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Books for Grieving Children

7 stories to help kids cope with sadness and loss.

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Our hearts go out to our local Boulder community and the families of the victims who recently lost their lives during the March 22 grocery store shooting. As families live with heartbreak day by day, we hope these stories can provide a little comfort to grieving children.

Rabbit and the Motorbike

By Kate Hoefler, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (Chronicle Books, 2019)

Rabbit is a homebody who doesn’t feel brave enough to have experiences on his own, but he loves his friend Dog’s tales of motorbike adventures. One day, Dog is gone along with his exciting stories, and Rabbit faces his fear of getting on the motorbike to live his own story.

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The Cat Who Loved the Moon

By Jennifer Lea Reynolds (Seacoast Press/MindStir Media, 2020)

In a story inspired by the death of the author’s father, Cromwell the cat bonds with the moon outside her window. She is shocked when the moon seems to disappear one day, and she searches for it everywhere. Finally, Cromwell realizes that the moon is still there, and she can still love something even when she can’t see it.

The End of Something Wonderful

By Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic; illustrated by George Ermos (Sterling Publishing, 2019)

In this practical guide to a backyard funeral, the author walks readers through step-by-step instructions of how to prepare after the loss of a pet—even if that pet is a pill bug. It’s humorous (If you have a funeral for something really big like a hippopotamus or a narwhal, you’ll have to get permission from the city to dig a very deep hole) as well as heartfelt (If you don’t feel like saying it out loud, it’s perfectly okay to hug that thought inside your heart, too.)

The Great Realization

By Tomos Roberts; illustrated by Nomoco (HarperCollins, 2020)

Written for the author’s younger siblings, this poem in response to the COVID-19 pandemic describes the positive behaviors that resulted from losses caused by the coronavirus: Some people started dancing, some were singing, some were baking/ We’d grown so used to bad news, but there was good news in the making. It’s written from the perspective of looking back on 2020 and telling the story to future generations.

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden

By Heather Smith; illustrated by Rachel Wada (Orca Book Publishers, 2019)

When a tsunami destroys his village, Makio loses his father and his voice. In the midst of his grief-stricken community, a man builds a mysterious phone booth, and the people are drawn to it as a way to connect to their lost loved ones. Recommended by the Denver Public Library, this book is inspired by the true story of the wind phone in Otsuchi, Japan, that people still visit today to mourn those they’ve lost.

Dance Like a Leaf

By AJ Irving; illustrated by Claudia Navarro (Barefoot Books, 2020)

A young girl’s grandmother is in good health at the beginning of this story, but as the season progresses, her health declines. The girl starts to take the lead in the pair’s autumn traditions. At the end, she continues their traditions with her grandmother’s spirit by her side.

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The Rabbit Listened

By Cori Doerrfeld (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018)

When Taylor’s block tower is destroyed, different animals offer advice, but do nothing to assuage Taylor’s grief, except for the rabbit who listens. A top pick of many librarians and book experts, “this book is a wonderful choice for social emotional learning and supporting and validating children’s feelings throughout the grieving process,” says Denver Public Library children’s librarian Gigi Pagliarulo.


Book experts also recommend:

Note: Want to support local bookstores? Check out these spots that have great options for kids.


The Rabbit and the Motorbike: Chronicle Books. The Cat Who Loved the Moon: Jennifer Lea Reynolds. The End of Something Wonderful: Sterling Publishing. The Great Realization: HarperCollins. The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden: Orca Book Publishers. Dance Like a Leaf: Barefoot Books. The Rabbit Listened: Penguin Random House. Background: Tuomas Lehtinen//Getty Images. 

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