I wasn’t really cruising for a kid’s book about death and/or loss when I found City Dog, Country Frog at our library — honestly, Jasper’s just so into dogs and frogs and any kind of animal that all it took was a quick glance at the cover and I was sold. I really had no idea what the content of the book was until our first read-through.
The book begins innocently enough: the first page you’re greeted with is (very beautifully, might I add) illustrated with a dog, some flowers, and the word “Spring.” You’re introduced to City Dog, who meets his new friend, Country Frog. As you move through the seasons, Country Frog becomes steadily unhealthier, but it wasn’t until we hit “Winter” that I, and consequently Jasper (who now mimics my first sad “oooh” every time we get to the page) realized what was going to happen to the friendship between the dog and frog. While I think this book is perfect for the 4-6 crowd, younger and older kids (and adults) alike will probably also love it.
Reading this book got me wondering about other books about death and loss that would fall into the offbeat spectrum, so I found a few more for interested parties.
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Life Guides for Families) This book by Laurie Kransy Brown is like the opposite of City Dog, Country Frog — there’s not a sunshiny sweet story here whatsoever. Instead, point-blank questions such as “Why does someone die?” are answered in a non-sentimental, secular manner. The illustrations are bright, so there’s nothing to be gloomy about, and the tone is much more inviting than intimidating.
Recommended Age(s): definitely at least 5 to 8 or 9. There’s a lot of information presented in a less-than-flowery (but not negative) manner that younger kids might not grasp.
Gentle Willow: A Story for Children About Dying
This book by Joyce Mills is written for children who have an illness they may not survive, and is also perfect for a child who has a friend or classmate in that situation. The main character, Amanda, and her friend Little Tree find out their friend, Gentle Willow, is sick. So, Amanda calls upon the Tree Wizards to help Willow out, but they can’t do anything about the illness. Amanda and Little Tree go through a whole gamut of emotion (anger, confusion, sadness, etc.), and Amanda ultimately ends up comforting her friend and helping her face death.
Recommended Age(s): 5-9
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages
This book has been around since 1982, and is a well-loved classic about death and loss. The author, Dr. Buscaglia, is perhaps better know for his other forays into literature, but the story of Freddie the leaf is more than solid. The changes in leaves on trees is used to help explain the phases of life — each leaf leaves its tree differently, but they all ultimately fall off.
Recommended Age(s): 4-9 (younger kids will appreciate the illustrations.)
What books have you found dealing with death and loss?