End of Life

Death is a difficult topic for everyone, but especially to children. With this list of books, you can feel prepared to talk about the emotions surrounding the end of life and answer questions about death to help ease the grief of children.

Compiled by:
Children's Services Staff

Picturebooks and Younger Elementary

The Boy and the Gorilla

Jackie Azúa Kramer
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Azu)

On the day of his mother's funeral, a young boy conjures the very visitor he needs to see - a gorilla. Wise and gentle, the gorilla stays on to answer the heart-heavy questions the boy hesitates to ask his father: Where did his mother go? Will she come back home? Will we all die? Yet with the gorilla's friendship, the boy slowly begins to discover moments of comfort in tending flowers, playing catch and climbing trees. Most of all, the gorilla knows that it helps to simply talk about the loss - especially with those who share your grief and who may feel alone too. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories

Audrey Penn
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Pen)

After his mother explains why his classmate is not returning to school, she teaches Chester Raccoon how to make a memory. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Cry, Heart, but Never Break

Glenn Ringtved
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Rin)

Aware their grandmother is gravely ill, four siblings make a pact to keep death from taking her away. But Death does arrive all the same, as it must. He comes gently, naturally. And he comes with enough time to share a story with the children that helps them to realize the value of loss to life and the importance of being able to say goodbye. Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye

Jane Yolen
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Yol)

A cat whose kitten days are far behind her says goodbye to her human family, and the animals and places that have made her life special, before leaving this life behind. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Death is Stupid

Anastasia Higginbotham
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 155.937 Hig)
Series: Ordinary terrible things

Walks through the emotions and confusion it is common for young people to experience when someone dies, and describes some of the ways to celebrate love and life. Recommended for ages 6-9.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages

Leo Buscaglia
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 155.937 Bu)

We follow Freddie through the seasons of his life on the tree, until he learns that death is a natural part of life. No religious content. Recommended for ages 6-9.

The Funeral

Matt James
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Jam)

Norma and her parents are going to her great-uncle Frank's funeral, and Norma is more excited than sad. She is looking forward to playing with her favorite cousin, Ray, but when she arrives at the church, she is confronted with rituals and ideas that have never occurred to her before. While not all questions can be answered, when the day is over Norma is certain of one thing: Uncle Frank would have enjoyed his funeral. This sensitive and life-affirming story will lead young readers to ask their own questions about life, death and how we remember those who have gone before us. Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Goodbye Book

Todd Parr
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Par)

Illustrations and brief text relate how a person might feel when they lose someone they love. Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Heart and the Bottle

Oliver Jeffers
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Jef)

After safeguarding her heart in a bottle hung around her neck, a girl finds the bottle growing heavier and her interest in things around her becoming smaller. Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Memory Box: A Book About Grief

Joanna Rowland
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Row)

Grieving over the death of a special person, a young child creates a memory box to keep mementos and written memories of the loved one. Includes a guide for parents with information from a Christian perspective on helping manage the complex and difficult emotions children feel when they lose someone they love, as well as suggestions on how to create their own memory box. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Missing Mommy

Rebecca Cobb
(Juvenile Picture Books – Ej Cobb)

A young boy misses his mother when she is gone--he is not sure where. His father and sister and he are trying to manage without her. His father eventually explains that the boy's mother has died and cannot come back, but that they can talk about their memories of her. Cobb puts a tremendous amount of emotion into deceptively simple facial expressions and postures. Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Purple Balloon

Christopher Raschka
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Ras)

Easy-to-read text reveals that dying is hard work, for the old and especially the young, and how good it is that so many people help when a person dies, from medical staff to clergy and friends to family members. No religious content. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Samantha Jane's Missing Smile: A Story About Coping with the Loss of a Parent

Julie Kaplow
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Kap)

With the help of her neighbor Mrs. Cooper, Samantha Jane is able to talk about how sad she is since her father died, and then she begins to feel better. Includes a note to parents at the end of the book, covering common reactions to the death of a parent and suggested coping techniques. No religious content. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Saturdays Are For Stella

Candy Wellins
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Wel)

George loves spending Saturdays with his grandmother, Stella. One day, Stella is gone and George is ready to cancel Saturdays--until a new addition to the family arrives and George finds a way to honor the memories of his beloved grandmother. Recommended for ages 3-6.

A Stone for Sascha

Aaron Becker
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Bec)

A young girl, still reeling from her dog's death, finds solace while picking up stones on the beach during her family's vacation. Recommended for ages 6-9.

What Happens When a Loved One Dies?: Our First Talk About Death

Jillian Roberts
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 155.937 Rob)

Whether children are experiencing grief and loss for the first time or simply curious, it can be difficult to know how to talk to them about death. This gentle informational text employs questions posed in a child's voice and answers that start simply and become more in-depth. Features diverse families and cultural traditions and introduces concepts of life after death and reincarnation. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Older Elementary


Eileen Spinelli
(Juvenile Fiction - J Spinell)

A relatable novel-in-verse about loss… and what happens afterwards. Twelve-year-old Birdie Briggs loves birds. They bring her comfort when she thinks about her dad, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. Life without her dad isn’t easy, but at least Birdie still has Mom and Maymee, and her friends Nina and Martin. But then Maymee gets a boyfriend, Nina and Martin start dating, and Birdie’s mom starts seeing a police officer. And suddenly not even her beloved birds can lift Birdie’s spirits. Her world is changing, and Birdie wishes things would go back to how they were before. But maybe change, painful as it is, can be beautiful too. Recommended for ages 8-12.

My Father's Words

Patricia MacLachlan
(Juvenile Fiction - J Maclach)

A terrible accident one day changes their lives forever, and Fiona and Finn O'Brien are left without a father. Their mother is at a loss. What words are there to guide them through such overwhelming grief... Perhaps with time, patience, and their father's gentle words in their hearts, hope will spark once more. Recommended for ages 8-12.


Allyson Braithwaite Condie
(Juvenile Fiction - J Condie)

Following the sudden deaths of her father and autistic younger brother, Cedar Lee spends the summer working at a Shakespearean theater festival, making a new friend, and coming to terms with her grief. Recommended for ages 8-12.

When People Die

Jane Lacey
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 155.937 Lac)

Death is difficult to deal with at any age, but for children who are handling it for the first time, it can be extra tough. This engaging book will help young readers learn to navigate this type of situation. Whether it is a friend, family member, or acquaintance who has passed away, readers will learn about the best ways to handle death through the help of relatable stories and colorful illustrations. Practical advice is presented in a way readers of all ages can understand and implement into their own lives. Recommended for ages 8-12.