Fern Grows.” She’s a good reader, and comprehends the “lessons” in a book, but she did not like this one because, as she said, “It’s too sad. Why did the dogs have to die?”

    • True, it’s sad. Hence, many don’t agree with exposing kids to this theme. I disagree and believe there are lessons to be learned. However, your granddaughter is also entitled to her preference in the types of books that bring her joy as a reader. Thanks for sharing.

  3. With death being such a natural part of life, it goes without saying that children need to learn about it and the effects of it on them and those around them. Incorporating it in childrens books, is a great intro for parents to discuss this topic with them!

  4. I did a google search and found some blogs dealing with this subject. I forwarded a copy of one to you for your consideration. The interesting thing about your blog…is really the “Children’s Writing” and writing facts ideas you are sending out. Mention of your writing journey and current applications maintain a sustaining level of interest as well.

  5. Death is a tough subject for all ages. BUT… kids are exposed to it at young ages… Disney movies, a sunday school lesson around Easter time, a grandparent dying, a pet dying, or much worse- a parent, close friend, or sibling dying! It’s a part of life that all children are exposed to in some form. Parents need tools like books or religious faith to help prepare kids for something that is inevitable! Of my 3, my son has been the most curious about dying. For us, we have handled his questions with our religious beliefs. I also shared stories from the book Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo with him. He loved hearing stories from that book, and it comforted him. If my children had to go what you and your sister went through- losing a parent so young- I would cling to books like yours to help them feel like they were not alone. None of us want to feel alone, but death can make us feel just that. Sharing your story will bring so many children and parents comfort!!

  6. We can’t shield our children from death. We have a grandson who lost his sister at birth. He seemed to accept it so well and I believe this was mostly because of his parents’ open approach to this tragedy. Of course, he may have times when he feels the pang of not having a sibling, but again, it is a part of life and he will most likely deal with his challenges because he has not learned to hide or ignore difficulty.

  7. it would seem to be difficult to incorporate “death” in a children’s book, but yet it is done by some of our greatest writers. I feel Death isn’t something that should be shielded from children, however, how do you want your Children to learn about Death? and to what extent is the death a pet, family member, close friend ect.. Sex is also a very important part of life, likely not something I want my kids reading about yet. It sounds almost hypocritical to say “death” okay to read about “conception of life” not so much…

    With just about anything in life Parental involvement is key, to help explain and to help guide your children.

  8. With the recent death of my grandmother, my husband and I shared Shel Silverstein’s poem “Where the Sidewalk Ends” with our son, which was written when Shel’s mother died. Literature has been a way for our son to connect, to help make sense of his feelings and start the healing process. My son adored his great-grandmother and he is grieving so deeply for her right now. Using literature (and other art forms like dance and drawing) are giving my son a chance to grieve and remember his great-grandmother.

    Children experience life just like adults through happy times and sad times. Our experiences may be different, but as parents (or adults) we cannot downplay a child’s grief or worse yet, hide death from children. We need to show children how to acknowledge and accept their feelings. The arts including literature and children’s stories reveal to children in their language on how to do just that – live life through the good times and the not so good ones.

  9. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photo. I remember loving Bridge to Terabithea when I was growing up as well. I think it is wonderful you are writing a children’s grief book, as I think this is a sometimes forgotten genre. Thanks, to great organizations like Lory’s PLace, we are able to help children learn that we never have to get over the person, but instead, we need to work through the grief.

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