A great way to broach the topic of death with children is through literature.
Each of these five books looks at death from a unique perspective and would be a great entry point for discussions in school or at home.
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
by William Joyce
Every life tells a story, and every story has an ending. Joyce’s elaborately illustrated metaphorical fantasy exhorts readers to make the most of every moment and fill up the book of life with rich experiences. This book will fuel the imagination of young magical thinkers.
Children encounter death in little ways every day, and avoiding talking about the subject won't help them.
“Michael Rosen’s Sad Book”
by Michael Rosen
With pictures by Quentin Blake (probably best known for illustrating contemporary editions of Roald Dahl's children's books), the “Sad Book” is an unflinching portrait of grief caused by death, written in language children can understand. The narrator talks about the tough time he’s having dealing with the death of his son. The book gives readers permission to experience the fullness of grief while navigating a pathway to recovery.
by E.B. White
Written in 1952, White’s time-tested chapter book is the pastoral tale of a girl and a spider who love a pig. With a full cast of barnyard characters, “Charlotte’s Web” is a great read-aloud book with ample opportunities to develop fun, unique voices and personalities. It explores the cycle of love, loss and renewal with uncommon tenderness.
“Bridge to Terabithia”
by Katherine Paterson
Paterson’s Newberry Medal-winning chapter book is a work of middle-grades fiction about a pair of fifth graders, a boy and a girl, who develop a special bond. Their intimate friendship builds slowly and comes to an abrupt, unexpected end. A boy caught in the strange middleground between growing up and hanging on to childish things is forced to wrestle with questions of mortality.
“A Monster Calls”
by Patrick Ness
Appropriate for older children who can handle complicated emotions, “A Monster Calls” tells the story of 13-year-old Conor, whose mother is slowly dying from an illness that looks a lot like cancer, though Ness never uses the C-word. Conor's midnight fantasy encounters with a tree monster, and his far-too-real run-ins with his stoic grandmother, help him work through his feelings and begin the process of letting go. Bring the tissues.
This article is part of LNP's ongoing series called "Death and Dying." To see the full collection of our articles, click here.