The World on Either Side
As far as I can remember, I have been obsessed with death! Maybe it’s because my mom, who died four years ago at the age of 86, was a Holocaust survivor. Anyway, what I’ve noticed is that all kids' stories deal with death. Think, for instance, of how Harry Potter is an orphan. Or how so many characters in fairy tales have a parent who is dead. I think dealing with death – talking about it openly --- helps us live our lives in a more meaningful way. For my own novel, Planet Grief, I did a ton of researcher and befriended an amazing grief counselor named Dawn Cruchet. You can look her up on the web and learn about her too. Dawn taught me that there is no one, correct way to grieve, that grief is a life-changing journey.
Planet Grief takes place at a grief camp – a place for kids who are mourning the death of someone they loved. Compared to other kids, the kids at grief camp really are living on another planet. Always-sarcastic Abby would rather be playing soccer, and cagily-quiet Christopher thinks grief camp is a waste of time. But together with the other kids on Planet Grief, they’re about to learn a thing or two – not so much about death, but about life. The novel’s author, Monique Polak, is also a journalist. The novel is based on research about a real-life grief camp in Montreal.
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Oh, this is an amazing book! Hard to read in a few places, because it deals openly with the aftermath of a gruesome suicide. But if you ask me, that’s what readers need – openness about subjects, such as suicide, topics which many people would prefer to avoid altogether. Also, I’ve met author Don Aker and I love him. He told me he got the idea for this story from a real-life suicide that took place in his community.
One of my favourite books of all time! Not only because the author is Dutch (like me!!). The narrator Kiki is a worrier. She worries most of all about her dad who is a doctor who works in dangerous war zones. This book manages to be funny and sad and beautiful at the same time. Read it!
I just taught this book to my college class and they loved it too. It’s set in the future, and it’s written by a Métis author – but this book is really about an attempt to wipe out a culture. The narrator Frenchie is mourning the deaths of his family members, but he is also courageously attempting to rebuild his life and preserve his culture.
Because I love how this book combines crazy humour and deep feeling. Because I am friends with the author I know that this book comes from somewhere deeply personal in his life – Silberberg’s mom died when he was a kid. This book needs to be read by anyone coping with the death of a loved one. Like all great books for kids, it’s for adults too!
We think you will like Letters to the Lost, We Are the Ants, and The Snowman if you like this list.
From Joy's list on with strong and complex female characters.
From Caitlin's list on character-driven stories to give you all the feels.
This was a book I actually put off reading for a long time precisely because I knew it would destroy me. It centers around a science fiction allegory for depression that the main character, Henry, must navigate alongside his grief over losing his boyfriend to suicide a year before. Every character is multi-layered and complicated in such a realistically flawed way; there wasn’t anyone who didn’t have something going on or their own demons to face, which I absolutely loved. I read this book after going through one of the worst depressive periods of my life, when I couldn’t think of any downsides to dying. Seeing Henry navigate such difficult, complicated relationships and grief gave me much-needed hope at the time.
From Christyan's list on bereavement and loss.
The Snowman needs no introduction. And it also deals with bereavement in a more oblique way: the boy’s snowman melts in the final image of the final page, essentially dying. But the boy doesn’t feel the loss of an inanimate object, he feels the pain and loss of losing a friend with whom he’s shared games and adventures. The wordless narrative also allows parents to supply their own dialogue, or let the reader ask questions of their own.