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Although it is not necessarily something we like to discuss, we all experience grief and loss in our lives. Whether it is the loss of a beloved pet or a family member, it can be difficult to process, particularly for a child. My latest picture book The Remembering Stone, looks at how we maintain memories of those that we have lost. When Alice loses the stone her grandpa gave her, she feels as if she has lost her connection to him, but through friendship and kindness she is able to find a new way to remember him.
Here are more titles that deal with the difficult emotions, questions and thoughts that come from experiencing loss. They also provide hope, as we see how it is possible to cope with sadness and maintain connections to those we have lost.
The Phone Booth in Mr Hirota's Garden, written by Heather Smith, illustrated by Rachel Wada
After a village is destroyed by a tsunami, one man builds a phone booth which gives the devastated community a way to grieve and connect with their lost loved ones. Inspired by a true story, this beautifully illustrated picture book shows how one person’s creativity can help a whole community that has been affected by loss. I love the illustrations in this book as well as the message of connection at a time when we often feel very alone.
The Funeral, written and illustrated by Matt James
Written from the point of a child experiencing a funeral for the first time, we get to see the mixed emotions that arise—the excitement of seeing a favourite cousin, as well as questions about death and how we say goodbye to those that we have lost. Matt James has created such fun illustrations that really capture the combination of joy and sadness that we often experience at funerals.
The Sour Cherry Tree, written by Naseem Hrab, illustrated by Nahid Kazemi
A beautiful, quiet book that shows the connection between a little girl and her Baba Bozorg, even though they do not share a language. After his death, everyday items in Baba Bozorg’s home, such as his slippers, tea cup and empty mint wrappers, are all reminders of his kindness and love. This picture book captures how we can find memories and beauty in the simplest things.
Helen's Birds, written by Sara Cassidy, illustrated by Sophie Casson
After her elderly neighbour suddenly dies, Saanvi has to cope with the loss of her friend and the change that follows. I love that this book deals with an intergenerational friendship and shows how we can find ways to preserve someone’s memory through action.
Rodney was a Tortoise, written by Nan Fowler, illustrated by Yong Ling Kang
Rodney is Bernadette’s best pal, loyal and true. Rodney plays games, listens to her read and is Bernadette’s best friend, until one day he does not wake up. Bernadette is initially alone with her grief, but eventually finds that friendship can help her overcome her sadness. This book brought back memories of the loss of my first pet and perfectly captures the intense feeling of loneliness that loss can bring.
The Bird Feeder, written by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Dorothy Leung
A touching story that shows a child as their grandmother moves from their home, into hospice and eventually dies. Throughout their time together, they maintain a connection through the birds they feed, the drawings they create and the love they share. This story is honest and real as it explores the special bond between a grandparent and a grandchild.
A Last Goodbye, written by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim
In this picture book we see how various animals handle death and the rituals they have to commemorate loved ones. Death and dying is explored as a natural part of life and we are shown how we all live on through our families and the planet. I really appreciate that this book looks at death from a wider perspective and allows us to consider it as a natural and universal experience.
Learn more about The Remembering Stone:
Alice keeps a perfectly round skipping stone in her pocket to remember her grandfather by—but the stone goes missing.
It looked just like a regular stone, but Alice knew it was different: It was perfectly round so you could use it to trace circles, and sometimes she could trick her dad into thinking it was a quarter. It was also how Alice remembered her grandpa, who taught her how to skip stones, and who passed away last winter.
Alice brings the stone to school for Show and Share, but when her classmate asks to see it again at recess, Alice discovers that the stone is gone! Her friends search high and low and can’t find the stone—but their friendship gives Alice an idea of another way that she can remember.
A gentle look at loss, grief, and how small everyday actions can connect us to those we love.
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