Take a Look Inside Our Books About Loss for School-age Kids: Why They Made the Top of our List
We were very intentional about including a book in each of our grief support gift boxes, and this is why: have you ever sat down with a child to talk about something as big as death? Or even something more mundane like homework, or screen time, or even what they did at school that day? Kids don’t always love talking face to face like adults do. We have learned through years of talking about loss and other important topics with kids, that having something to focus on, such as a book, and having something to hold, such as a pocket stone, or a handful of playdough, or some pencil crayons and colouring sheets, can make a world of difference. Children of all ages will sit for longer, take in information better, and will engage easier, than if we try to just talk to them. We also know that it is really hard for parents or family members to bring up hard topics. We become self-conscious of the words that we will choose, or worry that we’ll say the “wrong” thing, and sometimes our kids look like they’re doing fine, so why rock the boat? Children of all ages absolutely need truthful information about loss, and so the book is the ice breaker, the focus, and the words to get you started.
To that end, we researched and read and reviewed what felt like hundreds of books about grief for kids. We would admit that we are very picky about books when it comes to sharing important information with children, and only a handful of books matched our criteria. The books we have chosen: 1. have simple and concrete language, 2. include age-appropriate and accurate information, and 3. are non-religious.
Though we wanted the books we chose to be applicable for a variety of losses, it was important to us to choose a book that is specific to parent loss, and so we landed on One Wave at a Time, by Holly Thompson. This book explores both the emotional and the concrete changes experienced by a family that loses a parent, and does so with beautiful and sensitive watercolour illustrations. The narrator is a young boy who describes his feelings as many coloured waves and uses this metaphor to illustrate his experiences of grief as they grow and change from minute to minute, as well as over time. This book is very honest and relatable, while also providing a concrete and approachable metaphor. It would be a beautiful addition to any family's library. A sand pouring art activity is included in the Feel & Create gift box alongside this book in order for children to use this metaphor themselves to identify and express their own waves of emotions.
We chose Death Is Stupid, by Anastasia Higgenbotham, because of its direct and honest narrative, the sensitive exploration of children's experiences after a death, and the beautiful way that it talks about how to cope with grief after a loved one has died. At first we were worried that the title of the book might scare people away - it doesn't exactly say "sympathy gift" like other books about grief with their poetic metaphors. But that is precisely why we chose it. A child will relate to a book that mirrors their own experience, and this book is real and true; as well as being loving and warm. Its poetry is in its calm honesty. This book also has a beautiful aesthetic, with illustrations that use paper collage and recycled materials, which really resonated with us. Items and images hold memories, and memory-keeping is a focus of this book, and is also an important part of supporting children to cope with loss. We have included a chipboard scrapbook and collage materials inside the Calm & Collage gift box with this book in order for children to follow its lead in writing and collaging about special memories of their loved one.
We chose The Memory Box, by Bonnie Zucker because it is a beautifully written account of loss, and it also addresses the importance of memory-keeping to children's processing of grief and loss. The narrator is a girl who is worried that she will forget her loved one who has died. She experiences many emotions and in making a memory box, begins to explore these feelings, and also to feel comforted knowing that she will not forget. Making a memory box provides a concrete way to express and process feelings, as well as to create a special keepsake and space to hold beloved memories and mementos. We have included a wooden box, collage pack, and watercolour set with this book in the Treasure & Keep gift box to provide the tools for children to create their own special memory box.
For more book recommendations, see the blog posts Supporting Children with Grief, on our Blog/Resources page.