Inside: Favorite secular children’s books about death to help you navigate tough conversations with your kids.
“Mama, am I going to die someday?” My 4-yr-old looked up at me, his brow wrinkled in concern.
My heart sank and my eyes grew cloudy. I wasn’t ready for this conversation.
Death is a natural part of life. It’s also a topic that we tend to avoid.
The thing is, we need to prepare our kids for the experience of loss. We need to be willing to have tough conversations – and to answer their questions with honesty.
As I looked down into my son’s bright eyes, I wasn’t sure where to start.
“All living things die eventually,” I said. “And you have a very long life ahead of you.”
I knew more questions would come. That night, I began searching for some good books to help.
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Secular Children’s Books about Death and Loss
Good books can be helpful tools for addressing tough topics with kids. Below you’ll find my favorite secular children’s books about death.
As with every book on a tough topic, make sure to read them in advance to make sure they are a good fit for your family.
by Mo Willems, Illustrated by Jon J Muth, Ages 3+
This beautiful tale follows the friendship of City Dog and Country Frog. They explore and play through Springtime and Summer, but then Country Frog grows tired. When Winter comes, Country Frog is gone.
City Dog misses Country Frog, but ultimately life goes on and he makes a new friend. This book is a good starting point for understanding loss – and the idea that life will carry on.
by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Christian Robinson, Ages 4+
A group of children come across a bird in the park. It has no heartbeat. The children know that it is dead and will never fly again.
The children are sad, but glad they found the dead bird so they can give it a proper burial. They make a little grave and bury the bird. They sing to the bird, and cry. Eventually, they are ready to move on.
By Robie H Harris, Illustrated by Jan Ormerod, Age 4+
A boy discovers that his pet mouse is dead. His parents offer support as he works through denial, anger, and sadness at the loss of his beloved pet. Together, his family buries Mousie in the yard. In the end, the boy considers getting another mouse someday – “but not just yet.”
Anyone who has lost a pet can relate to this story. Children can learn about the experience of loss from this true to life book.
By Shona Innes, Illustrated by Irisz Agocs, Ages 3+
The concept of life is difficult for young children to comprehend. This poetic book helps children understand by comparing life to the wind. It is invisible, but we can feel it and see its effect on the world. When it leaves, everything is still.
The book describes several beliefs about “where the life goes after it’s left”, and ways people deal with loss. It’s a great choice for families who want to help children appreciate diverse beliefs.
by Bryan Mellonie, Illustrated by Robert Ingpen, Ages 4+
This moving book explores the lifetimes of plants, animals, and people. Death has its place as a natural part of life.
Tall trees grow slowly and live a very long time. Rabbits and mice grow up quickly, and live a shorter life. People often grow old, but sometimes their life ends from illness or injury.
For all living things, from tiny insects to the tallest trees, “…lifetimes are really all the same. They have beginnings, and endings, and there is living in between.”
I introduced these books one by one to my son. He wanted to read some of them a lot. Others only once or twice. I answered questions when they came, and eventually, he stopped asking.
He found what he needs – for now.
I know this is just the beginning. There will be many more conversations that I don’t feel ready for in the future. At least I know that when questions come up, I can turn to a good book for help.
Your turn. What favorite books about death for kids are missing from this list? Share in the comments below.