“Do you have a book to help my child deal with the death of …?”
Whether concerning the death of a pet, relative, or friend, we get that question so often in the library that we’ve developed an annotated list of relevant titles. Most are stories. Yes, there are non-fiction books that may explain death medically or theologically, but when dealing with life’s difficult transitions, children (and perhaps adults) often benefit most from stories.
Stories can help children understand, express, and process their emotions, or even empathize with a friend’s loss. Here is a recent short chapter book, sensitively-written, about the passing of a beloved grandfather.
Kindred Souls, by Patricia MacLachlan (lexile: NA; AR book level: 3.0; 128 pp)
There are few things ten-year-old Jake loves more than daily walks with his 88-year-old grandfather, Billy, around their Kansas farm. Billy and Jake are, as Billy says, “kindred souls.”
Billy often shares with Jake memories of growing up on that very farm. And when they stop by the remnants of the sod house where Billy was born, Billy remarks “I loved that sod house.”
When Billy gets sick and is hospitalized, Jake decides he will build Billy his sod house once again to “make him well.” The whole family helps to make the house just right for Billy’s return home. It is the perfect gift.
Jake expects Billy to live forever; Billy knows better, and the sod house seems a kind of fulfillment for him, bringing him back to where he began. He tells Jake he is happy, and that he loves him. And somehow that is enough.
This is a simple, beautiful story of a loving family, the bond between grandfather and grandson, and the grace to let go when the time comes.
P.S. I found a superb blog called Books that Heal Kids, written by an elementary school counselor. She reviews hundreds of children’s fiction titles, both picture books and chapter books, that address various behavioral or life issues that affect kids. There’s an excellent index to search for particular topics, everything from death to adoption to forgiveness to cliques.