Michael Rosen, Benji Davies and Meera Sriram on Bishop's Stortford College librarian Lizzie Hall's must-read list for helping children come to terms with losing a loved one
Bishop's Stortford College Prep School librarian Lizzie Hall writes about the magic of storytelling...
Dear Reader. Picture books are a wonderful way to help children understand what it means to lose a loved one, whether it's a family member, friend or even a much-loved family pet.
Here are some gentle reading suggestions to help children (and adults) explore loss and the emotions that come with it...
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
In this relatable and reassuring contemporary classic, a mother tells her two children that they're all connected by an invisible string. "That's impossible!" the children insist, but still they want to know more: "What kind of string?"
The answer is the simple truth that binds us all: "An invisible string made of love. Even though you can't see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love."
Does everybody have an invisible string? How far does it reach? Does it ever go away?
This heart-warming picture book for all ages explores questions about the intangible yet unbreakable connections between us, and opens up deeper conversations about love.
Grandad's Island by Benji Davies
At the bottom of Syd's garden, through the gate and past the tree, is Grandad's house. Syd can let himself in any time he likes.
But one day when Syd comes to call, Grandad isn't in any of the usual places. He's in the attic, where he ushers Syd through a door, and the two of them journey to a wild, beautiful island awash with colour where Grandad decides he will remain. So Syd hugs Grandad one last time and sets sail for home.
Visiting Grandad's house at the bottom of the garden again, he finds it just the same as it's always been — except that Grandad isn't there anymore.
Sure to provide comfort to young children struggling to understand loss, Benji Davies' tale is a sensitive and beautiful reminder that our loved ones live on in our memories long after they're gone.
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
Award-winning picture book star Oliver Jeffers explores themes of love and loss in this life-affirming and uplifting tale.
Once there was a girl whose life was filled with wonder at the world around her. Then, one day, something happened that made the girl take her heart and put it in a safe place.
However, after that it seemed that the world was emptier than before. But would she know how to get her heart back?
Mum's Jumper by Jayde Perkin
If Mum has gone, how do you carry on? Missing her feels like a dark cloud that follows you around, or like swimming to a shore that never comes any nearer.
But memories are like a jumper that you can cuddle and wear. And Mum's jumper might be a way to keep her close.
A simple, heartfelt and ultimately uplifting book for anyone coping with loss.
Michael Rosen's Sad Book by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake
Very occasionally the term non-fiction has to stretch itself to accommodate a book that fits into no category at all.
Michael Rosen's Sad Book is such a book. It chronicles Michael's grief at the death of his son Eddie from meningitis at the age of 19.
A moving combination of sincerity and simplicity, it acknowledges that sadness is not always avoidable or reasonable and perfects the art of making complicated feelings plain.
Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie De Paola
Tommy is four years old and he loves visiting the home of his grandmother, Nana Downstairs, and his great-grandmother, Nana Upstairs.
But one day, Tommy's mother tells him Nana Upstairs won't be there anymore, and Tommy must struggle with saying goodbye to someone he loves.
The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup
A beautiful and heartfelt picture book to help children celebrate the memories left behind when a loved one dies.
Fox has lived a long and happy life in the forest, but now he is tired. He lies down in his favourite clearing and falls asleep forever.
Before long, Fox's friends begin to gather in the clearing. One by one, they tell stories of the special moments that they shared with Fox.
And so, as they share their memories, a tree begins to grow, becoming bigger and stronger with each memory, sheltering and protecting all the animals in the forest, just as Fox did when he was alive.
This gentle story about the loss of a loved one is perfect for sharing and will bring comfort to both children and parents.
Rabbityness by Jo Empson
Rabbit has a unique, creative spirit and his happy nature is infectious – he fills the wood with colour and music.
But Rabbit disappears and the world feels grey again. When the other rabbits discover the gifts he left behind for them, however, their feelings of hope return.
This is less a story about death and more a celebration of life, and a wonderful springboard for conversations about loss in many forms. The splashes of colour and inky-black rabbits are hugely effective and engaging.
The Yellow Suitcase by Meera Sriram
Asha travels with her parents from America to India to mourn her grandmother's passing. When they arrive at her grandmother's house, it's filled with strangers - and no Grandma.
Asha's grief and anger are compounded by the empty yellow suitcase usually reserved for gifts to and from Grandma.
But when she discovers a gift left behind just for her, Asha realises that the memory of her grandmother will live on inside her, no matter where she lives.