The majority of Christmas books focus solely on the good things about the day – family, food, presents – but as parents we know it can actually be quite stressful. There’s so much to think about and for many people Christmas can be tinged with sadness because of an empty chair at the table or the financial strain. 2020 has been awful in so many ways so these issues will no doubt be exacerbated this year.
This is why i’m glad we discovered ‘The Christmas Next Door’. It celebrates the joy of the festive season whilst acknowledging that sometimes things don’t quite go to plan!
When Grandad arrives to spend Christmas with his family everyone is very excited, but he has a few challenges to overcome before the big day arrives. Autistic Lily is anxious about being in the school play, Max is stressed about visiting Santa’s Grotto because he thinks he might be on the naughty list and Mum and Dad are running around trying to get everything prepared.
In recent months I have seen a sharp increase in the number of messages and emails I receive from parents asking me to recommend books to help children cope with a bereavement.
There are many stories out there which offer great comfort and encourage children to talk about their loss and how it makes them feel, but trying to find the right one for your child when you are dealing with your own grief can feel like an enormous task.
Here is a list of the 24 books which I would recommend. I hope you find it helpful, and please do share it with friends and family who you think may need it.
It’s an unfortunate fact that I get a lot of messages from parents and teachers seeking children’s book about bereavement. This wonderful story by Alan Durant is the one I recommend most often as it is warm and reassuring.
Otter, Mole, Fox and Hare all live together in a wonderful treehouse. They are a busy little family, with Fox acting as a kind of father figure to the group. Life is good, until one day Fox falls ill and goes out in to the woods on his own. His friends find him under an old oak tree, still and cold, and know that he has gone forever. They bury him in his favourite place and then fall in to a deep sadness. Without Fox they can find no reason to smile.
This moving book about the loss of a grandparent makes me cry every time I read it. It’s beautifully written and the vibrant illustrations are just stunning.
The poetic story follows a young girl through the seasons as she has wonderful adventures with her grandad. Together they explore the great outdoors, go to the beach, play cars and share stories.
But her grandad is ill and she wishes there is something she could do to make him stay by her side. She dreams of planting his birthdays in the ground so that he can’t get old or healing him just by listening to the tall tales from his youth.
Then the day arrives when she comes home to her Grandad’s empty chair.
Most people are familiar with the series of books about Mog, written by the wonderful Judith Kerr. The very first one, Mog the Forgetful Cat, was published in 1970 and since then there have been many stories about this feisty feline and his owners, the Thomas family. But did you know that in one of the last books written about Mog, she dies? Written to help children work through feelings of grief and loss, Goodbye Mog is a touching story about the death of a much-loved pet.
Mog is old now and very tired so one day she decides that the best thing to do would be to sleep forever.
She watches over the Thomas family as they cry sad tears and lay their pet to rest in their garden. She listens as the children share fond memories of the things they did together.
This stunning picture book helps children understand their grief after a bereavement and teaches them that, although sometimes difficult, life will go on.
Fox and Wolf are the best of friends and do everything together. They laugh, they talk, they swim and explore. Life is beautiful when they are in each others company. But then one evening, as the sun sets and the stars come out, the old Wolf wraps a paw around Fox’s shoulder and tells him that tomorrow he will be starlight.
The next day Fox heads to Wolf’s den to play, excited to see if he is shiny like a star, but Wolf isn’t there. Fox searches all day but cannot find his friend so he heads up in to the mountains and pulls the stars down from the sky. He wraps them around himself like a blanket, but still Wolf does not come.
This is a book about child bereavement so if this topic is a trigger for you then please do not read any further———————————————-
This deeply moving book by Emma Poore deals with the extremely difficult topic of sibling loss. The story follows two young boys, Henry and George, as they try to decide what they should do on what would have been their sister Lydie’s first birthday.
The day starts off filled with sadness as they discuss their baby sister. They wonder whether she’s a star in the sky or a special fairy in a magical land. Wherever she is, they miss her and they don’t know how to feel on her special day.
Tentatively they start to play at dressing up and become superheroes in search of Lydie. Then they decide that all birthdays should involve cake so they set about making their sister the best birthday cake ever. When the cake is ready they throw a party because their Dad has explained that even though Lydie isn’t there anymore she is still part of the family and will always be with them.
This poignant story looks at the loss of a grandparent told from a child’s point of view.
When the little boy in this story receives his Grampa’s stopwatch he is overcome with grief. Grampa is gone and he doesn’t want this little reminder of all the fun they used to have together. The stopwatch used to be their favourite thing. They timed everything! How long does it take to eat a bubblegum ice cream? How long does it take for a caterpillar to crawl up your leg? How long does it take to run to the end of the street and back?
But now there’s no more time with Grampa. Just this little stopwatch. Angry, the boy throws it in a drawer and tries to forget but everything feels different now, even school and spending time with his friends.
This beautiful book from Britta Teckentrup helps children process grief after a bereavement.
When Fox lays down in his favourite forest clearing and takes his last breath, the other animals are bereft. He was such a huge part of each of their lives and they are not sure how they will be able to move forward without him. As snow falls on Fox and covers his body, his friends gather in a circle and sit with him in silence.
After a long while, Owl speaks. He shares a story from his youth about chasing autumn leaves with Fox. Mouse goes next, remembering how much Fox liked to sit and watch the sunset. One by one each of the forest animals raises their voice to speak out about the treasured memories they have of their wonderful friend.
Most picture books about death for small children are fables – simple stories of loss with animal characters learning how to deal with their sadness. These work very well, but if you are looking for something more factual I would recommend ‘Lifetimes’ by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen, a work of non-fiction which looks at death as a natural process.
It teaches children that death is a part of life. All living things have a beginning and an end, and in between they live their lifetime. We learn that different animals, plants and trees have different life spans, some long and some short. It gently explains that most creatures live their full life, but sometimes the natural rhythm is disturbed and accident or illness takes them early.