The best children’s books about grief and not facing it alone

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

Who am I?

I have passion for the topic of grief among middle-school-aged children, as I struggled with my grief when I was ten and my beloved grandmother died. My dad came from a very large family, and so other relatives passed during my childhood, with me always dealing with feelings of confusion after the loss. I think that children need to know that they are not alone when they are facing a loss, whether it be of a human or a pet.

I wrote...

One Amazing Elephant

By Linda Oatman High,

Book cover of One Amazing Elephant

What is my book about?

A poignant middle-grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.

Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace. Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man—and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.

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The books I picked & why

Missing May

By Cynthia Rylant,

Book cover of Missing May

Why did I love 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.

By Cynthia Rylant,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Missing May as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This critically acclaimed winner of the Newbery Medal joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content.

Ever since May, Summer's aunt and good-as-a-mother for the past six years, died in the garden among her pole beans and carrots, life for Summer and her Uncle Ob has been as bleak as winter. Ob doesn't want to create his beautiful whirligigs anymore, and he and Summer have slipped into a sadness that they can't shake off. They need May in whatever form they can have her -- a message, a whisper, a sign that will…

Book cover of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

Why did I love 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.

By Dan Gemeinhart,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Five years. That's how long twelve-year-old Coyote and her dad, River, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation. It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters.

Coyote hasn't been home since, but when she learns that the park in her old neighbourhood is being demolished - the very same park where she, her mum, and her sisters buried a memory box - she devises a plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state.

On the way, they'll pick up an eclectic group of folks. Lester…

Book cover of The Thing About Jellyfish

Why did I love 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.

By Ali Benjamin,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Thing About Jellyfish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's peculiar how no-words can be better than words. How silence can say more than noise, or a person's absence can occupy even more space than their presence did.

Suzy is twelve when her best friend, Franny, drowns one summer at the beach. It takes two days for the news to reach Suzy, and it's not something that she can accept: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, from the day they met in swim class when they were just five. How can someone all of a sudden, just no longer be there?

Suzy realizes that they must have got…

Many Points of Me

By Caroline Gertler,

Book cover of Many Points of Me

Why did I love 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.

By Caroline Gertler,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Many Points of Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Sensitive and thoughtful—a story about loss, friendship, and the beauty of self-discovery.”—Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal–winning author of When You Reach Me

When Georgia finds a secret sketch her late father—a famed artist—left behind, the discovery leads her down a path that may reshape everything holding her family and friends together. Caroline Gertler’s debut is a story about friendship, family, grief, and creativity. Fans of Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, Dan Gemeinhart’s The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, and E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will find a new friend in Georgia.

Georgia Rosenbloom’s father was…

Counting by 7s

By Holly Goldberg Sloan,

Book cover of Counting by 7s

Why did I love 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.

By Holly Goldberg Sloan,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Counting by 7s as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the tradition of WONDER and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD this award-winning New York Times bestseller is an intensely moving, lyrically-written novel.

COUNTING BY 7S tells the story of Willow Chance, a twelve-year-old genius who is obsessed with diagnosing medical conditions and finds comfort in counting by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn't kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow's world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a…

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