The best books for kids dealing with grief, death, and loss

Who am I?

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.

I wrote...

Planet Grief

By Monique Polak,

Book cover of Planet Grief

What is my book about?

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.

The books I picked & why

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The World on Either Side

By Diana Terrana,

Book cover of The World on Either Side

Why this book?

This story takes place on an exotic trek in Thailand. The setting is amazing. But what is even more amazing is the stuff going on inside the sixteen-year-old narrator Valentine’s head! She is trying to cope after the tragic, senseless death of her boyfriend. There is a lot that is sad and serious in this story, but it’s also life-affirming and beautifully written.

The Space Between

By Don Aker,

Book cover of The Space Between

Why this book?

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.

Against the Odds

By Marjolijn Hof,

Book cover of Against the Odds

Why this book?

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!

The Marrow Thieves

By Cherie Dimaline,

Book cover of The Marrow Thieves

Why this book?

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.

Milo: Sticky Notes & Brain Freeze

By Alan Silberberg,

Book cover of Milo: Sticky Notes & Brain Freeze

Why this book?

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!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in grief, dreams, and the Netherlands?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about grief, dreams, and the Netherlands.

Grief Explore 53 books about grief
Dreams Explore 38 books about dreams
The Netherlands Explore 48 books about the Netherlands

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Letters to the Lost, We Are the Ants, and The Snowman if you like this list.