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Death, Dying, and Grieving: Books for Kids

Death, dying, and grieving are the main topics of the news lately. It seems we just can’t get away from it. And as much as we try to shield our little ones from tragedy, sometimes there are issues you must face. Death is a common situation in life and while you can usually filter what your children are exposed to, the deaths of pets, grandparents, or sick friends, will eventually crop up. If you’re like me, you want a book to turn to to support your child’s emotional understanding of death.

There are a surprising number of books available that discuss death. Kids don’t need or want a heavy handed book discussing the ins and out of death and dying. Save that for biology class or for church, depending on your beliefs. What kids want in books is to understand that it’s ok to have certain feelings and that other people have similar feelings as yours and also probably that things will get better. Following are books for kids of varying ages that discuss death, dying, and grief in ways that they will be able to handle.

1. CHARLOTTE’S WEB BY E.B. WHITE

I have two words for you: “Some pig.”  Is there anyone born in the past half century who hasn’t been moved to tears by this beloved title?charlotte's web

Everyone cheers for our favorite pig and his friends. Not only do we learn the meaning of friendship from Charlotte’s Web, we also learn the value of the brevity of life on a farm and we learn about death and grief. Sure there’s a death in the book, but there is also the invaluable lesson of how to grieve when someone you love has died. This little gem can teach even the youngest of readers about life and death.

2.  BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA BY KATHERINE PATERSON

bridgetoterabithia

Here’s another classic that inadvertently teaches middle graders the value of friendship and the process of grief. I love this story because at this age kids don’t care whether their friends are boys or girls. They just want a friend. Jess and Leslie become friends and during their time together they help the other one become better people. The magical land they’ve created helps them deal with the issues they each face. In the end when one of them dies, the remaining child must confront their fears, the loss of a friend, and learn how to move on.

3. NANA UPSTAIRS & NANA DOWNSTAIRS, BY TOMIE DE PAOLA

 

Tomie dePaola writes such good books, there’s practically a book for every situation. Grandparenting seems to be his specialty, though. Little Tommy loves his grandmothers: he has a grandmother upstairs and a great grandmother downstairs. You know where this is going, right? Naturally the grandmothers die and Tommy has to learn how to grieve. There’s a bit about a falling star that will have you in tears remembering your own grandmother’s kisses.

4. TIGER EYES BY JUDY BLUME

It’s a Judy Blume book. Do I need to say anymore? The woman who has helped every young girl grow up  in the past 50 years? Yeah, her. This time, Blume discusses a very sensitive issue at the time; the death of a parent.  Not only does Davey lose her father, but he is killed in a violent crime. Books about this topic were unheard of in its day. But somehow, shockingly, kids today are experiencing this type of tragic loss and will need help getting through it. The book also discusses the dysfunction that’s left behind when a family member dies tragically: depression, alcoholism, family instability; it’s all there.

5. FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH BY JENNIFER L. HOLM

A magical realism story about a girl whose goldfish dies and is reincarnated as her grandfather dressed as a bespectacled new friend. At first i thought perhaps the lesson might be too “out there” to catch; but I love this story and I’m sure someone will too.

 

6. THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT BY JASON REYNOLDS

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

Here’s one you might not of heard of. It’s by the always fab Jason Reynolds. Here you’ll see that people cope differently with death and you might get some insight into what it’s like to work at a funeral home. Hint: more dignity than creepy.

 

Isn’t it great that there are so many books on this topic says that kids never have to go through any situation alone, that there is always a book available to lend an ear, lean on or to provide other ways of support?

Categories
Adult Fiction Books Reviews

Excerpt from Praise of Motherood by Phil Jourdan

Please enjoy this excerpt from Praise of Motherhood, a touching memoir by Phil Jourdan. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $500 in Amazon gift cards and 5 autographed copies of the book.

 

It was Veterans Day; the Pope spoke into a microphone so the thousands around him could hear his weary voice. And in the airport lounge my sister and I waited for our flight to take off, trying not to listen to the televised broadcast of the Pope’s solemn speech. I held my sister’s hand and heard her say fuck for the first time.

“fuck, do you think she’s going to be okay”

and I said “I don’t know”

and she said “but why aren’t they telling us what’s going on”

“I don’t know”

“I don’t want mom to die”

“I know”

“I’m so scared”

“I know”

and the Pope went on, speaking of the dead, the men whose lives had been lost in a terrible war, and he praised them, their families, for the courage they’d shown. He spoke of Christ, but not much. Sometimes he closed his eyes and paused. From the airport lounge, sitting in front of the television screens, I had to rely on the cameras for a sense of what being there was like. Safe and comfortable and mourning out of patriotic or humanistic duty, in a spirit of contemplation. The Pope did not know that my mother was dying in a little hospital in Portugal. Neither did the lady who announced, on the intercom at the airport, that out of respect for the men who had lost their lives during the war however many decades ago now, we were all invited to stand for two minutes of silence. Everyone else in the lounge stood up, but my sister and I remained in our seats and hugged each other.

As far as I knew, my mother was dying or dead, a small, tanned Portuguese woman with curly dark hair and two dogs, two kids, a lovely loving wonderful lady, all of that sob-story stuff. It turned out that when we were waiting for our flight, she was still alive. She would only die in the evening, after the Pope was done speaking and everyone was having dinner and no longer thinking about the veterans. But nobody had warned me. Nobody had warned anyone. Everybody was on the way to Portugal, my uncle, my grandfather, me and my sister, all of us trying to protect someone. They didn’t tell me what had happened until I arrived in Portugal. I didn’t tell my sister everything I knew, which was next to nothing, because I wanted to think I could protect her. I spoke to my father on the phone and he was in tears: “I will be there when you land,” he said,

and I said:

“but why, what’s going on”

“I’m not sure, I’m not sure, but if I were you… oh, Jesus, if I were you I would brace myself for the worst”

And he broke into tears and hung up. They had been separated fifteen years.

On the plane my sister and I spoke little. I told her it’d be okay. I told her even if the worst happened, I’d be around for her. You’re my little sister. Tell me about Denver. How are classes going? She gave short, bored answers, and she asked me about my life. I told her I’d been about to take the train to Paris from London with a friend when I found out something was wrong with our mom.

“but what’s wrong with her” my sister said

“I don’t know”

“why don’t they just tell us”

“because they’re trying to keep us sane”

“how can I be sane when my mom is dying all of a sudden”

“I really don’t know”

When we arrived in Portugal, and I saw my family standing together waiting for us — my grandparents, my father, my aunt — I knew at once there was no hope.

 

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Praise of Motherhood eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $500 in Amazon gift cards and 5 autographed copies of the book.

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About the book: Praise of Motherhood is a son’s tribute to the woman who not only gave him life, but helped him live: through various psychotic breakdowns, tumultuous teenage years, and years of feeling out of place in the world. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Phil Jourdan fronts the lit-rock band Paris and the Hiltons, runs the fiction press Perfect Edge Books, and occasionally works on a PhD. Visit Phil on his blog, music site, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow.  I think I’d drop the f bomb too.  Can’t wait to read it!