Books for children aged 5-8 years
A Birthday Present for Daniel: A Child’s Story of Loss
By Juliet Rothman & illustrated by Louise Gish, 2001
Told by a young girl whose brother, Daniel, has died, she talks about how things have changed in the family. She also talks about the things she does when she is sad and how these differ from other members of her family. This book has small black and white pictures with minimal text but it conveys some important issues. It would be particularly useful to broach the subject of birthdays as it describes how the family remembered Daniel on his birthday.
Always and Forever
By Alan Durant & illustrated by Debi Gliori, 2003
Otter, Mole and Hare miss Fox when he falls ill and dies. They stay at home and don’t want to talk about him because it makes them sadder. Then Squirrel visits and reminds them of all the fun times they had together. They all find a way to remember Fox and get on with their lives. Colourful, detailed pictures in this book emphasise the importance of holding on to memories.
Badger’s Parting Gifts
By Susan Varley, 1992 Picture Lions, ISBN: 978-0006643173
Badger is old and knows he is going to die soon. When he does, the other animals think they will be sad forever, but they begin to talk about the memories they have of the things Badger taught them and learn to cope with his death. A lovely picture book that emphasises the importance of remembering the person who has died.
By Babette Cole, 1998
A humorous book with comic-like pictures, two ‘bald old wrinklies’ tell their grandchildren about their life growing up and how one day they will just drop down dead. It is a light-hearted book about life that emphasises the normality and inevitability of dying. It is very direct and some readers may not like its style.
By Donna Jo Napoli & illustrated by Cathie Felstead, 2003
In this bright and colourful book, a young boy tells the story of his Dad who is seriously ill and dies soon after a trip to Florida to see the place where he grew up. The collage style illustrations capture the things the boy collects to remind him of his Dad. A sensitive but honest book which emphasises the importance of memories.
By Posy Simmonds, 1998
A light-hearted book with detailed illustrations about Fred, Nick and Sophie’s lazy cat that dies. After burying him in the garden, they wake up at night to find all the cats in the area have come to say goodbye to Fred, the famous singer! This funny and touching story would be useful to introduce death to children.
Granpa – The Book of the Film
Based on the story by John Burningham, 1991
This beautifully detailed picture book has very few words but tells the story of a little girl’s relationship with her Granpa. It takes the reader through many happy times they spent together playing games, telling stories and on outings. On the last page, Granpa’s chair is empty, signifying that he has died. Children may benefit from reading this book with an adult to talk about the pictures and to elaborate some of the messages it conveys.
Saying Goodbye: A Special Farewell to Mama Nkwelle
By Ifeoma Onyefulu, 2002
This book has large bright colourful photos and follows a little boy, Ikenna describing what happens at the ceremony after his great-grandmother’s funeral. It gives ideas of different ways to remember someone and an insight into Nigerian culture. A lovely book that could be used in many different situations, including schools.
There’s NO Such Thing as a Dragon
By Jack Kent Happy Cat Books
There's No Such Thing as a Dragon (1975) by Jack Kent, part of the Family Storytime series, relates the charming tale of Billy Bixbee, who awakens to find a dragon "about the size of a kitten" sitting on his bed. The dragon grows by leaps and bounds, until Billy dares to pet the attention-seeking creature and it shrinks back down into an adoring little lap dragon.
The Sunshine Cat
Written by Miriam Moss, Illustrated by Lisa Flather
Sunny the cat is loved by all his human family, but one day there is a knock at the door - Sunny has been killed in an accident. A sensitive story which aims to help children come to terms with death.
Written and Illustrated by Nicholas Allan
Dill, the dog, knows his time is up, so he packs his case and tells Lily, his owner, that he's off "up there". "Can I come too?" asks Lily. "Er...not yet," replies Dill. While he is waiting for the angels to collect him, Dill explains to Lily what he thinks heaven is like: hundreds of lampposts to pee against, lots of whiffy things to smell and bones everywhere - with meat on them! But, Lily completely disagrees; she thinks heaven is quite different. Luckily, they agree to disagree just in time for a fond, and very poignant, last goodbye.
The Huge Bag of Worries
By Virginia Ironside & illustrated by Frank Rodgers, 1996
Jenny begins to worry about lots of different things and these worries build up and get out of control. She just can’t get rid of them, until she meets the old lady next door who helps her feel better. A lovely story with fun illustrations encourages children to talk about their worries.
Saying Goodbye to Daddy
By Judith Vigna, 1991
Clare’s Dad died in a car accident and this book looks at changes in the family, difficult feelings, funerals and memories through the eyes of Clare. It would also be a good book to help parents understand the child’s perspective. It gives good examples of how adults can answer children’s questions, emphasising the need to be clear and honest.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
By Judith Viorst & illustrated by Erik Blegvad, 1987
A young boy’s cat dies and his parents suggest that he could think of ten good things about Barney to tell at the funeral. But he can only think of nine, until he talks to his Father about what happens to someone after they have died, and he discovers the tenth. A carefully written book with black and white pictures, that sensitively deals with death and lets the reader make his or her own decisions about what happens after the funeral.
When Dinosaurs Die: A guide to understanding death
By Laurie Krasny & illustrated by Marc Brown, 1998
This factual picture book uses cartoon dinosaurs to illustrate the text and comment on what is said. It is a bright and colourful book that explains death in a simple and unthreatening way. It covers many issues including ‘why does someone die?’, ‘feelings about death’ and ‘saying goodbye’. It would be an excellent resource for anyone caring for young children.