MG at Heart Book List: Middle Grade and Picture Books for Grief, Loss, and Funeral Rites

THE LAND OF YESTERDAY is a beautiful, whimsical and fantastical journey through grief. Reynolds’ deftly weaves so many truths and emotions about the grieving and healing process into Cecilia’s journey. The book is truly a healing balm to  children and adults alike who have lost someone near and dear to them.

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If you loved THE LAND OF YESTERDAY and would like to read more children’s books about grief, or if you know a child who is grieving but perhaps is not ready for THE LAND OF YESTERDAY yet, we’ve put together this list of books around death, grieving, and funeral rites. Each one hits on a bit different part of the topic and is aimed at different audiences and age groups. So hopefully, you’ll find just what you’re looking for.

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE by Jennifer Maschari

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The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price asks the question, “Would you be willing to give up memories of a lost loved one in exchange for the illusion of being with them again?” At once a bit dark and scary, like Coraline, but also incredibly heartfelt. It helps the reader to feel gratitude for what they have of the person they lost.

TIM’S GOODBYE by Steve Salerno

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When a young child has to say goodbye to a beloved pet, this may be the picture book for them. Gentle illustrations show a group of kids getting ready for something. It’s only at the end that you realize it is a send off for a dead pet turtle, which they release into the sky with balloons. Comforting without being preachy or instructive.

THE FUNERAL by Matt James

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This picture book shows a funeral for a semi-distant relative from a child’s point of view, which may not always be the most reverent. But it is a good way to open the conversation for any families who will be attending one soon with young kids.

THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH by Ali Benjamin

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This was the book I needed as a child. My closes friend died when I was in 4th grade but my last interaction with her was me declining to go play at her house because I didn’t feel like it. That isn’t nearly so bad as the last interaction that haunts the main character of this book, but it spoke to my heart that still feels the prick of that. In the end, this is a book for anyone trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy, who has to come to the painful realization that sometimes bad things just happen and there’s no good explanation.

SOMETHING VERY SAD HAPPENED by Bonnie Zucker

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This picture book was a turning point in my 4yo son’s therapy after the death of his favorite uncle (the father of his dearest cousin.) About six months after the death, my son started having intense anxiety breakdowns about death and dying. We took him to a therapist who gave us this book. After reading it a few times, and inserting the name of his uncle into the words marked in red (allowing any reader to properly personalize the book) we were able to have a conversation about what happened and how it made us feel, without a breakdown. Very gentle and perfect for the very young.

I am also going to highly recommend all the other books on death and grieving from Magination Press (the children’s publishing arm of the APA). There is a picture book for losing a parent, losing a pet, losing a sibling, losing a friend, and even one for a child who finds out they are going to die. They may not be standard story time fare but are important to have on hand when someone in your community needs it.

https://www.apa.org/pubs/magination/browse.aspx?query=subject:Grief+and+Loss

As luck would have it, Corrina Allen asked for grief and loss recs and gave two of her own earlier this week. So we are also listing a few of those here.Screen Shot 2019-01-17 at 3.05.05 PM.png

The MG at Heart Book Club’s January Pick: THE LAND OF YESTERDAY by K. A. Reynolds!

It’s a new year, and we at MG @ Heart are excited to spend 2019 discovering fantastic new middle grade reads with you! We’ll be releasing our full January-June reading list later this month. But for now, we’ve got the scoop on our January pick—a dark, whimsical story of loss, adventure, and healing…

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THE LAND OF YESTERDAY by K. A. Reynolds!

A tender and fantastical adventure story perfect for fans of Coraline.

After Cecelia Dahl’s little brother, Celadon, dies tragically, his soul goes where all souls go: the Land of Yesterday—and Cecelia is left behind in a fractured world without him.

Her beloved house’s spirit is crumbling beyond repair, her father is imprisoned by sorrow, and worst of all, her grief-stricken mother abandons the land of the living to follow Celadon into Yesterday.

It’s up to Cecelia to put her family back together, even if that means venturing into the dark and forbidden Land of Yesterday on her own. But as Cecilia braves a hot-air balloon commanded by two gnomes, a sea of daisies, and the Planet of Nightmares, it’s clear that even if she finds her family, she might not be able to save them.

And if she’s not careful, she might just become a lost soul herself, trapped forever in Yesterday.

What people are saying about The Land of Yesterday:

“From its first words, The Land of Yesterday has the pure crystal ring of a classic, like The Little Prince or The Phantom Tollbooth–beautiful, unique, and shimmering with truth. It’s a balm for grief, and a bursting fantastical joy of a story.” — Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Strange the Dreamer

“Told with riveting language, this is a poignant tale that will resonate with readers of all ages and leave them reeling from such an emotional, gorgeous story.” — Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of Aru Shah and the End of Time

“Richly imagined, creative, and entertaining.” — School Library Journal

“The novel is beautiful and often surprising, rich with images (like a purportedly magical pen, loaded with tears; a small door opening in Cecelia’s midsection, revealing “a miniature rusted lamppost inside a tarnished Victorian birdcage”; and people turning to paper as their life energy drains away) that serve both as fantastic elements and metaphors for grief and loss.” — Quill & Quire

The newsletter will go out on 1/28/19, and the Twitter chat will be held on 2/5/19. 

Happy reading!