The best middle grade books dealing with death, dying, and grief

Who am I?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with life and death. As a child, my own life was fairly mundane and even joyful. However, I went through loss like most. We lost two dogs when I was maybe seven or nine. Then my beagle Suzy, who we had the longest, was struck by a car on a rainy day. A few years later, my grandfather passed from cancer. Watching my mother grieve stuck with me. It shaped me—how I cared about life, how I longed to understand it. Once I decided to write stories for children, I knew it could be a safe place to explore my hidden feelings.

I wrote...

This Girl Climbs Trees

By Ellen Mulholland,

Book cover of This Girl Climbs Trees

What is my book about?

What is a new teen to do when her father chops down her first best friend, a motherly maple that has guarded her window since birth? Eliza Mills sulks over her beloved tree where she climbed to the top to think about the world. Who will now listen to her worries? What's up there, out there? If there is a god, why has he/shetaken away what and who she loves? Answers might be hidden inside a mysterious box left behind by her dying grandfather. Convinced he is trying to send her one final message, she believes the box is her final hope. Eliza Mills takes the reader on a deep but often humorous journey of life and death until arriving at the door of self-discovery.

The books I picked & why

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The Miraculous

By Jess Redman,

Book cover of The Miraculous

Why this book?

Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis must regain his faith in the world after a terrible tragedy strikes his family. Through journaling miraculous stories and a chance meeting with Faye, a girl in a cape, Wunder finds healing and joy again. A beautiful and quirky tale that delicately and expertly deals with how kids see death and grief.

The Land of Yesterday

By K.A. Reynolds,

Book cover of The Land of Yesterday

Why this book?

How do you recover from believing you caused your brother’s death? Cecelia has no idea. When Celadon’s soul drifts into the Land of Yesterday, their entire house goes into mourning. Cecelia must reconcile her feelings before her world collapses and she ends up a lost soul forever, too. Reynolds expertly handles loss and regret in this magical tale for middle grade readers and up.

The Night Diary

By Veera Hiranandani,

Book cover of The Night Diary

Why this book?

In the vein of The Diary of Anne Frank, this story follows a Hindu Indian girl’s journal entries to her deceased mother as her splintered family escapes newly freed India in 1947. More than that, it’s a story of lost and found—friendship, family, home, and, most importantly, a voice. A touching story middle grade readers of all ages will enjoy.


By Jason Reynolds,

Book cover of Sunny

Why this book?

Sunny is one of four books in Reynold’s Track series. Each focuses on a member of the team. Sunny is extremely likable with his quiet voice and big—boomtickaboomboom—heart. He is home-schooled and raised by his father after his mother died in childbirth. Sunny’s journey is accepting that he did not kill her. It’s a poignant story told with the lyrical charm that belongs to Jason Reynolds.

Finding Langston

By Lesa Cline-Ransome,

Book cover of Finding Langston

Why this book?

This is a warm hug book. The kind that sneaks up on you when you’re reading words. Langston is a lovable main character. His story is rich with family, tradition, loss, and poetry. He is eleven when his mother dies, and his dad decides they must leave Alabama. So many changes for this boy as he is bullied and deals with segregation in 1940s Chicago. But he discovers the library that welcomes all. Such a sweet story and perfect for younger middle grade readers.

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