Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between: A beautiful way to explain life and death to children

By Bryan Mellonie & Robert Ingpen, 1997

Belitha Press, ISBN: 978-1855617605

This thought provoking book has large pictures complemented with small sections of text. It clearly explains about life and death focussing on plants, animals and insects before moving on to people. It emphasises that death is part of the life cycle and is natural and normal whenever it occurs. A simple book with a powerful message.


Death: What’s Happening?                           

by Karen Bryant-Mole, 1994

Hodder Wayland, ISBN: 978-0750213790

This factual book has clear text and large photos. It uses stories of young people to discuss issues surrounding death such as feeling frightened, the funeral and the future. It includes advice on how to feel better and cope with difficult situations after someone has died. Using straightforward language, this book may reassure the reader there are other young people who have had someone important to them die and answer some of their questions and concerns.


The Cat Mummy                                

by Jacqueline Wilson & illustrated by Nick Sharratt, 2002

Corgi Children's, ISBN: 978-0440864165 (also on audiocassette)

Verity’s Mum died the day she was born but she rarely talks about her. Verity doesn’t want to upset her Dad or Grandparents. This humorous but sensitive story mainly focuses on Verity’s missing cat Mabel but reveals some of the misunderstandings and anxieties children can have about death. It also shows it can be good to be open, honest and to talk about difficult issues.


The Ghost of Uncle Arvie                  

By Sharon Creech, 1997

Macmillan Children’s Books, ISBN: 978-0333656327

This fun and humorous book is about Danny, an ordinary nine-year-old boy. However, once or twice a year a ghost visits him. This time it is the ghost of his Uncle Arvie who follows him, persuading him to make his three wishes come true. As a result Danny and his dog get into adventures which make him think about his dad who has also died. This book has some important messages and talks about death in an open way, but is primarily fun and imaginative.


The Mountains of Tibet                     

by Mordicia Gerstein, 1989

Barefoot Paperbacks, ISBN: 978-1898000549

Based on Tibetan teachings, this book tells of a small boy who grows up to be a woodcutter. When he dies, he discovers there is a chance to live again but first he must make a number of choices. A simple tale with deep meaning but the theme of reincarnation could be confusing.


Losing Uncle Tim

by Mary Kate Jordan & illustrated by Judith Friedman, 1999

Albert Whitman & Company, ISBN: 978-0807547564

This picture book for slightly older children explains how a young boy finds out his Uncle Tim has AIDS and is going to die. It is a serious and sensitive book covering many of the issues, changes and difficult feelings that can occur when someone has a serious illness.


Michael Rosen’s SAD BOOK

by Michael Rosen & illustrated by Quentin Blake, 2004

Walker Books, ISBN: 978-1406313161

This book has large illustrations and small snippets of text. It is wonderfully honest and will appeal to children and adults of all ages. We all have sad stuff, but what makes Michael Rosen most sad is thinking about his son who died. This book is a simple but emotive story. He talks about what sad is and how it affects him and what he does to cope with it. In true Michael Rosen style, this book manages to make you smile as well.


Milly’s Bug Nut                                   

by Jill Janey, 2002

A short, simple story with black and white pictures, of a young girl who’s Dad has died. It talks about the ups and downs of family life and how things slowly get easier as time goes. Milly misses her Dad and things are just not the same anymore. She knows when people die, they can’t come back but she still keeps a wish to see her Dad one more time.


The Best Day of the Week                

By Hannah Cole & illustrated by John Prater, 1997

Walker Books, ISBN: 978-0744554670

This storybook tells of two young children who spend Saturdays with their Grandparents when Mum is at work. It has three chapters, with stories of three different Saturdays. The first is a happy day; the second is at the hospital and sad as Granny dies, the third at the theatre. It is a lovely story that gives an important message that it is still okay to have fun after someone dies.


Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining death to children

By Doris Stickney & illustrated by Gloria Stickney, 1983

Geoffrey Chapman; New Ed edition 1997

ISBN: 978-0264674414

This pocket size booklet with small black and white pictures is based on a fable, associating death with a water bug’s transformation into a dragonfly. It portrays the mystery around death but may need an adult to explain the analogy and help a child relate it to their own experience. It uses Christian beliefs with a focus on life after death and also contains advice for parents.


What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?

By Trevor Romain,

Free Spirit Publishing Inc, ISBN: 978-1575420554

This book for older children is a factual guide, answering questions such as ‘why do people have to die?’, ‘is it okay to cry?’ and ‘what is a funeral/memorial service?’ It is written in a straightforward way, with practical tips, advice and information about different faiths and beliefs.


Ways to Live Forever            

By Sally Nicholls, Marion Lloyd Books, 2008

ISBN: 978-1407104997

If I grow up," 11-year-old Sam informs readers, "I'm going to be a scientist." He says "if" because he has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and knows he probably won't. With the encouragement of his tutor, he starts to write a bit about himself, then more, until he is using his writing to sort out his death. Interspersed with Sam's lists, questions and odd bits of mortality facts on notebook paper, his narrative proceeds in short, candid chapters that reveal a boy who, though he's not ready to die, nevertheless can confront the reality with heartbreaking clarity. As his parents wrangle about treatment (he doesn't want it), his little sister grapples with the changes to the household and his best friend and fellow cancer-sufferer dies, Sam methodically works through the things he wants to do before he dies, from going up a down escalator to the more problematic ride in an airship and seeing the earth from space.