Suggested reading list

Suggested Reading List

Using stories and activities can be a really good way to explore issues with a child who has been bereaved. We have created a list of books, which we have found helpful when working with bereaved children, young people and their families. There are also textbooks and reference sources for people working in the area of child bereavement.

The books are arranged in the following categories (click to jump to each section):


Benny’s Hat

By Juliet Clare Bell, 2017
ISBN 978-1999729608

Benny’s Hat is an illustrated children’s book, which gently deals with the difficult subject of a sibling’s death to cancer in a way very young children can understand. Told from the point of view of Friz, the book tells the story of her brother Benny’s illness, death and Friz’s grief. The book shows how children might deal with serious illness and death differently to adults and gives adult readers examples of how to support children when a sibling is not expected to live.

Dear Grandma Bunny: A Miffy Book

By Dick Bruna, 2018
ISBN 978-1471120794

Miffy and her family are really sad. Grandma Bunny has died and it’s time for them to say goodbye and thank Grandma Bunny for everything she did for them. Suitable for very young children, this book tells the story of what happened and how Miffy felt and coped when Grandma died. This touching Miffy story celebrates the life and loss of loved ones. Simple illustrations and straightforward text combine to tackle the death of a loved one in a direct and uncomplicated manner.

Goodbye Mousie

By Robie H. Harris & illustrated by Jan Ormerod, 2004
ISBN 978-0689871344

This beautifully illustrated picture book tells the story of a little boy who’s told that his pet mouse has died. At first, he doesn’t believe it, thinking it’s just asleep, but by asking lots of questions & with the help of his family he begins to accept Mousie’s death. This would be very helpful to introduce death to young children and a starting point to discuss what happens after someone dies and the different feelings one may have.

I Miss You: A First Look at Death

By Pat Thomas & illustrated by Lesley Harker, 2001
ISBN 978-0764117640

This bright and colourful picture book very simply talks about life and death. It briefly covers a range of issues such as why people die, how you may feel when someone dies and what happens afterwards. It includes questions for the reader to answer about their own experiences and a section at the back for adults on how to best use the book. An excellent educational book, which could be used as a starting point for discussion.

Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute? Explaining sudden death in words very young children can understand

By Elke and Alex Barber, 2016
ISBN 978-1785921063

This honest, sensitive and beautifully illustrated picture book is designed to help explain the concept of death to very young children. It is based on the real-life conversations that Elke Barber had with her then three-year-old son, Alex, after the sudden death of his father and is written in Alex’s own words. The book provides reassurance and understanding to readers through clear and honest answers to the difficult questions that can follow the death of a loved one.

Missing Mummy: A book about bereavement

By Rebecca Cobb, 2011
ISBN: 978-0230749511

This extraordinary book deals with the loss of a parent from a child’s point of view. Beautifully illustrated, the book explores the many emotions a bereaved child may experience, from anger to guilt and from sadness to bewilderment. And importantly, the book also focuses on the positive – the recognition that the child is still part of a family, and that his memories of his mother are to be treasured.

Stewart’s Tree: A book for brothers and sisters when a baby dies shortly after birth

By Cathy Campbell, 2018
ISBN 978-1785923999

A colourfully illustrated children’s book to help explain sibling loss to young children. Ellen’s new baby brother Stewart has been ‘lost’. Ellen looks in all the cupboards for Stewart and even in the washing machine – then her family helps her understand that Stewart has died and isn’t going to come back. The book ends with a guide to bereavement for children written by qualified clinicians.

The I Love You Book

By Todd Parr
ISBN 978-0316247566

This book celebrates the unconditional love between a parent and child. From the heartfelt to the light hearted and with many moments in between that are sure to make readers smile and reminisce, this book helps families to remind children how much they are loved, each and every day.

What happened to Daddy’s Body? Explaining what happens after death in words very young children can understand

By Elke and Alex Barber, 2016
ISBN 978-1785921070

This picture book aims to help very young children to understand what happens to the body after someone has died. Through telling the true story of what happened to his daddy’s body, we follow three-year-old Alex as he learns about cremation, burial and spreading ashes. Full of questions written in Alex’s own words, and with the gentle, sensitive and honest answers of his mother, this story will reassure any young child who might be confused about death and what happens afterwards.

Why do things die?

By Christine Pym and Katie Daynes, 2020
ISBN 978-1474979887

This wonderful, engaging lift-the-flap book offers simple answers to the sort of questions children ask about death, dying, grief, feelings and memories. The questions and answers are clear and straightforward and illustrated by charming drawings of animals. Suitable for children who have been bereaved and also for those who have questions about why things die.


A Birthday Present for Daniel: A child’s story of loss

By Juliet Cassuto Rothman, illustrated by Louise Gish, 2001
ISBN: 978-1573929462
Told by a young girl whose brother, Daniel, has died, she talks about how things have changed in the family. She also talks about the things she does when she is sad and how these differ from other members of her family. This book has small black and white pictures with minimal text but it conveys some important issues. It would be particularly useful to broach the subject of birthdays as it describes how the family remembered Daniel on his birthday.

Always and Forever

By Alan Durant, illustrated by Debi Gliori, 2003
ISBN: 978-0552548779
Otter, Mole and Hare miss Fox when he falls ill and dies. They stay at home and don’t want to talk about him because it makes them sadder. Then Squirrel visits and reminds them of all the fun times they had together. They all find a way to remember Fox and get on with their lives. Colourful, detailed pictures in this book emphasise the importance of holding on to memories.

Badger’s Parting Gifts

By Susan Varley, 1992
ISBN: 978-0006643173
Badger is old and knows he is going to die soon. When he does, the other animals think they will be sad forever, but they begin to talk about the memories they have of the things Badger taught them and learn to cope with his death. A lovely picture book that emphasises the importance of remembering the person who has died.

Her Mother’s Face

By Roddy Doyle, illustrated by Freya Blackwood, 2009
ISBN 978-0439815017
This book is a sensitive portrayal of a young girl’s grieving as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her mother. Siobhan was just three years old when her mother died and Siobhan can no longer remember her face. She is given encouraging words by a kind lady in the park who tells her to look in the mirror to see the face of her mother through her own reflection.

Luna’s Red Hat: An illustrated storybook to help children cope with loss and suicide

By Emmi Smid, 2015
ISBN 978-1849056298
This beautifully illustrated storybook is designed as a tool to be read with children aged 6+ who have experienced the loss of a loved one by suicide. Suicide always causes shock, not just for the family members but for everyone around them, and children also have to deal with these feelings. The book approaches the subject sensitively and includes a guide for parents and professionals by bereavement expert Dr Riet Fiddelaers-Jaspers.

Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine

By Diana Crossley, illustrated by Kate Sheppard, 2009
ISBN: 978-1869890582
Published by Winston’s Wish, this hardback activity book offers invaluable practical and sensitive support for bereaved younger children. Beautifully illustrated, it suggests a helpful series of activities and exercises accompanied by the friendly characters of Bee and Bear.

Mum’s Jumper

By Jayde Perkin, 2019
ISBN 978-1911496137
A simple and heartfelt book that looks sensitively at loss and grief through the story of a young girl losing her mother. Told by the girl, this book explores the emotions of grief, including fear and anger, and draws on the personal experience of the author. This book can be used as a tool to introduce children to the concept of death, even if they haven’t experienced it.

The Copper Tree: Helping a child cope with death and loss

By Hilary Robinson, 2012
ISBN: 978-0957124509
When Olivia’s teacher, Miss Evans, dies the children at her school are encouraged to think of everything that reminds them of her. Written with great care, touching sensitivity and humour The Copper Tree is about love and legacy and will help children understand that while sadness is an inevitable part of grief, death is not the end for what we leave behind can be everlasting.

The Garden of Hope

By Isabel Otter, illustrated by Katie Rewse, 2019
ISBN: 978-1848578906
This story is about a little girl and her father who rebuild their lives and plant a ‘garden of hope’ after something happens: ‘Things had changed since Mum had been gone…’ . Whether Mum has died or has left the family is not made clear. With some words added by the reader, this could be used in either situation and offers a comforting story of the two planting and growing together. The story features a BAME family and is for ages 4 to 10.

The Huge Bag of Worries

By Virginia Ironside, illustrated by Frank Rodgers, 1996
ISBN: 978-0340903179
Jenny begins to worry about lots of different things and these worries build up and get out of control. She just can’t get rid of them, until she meets the old lady next door who helps her feel better. A lovely story with fun illustrations encourages children to talk about their worries.

The Magical Wood

By Mark Lemon, illustrated by Maia Walczak
ISBN 978-0993503146

This magical story sensitively offers children and families an opportunity to share the journey of its characters finding their way through grief. With its imagery and language exploring the themes of bereavement; this story offers children and families time and a safety within which to talk about death, loss and emotions.

The Invisible String

By Patrice Karst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, 2018
ISBN 978-0316486231

This accessible picture book offers a simple approach to coping with loss, loneliness or separation with an imaginative twist that children can easily understand. Even though you can’t always be physically with your loved ones, there is an invisible string always connecting them to the people you love. A great tool for beginning conversations about death and for children who are dealing with loss.

The Little Flower Bulb: Helping children bereaved by suicide

By Eleanor Gormally, illustrated by Loki and Splink, 2011
ISBN 978-1847302601

This book tells the story of Jamie, his mum and his twin sisters, and of how Jamie comes to deal with the death of his father. A beautifully illustrated book that will be helpful for parents when talking to children bereaved by the suicide of a close relative.

The Scar

By Charlotte Moundlic, 2012
ISBN: 978-1406335958
When the boy in this story wakes up to find that his mother has died, he is overwhelmed with sadness, anger and fear that he will forget her. He shuts all the windows to keep in his mother’s familiar smell and scratches open the cut on his knee to help him recall her comforting voice. He doesn’t know how to speak to his dad anymore, and when Grandma visits and throws open the windows, it’s more than the boy can take – until she shows him another way to hold on to the feeling of his mum’s love. With tenderness, touches of humour and unflinching emotional truth, Charlotte Moundlic captures the loneliness of grief through the eyes of a child, rendered with sympathy and charm in Olivier Tallec’s expressive illustrations.

The Sunshine Cat

By Miriam Moss, illustrated by Lisa Flather
ISBN: 978-1841215679
Sunny the cat is loved by all his human family, but one day there is a knock at the door – Sunny has been killed in an accident. A sensitive story which aims to help children come to terms with death.

Saying Goodbye to Daddy

By Judith Vigna, 1991
ISBN: 978-0807572535
Clare’s Dad died in a car accident and this book looks at changes in the family, difficult feelings, funerals and memories through the eyes of Clare. It would also be a good book to help parents understand the child’s perspective. It gives good examples of how adults can answer children’s questions, emphasising the need to be clear and honest.

What Does Dead Mean? A book for young children to help explain death and dying

By Caroline Jay and Jenni Thomas
ISBN 978-1849053556

This is a beautifully illustrated book that guides children gently through 17 of the ‘big’ questions they often ask about death and dying. Questions such as ‘is being dead like sleeping?’, ‘why do people have to die?’ and ‘where do dead people go?’ are answered simply, truthfully and clearly to help adults explain to children what happens when someone dies.

When Dinosaurs Die

By Laurie Krasny, illustrated by Marc Brown, 1998
ISBN: 978-0316119559

This factual picture book uses cartoon dinosaurs to illustrate the text and comment on what is said. It is a bright and colourful book that explains death in a simple and unthreatening way. It covers many issues including ‘why does someone die?’, ‘feelings about death’ and ‘saying goodbye’. It would be an excellent resource for anyone caring for young children.

Where is Uncle Al?

By Eva Hibbs, illustrated by Sarah Harrison, 2020
ISBN: 978-1838115609

Lily’s uncle died before she was born but when she asks where he is, she receives confusing answers from members of her family until her sister helps her understand. Featuring a multicultural family, this lovely book could help with conversations about death and beliefs about life. It could also be adapted to help children talk about any member of their family who had died before the children were born.

Winston’s Book Club

By Winston’s Wish

Grieving children often experience a wide range of feelings, and it can be important to explore these to help them understand that this is normal. With this in mind we’ve launched the Winston’s Book Club, a series of 12 story books written for children up to eight years old to help them explore their grief. The books introduce Molly and Max as they are visited in turn by a different feeling (including shock, anger and confusion) and how this affects them. There is also an adult guide to accompany each book. Sign up to the book club with a monthly payment of as little as £8.50 and receive a new book each month.


Lifetimes: The beautiful way to explain death to children

By Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen, 1998
ISBN: 978-0553344028

This sensitive book is a useful tool in explaining to children that death is a part of life and that, eventually, all living things reach the end of their own special lifetimes. It clearly explains about life and death focussing on plants, animals and insects before moving on to people. It emphasises that death is part of the life cycle and is natural and normal whenever it occurs.

Only One of Me: A love letter from Mum, Only One of Me: A love letter from Dad

By Lisa Wells and Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri
ISBN 978-1912654642

This tender and moving rhyming poem, with charming illustrations which is both a love letter to Lisa’s own daughters and a testament to the unwavering strength of parental love, a timeless message for families facing the challenges of bereavement. Mother of two, Lisa Wells, was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 31 and these two books grew from her determination to leave a lasting legacy for her daughters and her desire to help other families.

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book

By Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake, 2004
ISBN: 978-1406313161

This book is a simple but emotive story chronicling Michael’s grief at the death of his son Eddie from meningitis at the age of 19. He talks about what sad is and how it affects him and what he does to cope with it. A moving combination of sincerity and simplicity, it acknowledges that sadness is not always avoidable or reasonable and perfects the art of making complicated feeling plain. It is wonderfully honest and will appeal to children and adults of all ages.

Milly’s Bug Nut

By Jill Janney, 2002
ISBN: 978-0-9539123-4-6

A short, simple story of a young girl who’s Dad has died. It talks about the ups and downs of a family finding their way through bereavement and how things slowly get easier as time goes. Milly misses her Dad and things are just not the same anymore. She knows when people die, they can’t come back but she still keeps a wish to see her Dad one more time.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

By Annabel Pitcher, 2013
ISBN 978-1780621869

Told through the eyes of 10-year-old Jamie, this book sensitively tackles issues around grief, terrorism, racism and bullying. We meet Jamie in the midst of his family falling apart after the traumatic death of his older sister Rose – her urn on the mantelpiece is the only constant in an otherwise unsettling life. His mother leaves, his father turns to alcohol, and Jamie and his sister Jasmine are left to fend for themselves. With surprising friendships and cunning plans, Jamie and Jas muddle through in the way that only children can.

The Cat Mummy

By Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt, 2002
ISBN: 978-0440864165

Verity’s Mum died the day she was born but she rarely talks about her. Verity doesn’t want to upset her Dad or Grandparents. This humorous but sensitive story mainly focuses on Verity’s missing cat Mabel but reveals some of the misunderstandings and anxieties children can have about death. It also shows it can be good to be open, honest and to talk about difficult issues.

The Secret C: Straight talking about cancer

By Julie A. Stokes OBE, illustrated by Peter Bailey, 2009
ISBN 978-0955953927

This booklet is aimed at supporting parents or carers to explain to their child what cancer means and how it may affect their family and encourages open communication and questions about cancer within the family. Through pictures, captions and straightforward language, it explains how tumours are formed, what the various treatments are and how these may affect the person with cancer. It stresses the need to keep to family routines and, importantly, to still try and have fun. It is aimed at children aged 7 to 10 years and will work best when an adult is present to expand on the simple messages in the text.

What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?

By Trevor Romain, 2003
ISBN: 978-1575420554

This book for older children is a factual guide, answering questions such as ‘why do people have to die?’, ‘is it okay to cry?’ and ‘what is a funeral/memorial service?’ It is written in a straightforward way, with practical tips, advice and information about different faiths and beliefs. It describes the strong, confusing feelings you might have and suggests ways to feel better. He tells you it’s okay to cry, talk about the death, grieve, and go on with your life.


A Fault in our Stars

By John Green, 2013
ISBN 978-0141355078

This is a moving and funny book about a young teenage girl, Hazel, who has been diagnosed with lung cancer and attends a cancer support group where she meets Augustus. The couple embarks on a rollercoaster of emotions, including love, sadness and romance, while searching for the author of their favourite book.

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, 2015
ISBN 978-1406361803

This moving fantasy novel is the story of a 13-year-old boy who is coping with the diagnosis of his mother’s cancer. A book about stories and myths, about courage and loss and the fear of loss. Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started treatments that don’t quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there’s a visitor at his window.

Straight Talk about Death for Teenagers: How to Cope with Losing Someone You Love

By Earl A. Grollman, 1993
ISBN: 978-0807025017

This book was written after the author spoke to thousands of teenagers and found they often felt forgotten after someone has died. Written in short, clear sentences that are easy to read, it covers feelings, different types of death and the future. This book gives the reader many options of what can happen, how s/he may feel, giving advice and reassuring readers grief is normal.

The Lost Boys’ Appreciation Society

By Alan Gibbons, 2004
ISBN: 978-1842550953

Teenage life is difficult enough for Gary and John, but when their Mum dies in a car accident, things get steadily worse. John struggles to keep the peace as Gary goes off the rails, saying his new mates are now his family. With GCSE exams looming and his Dad going out on dates, things become unbearable for John. A gripping book exploring relationships and how different people react to life events.


There are a number of books that do not directly deal with death or bereavement but may help the reader face difficult feelings.

Angry Arthur

By Hiawyn Oram, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura, 2008
ISBN: 978-1842707746

It’s time for bed but Arthur wants to stay up so he gets really angry. Every time someone tells him ‘that’s enough’ his anger gets bigger and bigger and takes over the world until he wonders why he was so angry in the first place. A wonderful imaginative story that many children (and adults) will be able to relate to.

No Matter What

By Debi Gliori, 2003
ISBN: 978-1408850008

A rhyming story with large, bright pictures about Small, a young fox who is feeling cross because no one loves him. Large, then reassures him that she’ll love him no matter what. A fun and imaginative book that only briefly talks about death but would be a useful to help support a young child through difficult times.


By Mick Inkpen, 2006
ISBN: 978-0340918166

A ‘little thing’ has been stuck in the attic for so long, he has even forgotten its name. When the owners move house and leave him behind, he sets off on an adventure to discover who he really is. A lovely book about families and the feeling that you belong. It could be used in many situations, particularly with a child who is feeling unsettled.

Something Else

By Kathryn Cave, illustrated by Chris Riddell, 1995
ISBN: 978-0141338675

Something Else doesn’t belong and has no one to be friends with, until one day Nothing knocks at his door and although they seem very different, they get along and become friends. These unusual looking characters capture the feelings of young people in a sensitive and fun way. A lovely book that could reassure children who feel unsettled within their peer group.


There are also many books where death is not the main focus of the story but features bereavement or the main character has been bereaved. These include:

A Little Princess

By Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Tasha
ISBN: 978-1853261367


By Felix Salten, 1988
ISBN: 978-0671666071

Charlotte’s Web

By E. B. White & illustrated by Garth Williams
ISBN: 978-0141354828

Danny the Champion of the World

By Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, 2016
ISBN: 978-0141365411

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

By J. K. Rowling
ISBN: 978-1408855652

James and the Giant Peach

By Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, 2016
ISBN: 978-01413655459

Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott, 2018
ISBN: 978-1840227536

Oliver Twist

By Charles Dickens, 1995
ISBN: 978-1853260124

The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett, 2012
ISBN: 978-0099572954



A Child’s Grief: Supporting a child when someone in their family has died

By Julie Stokes, Diana Crossley, Katrina Alilovic & Di Stubbs, 2008
ISBN: 978-0955953934

A useful and informative introduction for any adult who is supporting a child through bereavement. Covering a variety of issues that may affect a child when a person close to them dies, both immediately and in the longer term, the booklet also offers practical activities to do together and a section on further reading and support.

And When Did You Last See Your Father

By Blake Morrison, 2006
ISBN: 978-1862079083

The book tells of how Dr Morrison’s life slowly slips away during the last few weeks of his life. Interspersed with this are the author’s recollections of his father, who whilst being a difficult man at times, always remained a loving husband and father. The author is at all times open and honest – sometimes brutally so – and lays open his feelings for all to share. One of the strengths of the book is that whilst it is about the death of a loved one it never gets too mawkish or sentimental and remains at all times a good read.

As Big As It Gets: Supporting a child when someone is seriously ill

By Winston’s Wish
ISBN 978-0955953989

This book offers practical guidance for families and professionals when someone is seriously ill and may die. It covers talking with children about what is happening and will happen in their family and offers an overview of some of the feelings and thoughts people may have. Practical guidance, ideas for activities and suggestions of helpful resources are offered alongside where to find support.

Beyond the Rough Rock: Supporting a child who has been bereaved through suicide

By Winston’s Wish
ISBN 978-0953912377

Explaining to a child that someone has died by suicide is possibly one of the most difficult situations that a parent or carer might ever face. This booklet offers practical advice for families in the immediate days and weeks when suicide has been the cause of death. The booklet includes child-friendly activities for you to do as a family as you begin to make sense of what has happened and start to look at ways in which your family can learn to cope.

Grief in Children: A Handbook for Adults

By Atle Dyregov, 2008
ISBN: 978-18433106128

This is a very practical and useful book written for adults to help them understand how children feel when someone important in their life dies. It covers areas such as children’s grief reactions at different developmental levels, sex differences and different types of death. It makes many useful suggestions about how children can be helped to cope with their grief in an open, honest and positive way.

Hope Beyond the Headlines: Supporting a child bereaved through murder or manslaughter

By Winston’s Wish
ISBN 978-0955953910

This booklet offers practical advice for families in the immediate days, weeks and months following a murder. It is written for both parents and professionals, giving them the confidence to involve children and young people in understanding and managing the particular difficulties and complexities that so often surround a death by murder or manslaughter. The booklet includes child-friendly activities to do with children or as a family to help them to make sense of what has happened and to begin to express their grief.

Never Too Young To Grieve: Supporting children under 5 after the death of a parent

By Winston’s Wish
ISBN 978-0955953965

A key focus of early childhood is the relationships that children form with the important people in their lives — usually parents, carers and siblings. Bereavement during a child’s early years interrupts the attachment that they have with that person. In the absence of strong memories of their own, it can be hard for a young child to remember the person who has died and to feel connected to them. This booklet is designed for parents, carers, childcare professionals and other adults supporting children up to the age of 5 who have experienced the death of a parent or carer. It offers information and ideas as well as some activities which we hope will benefit children and their families.

Talking about Death: A Dialogue Between Parent and Child

By Earl A. Grollman, 1991
ISBN: 978-0807023631

This guide for parents recognises that many adults find it hard to honestly and openly explain death to children, especially when faced with their own grief. It includes quotes and examples from other parents and suggestions of what to say to a child as well as general advice.

The Family Has Been Informed: Supporting grieving children and young people from military families

By Winston’s Wish
ISBN 978-0955953972

In this booklet we offer information that aims to be helpful to families and professionals who come into contact with children and young people from military families who have been bereaved. We also suggest practical ideas and describe the services that Winston’s Wish can offer nationally.

We All Grieve: Supporting bereaved children who have special educational needs and disabilities

By Winston’s Wish
ISBN 978-0955953996

We All Grieve looks at how children with SEND are affected by a bereavement, how those around them can support them and help to develop the child’s understanding of death and loss. This book is designed for parents, carers, educational professionals and other adults supporting children and young adults with SEND who have experienced the death of someone close to them. It offers information, practical suggestions and ideas for activities as well as where to find other support.

You Just Don’t Understand: Supporting bereaved teenagers

By Winston’s Wish
ISBN 978-0955953958

The transition from childhood to adulthood can be a challenging process at the best of times. This booklet aims to help you understand what normal adolescent development is, and to recognise the additional problems teenagers may face if someone important dies during these years. This booklet is based on many years’ experience of working with bereaved teenagers, families and professionals who support them and the information here will help you to consider how to respond to the individual needs of a bereaved teenager.