The next blog in my "Bookieboo Recommends" series focuses on a topic that can be especially challenging for parents to explain to children in a sensitive and age-appropriate way (and one that I get a lot of recommendation requests for) - illness and dying. While dying is an inevitable part of life, being armed with the right books can help make the process a little easier.
Below are my top picks, separated into five different categories:
DEATH OF A PARENT
Wherever You Are, My Love will Find You by Nancy Tillman
"You are my angel, my darling, my star...and my love will find you, wherever you are." This is a beautiful book that expresses the unconditional love a parent has for their child. While death is not explicitly mentioned, it would be a lovely book to help comfort a child who experiences the loss of a parent.
The Fix-it Man by Dimity Powell & Nicky Johnston
Dad's fix things - it's what they do. But even Dad couldn't fix Mama...This one got us good. It's equal parts heart wrenching and beautiful. A lovely book about a father and daughter dealing with the aftermath of the loss of Mama.
DEATH OF A GRANDPARENT
Grandad's Island by Benji Davies
Grandad's Island is a beautiful book that uses the metaphor of an island to sensitively explain the permanency of dying, and not being able to see a person anymore. Available in both hardback and board book format, this is a great option to tackle a conversation with your child when a grandparent is ill or passes away.
DEATH OF A PET
The Invisible Leash by Patrice Karst
"When our pets aren't with us anymore, an Invisible Leash connects our hearts to each other. Forever". A follow up from The Invisible String, The Invisible Leash is a tender story that celebrates the joy that our pets bring to us - even after they are gone.
A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker
This book has been described as "an achingly beautiful and poetic wordless book about a girl grieving the loss of her dog". Wordless books can be hit or miss, but this book's amazing illustrations take the reader on such a moving and poignant journey, and it would be perfect for a family going through a similar experience.
The Perfect Shelter by Clare Helen Welsh
Illness, especially of a previously healthy sibling, can be a very difficult and confusing thing for a child. The Perfect Shelter captures this confusion, as well as other feelings, like sadness and anger, in a beautiful way. The main character in the book experiences her older sibling becoming unwell and needing to go into hospital for a long time. The book is left open ended, so there's no 'happy ending' per-say, but I think this is much better suited to a variety of experiences, and doesn't provide that false hope that everything will be fine because the story "said so." A great resource.
EXPLAINING DEATH TO A YOUNG CHILD
The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr
This is my absolute go-to recommendation for parents looking to explain death to a young child. In my experience, there are very few books suitable for under 3s that sensitively explain dying in a way that a child might be able to understand - but I think this book does a great job of it. Todd Parr is amazing with everything he does, and this book is no exception.
I hope you found these recommendations useful, and that knowing about these books makes you feel better prepared should you need to have a conversation with your child in the event of illness or death in the family.