The best children’s books about grief

Linda Oatman High Author Of One Amazing Elephant
By Linda Oatman High

The Books I Picked & Why

Missing May

By Cynthia Rylant

Book cover of Missing May

Why this book?

My all-time favorite middle-grade novel about grief. The recipient of the 1993 Newbery Medal, Missing May holds up for today’s readers. No matter how many times I read this beautiful little book, I sob at certain points in the story. Rylant takes the reader through every stage of grief, and the emotions are relatable to those of all ages. Whirligigs, gardens, and grief...they blend together gorgeously in this sparse and poetic novel. As someone who’s always looking for a sign after someone I love dies, I related with Rylant’s protagonist Summer and her desperate search for a sign from May.

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The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

By Dan Gemeinhart

Book cover of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

Why this book?

One of the best children’s books I’ve read in the past few years, this book takes the reader on a remarkable journey along with the finely-drawn characters. I’m a big fan of books that include misfit travelers who become family, and this novel has a great cast of them. The main character Coyote learns that going home can be a grueling journey after the grief of losing a loved one, but that it can be a worthwhile and healing trip.

In my own life experiences: my dad and stepmom Annette built a fairy-tale log cabin with their own hands, and the house is a symbol of family and love for me. Dad passed in 2015 and Annette just passed, 3 days before Christmas, 2021. Every time I drive past that log house they built, I weep. But now, after reading of Coyote Sunrise going home, I’ve decided that one day before too long, I will stop and ask to take a look inside the house, where a family with children now makes their home.

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The Thing About Jellyfish

By Ali Benjamin

Book cover of The Thing About Jellyfish

Why this book?

As someone who’s lost many friends through the years, I can totally relate to Benjamin’s main character Suzy and her search for meaning after losing her best friend. Questioning death and the “why” of it, Suzy believes that things don’t just happen for no reason. I love how the author incorporates the agony of grief with the wonder of the universe, and I think that readers of all ages will enjoy this beautiful and hopeful book.

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Many Points of Me

By Caroline Gertler

Book cover of Many Points of Me

Why this book?

Another middle-grade novel that includes a journey in a search for meaning after grief, Caroline Gertler’s book is also about the beauty of self-discovery. In a search for her father (and his artwork) the main character Georgia finally finds well as healing, hope, and family. In the end, Georgia learns that “home” is where she belongs, with the people who love her no matter what. A story not only about grief but about unconditional love, Gertler’s novel is a lovely one for those wondering about a lost parent.

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Counting by 7s

By Holly Goldberg Sloan

Book cover of Counting by 7s

Why this book?

This beautifully written book about Willow, an outsider who is dealing with the loss of her adoptive parents, is one of healing and hope. A diverse and multicultural cast of characters grace the pages of Sloan’s novel, with a resolution of renewal and found family for Willow. I love stories of found family with non-biological ties, and Counting by 7s is a good one for readers of all ages.

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