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Children’s Books about Feelings and Grief

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Where do you stand on books for young children on feelings and grief? Do you worry you will make your children upset and morose and avoid them or do you read them as you do any other story in your home?

Childrens Books about Feelings and Grief

PudStar yesterday came home with some very sad news about a classmate having lost his daddy that morning. In our house, we have read many books on grief and this morning we packed her bag with these to take to school and share with her classmates. They may or may not read them in class…it’s always a tricky one and will, of course, be up to the teacher’s discretion. My own thoughts on this are based on my personal experiences in the past few years, and I would love to hear from you if you have different thoughts on the issue or if, like us, you read books on these issues in your house.

My family have experienced crushing grief in the last few years with the loss of my brother. Grief and loss can, at times, be overwhelming whilst at other times grief and sadness walk beside a person as a constant companion. I have experienced the full gamut of emotions and through me, my children have also experienced them.

The Chief Bedtime Reader in our house, AKA daddy, lives with chronic back pain which some days is crippling and life-altering and some days is just there as a part of him. He is never pain-free and our children witness this and deal with it and adore him. This morning ChickPea told her friend next door ‘my daddy can kill monsters’ and PudStar replied ‘Yep! Even though he has a bad back!’.

Bedtime reading

Our house is a happy place – full of laughter and shrieks of joy and screams of excitement, much rolling on the floor giggling with daddy about bodily function jokes. But we do read lots of books about feelings and about grief and far from being morose about it, we include these books as part of our normal day to day reading. PudStar often requests ‘Life is Like the Wind’ – it is gentle and affirming and yes, it’s about death.

In my mind, books about feelings and books about grief develop empathy and help us to navigate our way through tricky situations. Most importantly, books give us the words when we have none. The words in ‘Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between’ have become part of our everyday conversations. Just yesterday on the way home from school PudStar said ‘it’s so sad about the daddy having his ending but I think his lifetime was really good’. These books have given her language to discuss how she feels about grief and the ability to name her feelings – happy, sad, excited, overwhelmed, silly, lonely, and confused. I hope reading these books with my children also helps develop empathy for others.

It’s a similar situation with the news – to have it on or not? We don’t, but I’m more than happy to have PudStar look at some photographs in the paper (quality paper it is not…but choices are limited!) and discuss them with her. The MH17 tragedy has been overwhelming and whilst we’ve chosen to not have the news on, we have talked about the feelings of the families involved. Personally, I think it’s okay to discuss these things with small children in a sensitive way – but of course you have to make a decision about each situation as it arises and the nature of your individual child as no one wants to scare a child and give them nightmares.

Life throws curveballs at all families and communities, and to me books on grief and feelings are an essential part of every home collection. You may not refer to them often, but they are there when needed. To have the words in a book, when you yourself have none to offer seems to me, anyway, just so important.

And now with my teacher librarian hat on…a few years ago now I stopped saying,  ‘take this book home for mummy or daddy to read with you’ and started saying, ‘take this book home to read with someone who loves you‘. I cannot know the family situation of every student I come in contact with. I know I can’t shield children from every feeling of sadness but this seemed such a simple thing I could change and it is my hope that every child has someone in their life to who loves them and will read to them.

For those who asked on Instagram and Facebook…here is our collection of favourites. And do leave me a comment telling me if you agree, disagree or have never considered all this!

To add these books to your home, school or library collection, click on book title links or image links.

Children’s Books on Grief

My full review of ‘Life is Like the Wind’ is here.

life-is-like-the-wind

My full review of my all-time favourite book on grief, ‘Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between’ is here. Yes I have an all-time favourite book on grief. I’ve actually been reading this book for years and years…I just think it’s words are so perfect. I have shared this book with so many.

lifetimes

Books on Feelings

(there are hundreds of books on feelings…these are just my current favourites)

‘The Great Big Book of Feelings’ is one I like LOTS. It talks about all feelings and for some feelings it explains the range of that feeling for example a small sadness  might be not being allowed to have an iceblock for dinner but a big sadness might be losing someone you love.

the-great-big-book-of-feelings

‘How Are You Peeling’ I have been using for SO.MANY.YEARS in early childhood classrooms. Vegetables are used to illustrate feelings – sounds odd but it is amazing! I prefer the hardback version here but it is half the price in softback here.

how-are-you-peeling-

I am embarrassed to say that I dismissed Todd Parr books for a long time (sorry) until I read his one about families and adoption. His books are deserved best-sellers. This one comes as a book and also as flashcards.

the-feelings-booktodd-parr-feelings-flash-cards

So hit me with your thoughts. Agree or disagree with me? Got any other books to add to my list? Any commission raised from sales of books from this post will be going straight to the Cancer Council of Australia. I do use affiliate links because they cost my readers nothing and  after paying blog costs, money goes to charity groups which support children’s literacy…or in this case, cancer research.

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15 Comments

  1. Lucy on Jul 31, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    A beautifully written blog post with such a valuable resource list! As an educator and parent I’ll be pinning this for when it’s needed. Many thanks

    • admin on Aug 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Thank you!

  2. Rosanne Hawke on Aug 1, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Lovely and important blog post. There’s a new picture book out by Briony Stewart dealing with loss, memories and love called In the Garden. A boy remembers his pet rabbit and the good times they had in the garden. Inspired by the author’s rabbit. Thank you for all your work on the blog.

    • admin on Aug 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Oh I LOVE that one by Briony! It’s a stunner. Yes must add that one.

  3. Zanni on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Heart in a Bottle (Oliver Jeffers) is a beautiful story, which I think is about grief. The fact that it’s ambiguous sort of reflects what grief may be for a small person too. x

    • admin on Aug 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      I love Oliver Jeffers! I’ve not read this one is ages..must have another look at it Zanni!

  4. Katey Daley on Aug 1, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Hey Megan. Another one that is beautiful and inspirational – Samsara Dog – Helen Manos and Julie Vivas. I am sure you would know it.

    • admin on Aug 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      I ADORE ‘Samsara Dog’…should most certainly have included that one!

  5. Laura (Sylvie LP) on Aug 2, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Megan, these are great. I am going to buy lifetimes right now. I also found I’ll always love you by hans Wilhelm absolutely seminal as a child. For anyone daunted by the cost of the feelings book, the aliki one is quite good and in my Xmas book drawer.

    • admin on Aug 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      Oh I know that one…I totally AGREE that book by Hans Wilmelm is STUNNING. I shall look the other one up!!!! Thank you!

  6. Joanna on Aug 3, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Great post, I will be getting some of these books 🙂 at what age do you think we should start discussing these things with kids? I have a 3 yr old. Also, I’m a vet, do you have any recommendations for books that help kids with the loss of a family pet?

    • admin on Aug 3, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Hi there! I think the sooner you start reading books about topics like this the better as then it just becomes part of what your child KNOWS and they know the words and the feelings innately. I do have some great books about pets and loss…shall hunt them down and write a list in the next 24 hours for you. We recently lost our gorgeous staffy boy who was our firstborn child and so adored. I SO admire vets! You do SUCH great things are so sensitive to mad pet owners like us. My FAV dog books are here in this post (as well as lots of tears and pictures of my staffy!) https://childrensbooksdaily.com/top-ten-dog-books/

  7. Bec on Sep 2, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I love your site and IG feed Megan, thank you as I can only imagine how much work it takes.
    These suggestions are lovely and I will be sure to look at them for our family. Do you happen to have any suggestions for books explaining cancer? I’ve just been diagnosed and trying to explain to my 4.5 and 2.5 year olds that I have to go to hospital and be quarantined from them for 2 weeks but will be ok is very challenging!

  8. Sue on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Thanks Megan,this post is so helpful in addressing an issue that many families and early educators would really appreciate support with.
    I’ve been looking for books that deal with significant and sensitive issues to add to our 100 Stories booklist so I’ve ordered Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in between to have a look at.
    You might also be interested in The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup,Orchard Books. It has animals as the characters and uses the theme of remembering special times and moments with fox who has become old and died.As they tell their memories a little tree starts to grow and over time it becomes a big tree in the forest that reminds them every day of fox..Just lovely.

    • Megan Daley on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Oh that book sounds beautiful and I’m ordering it now! Thank you so much!

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