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Children's Nonfiction Death & Dying

After Life

Ways We Think About Death

by (author) Merrie-Ellen Wilcox

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Sep 2018
Death & Dying, Customs, Traditions, Anthropology, Body, Mind & Spirit
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2018
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2018
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


Why do we die? Why can't we live forever? What happens to us after death?

Moving between science and culture, After Life: Ways We Think About Death takes a straightforward look at these and other questions long taboo in our society. By showing the fascinating, diverse ways in which we understand death, both today and throughout our history, the book also shines a light on what it is to be human. Each chapter includes a brief telling of a death legend, myth or history from a different culture or tradition, from Adam and Eve to Wolf and Coyote, and ends with a section on a common theme in our thinking about death, such as rivers and birds in the afterlife, the colors that different cultures use to symbolize death, and, of course, ghosts. The final chapter is about grief, which is both a universal human experience and unique to each person. The text offers suggestions for ways to think about our grief, when to ask for help and how to talk to friends who are grieving.

About the author

Merrie-Ellen Wilcox is a writer and editor in Victoria, British Columbia. She is the author of What's the Buzz?: Keeping Bees in Flight, which is part of the Orca Footprints series and After Life: Ways We Think About Death, which was short-listed for both the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award and the Norma Fleck Award. When several huge Garry oak trees were cut down at the end of her street to make way for a parking lot, she became a passionate defender of the trees and the ecosystem they are parts of. She studied ecological restoration at the University of Victoria and continues to naturescape her garden.


Merrie-Ellen Wilcox's profile page


  • Commended, Children’s Book Council & National Council for Social Studies Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens, starred selection
  • Short-listed, Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
  • Commended, United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) Outstanding International Books List (OIB)
  • Short-listed, Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award
  • Commended, Ontario Library association (OLA) Best Bets

Editorial Reviews

"Wilcox skillfully tackles the subject of death and dying…Thorough and well organized, this book honors its intended audience's ability to handle the subject matter…[A] meaningful, straightforward look at an often taboo topic."

Publishers Weekly

&quotChapters are packed with information…Kids will love the sidebars…Teachers can use After Life for interventions when death and grieving arise in a classroom and can use it as a comprehensive introduction to the topics for study.&quot

CM Magazine

"An unashamedly honest, visually compelling guide to death and dying for young readers. Just as essential as Sex Ed!"

Jessica Zitter M.D. Critical and Palliative Care Specialist, author of <i>Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life</i>

&quotA sensitive approach to a difficult subject.&quot

Kirkus Reviews

"Young people need death education! After Life: Ways We Think About Death opens the door and welcomes them to learn about this important life event. Merrie-Ellen Wilcox successfully marries culture and the natural world in an attractive and engaging format for readers. This book will be an excellent resource for teachers, parents, libraries and hospices wanting to support young people to learn about dying and death."

Dr. Kathy Kortes-Miller author of <i>Talking About Death Won't Kill You</i>

"Takes on this difficult topic and offers both historical and mythological perspective while, at the same time, giving concrete advice on ways to personally deal with death…It's a valuable book to have on shelves."


“Colorful photos, archival illustrations, and diagrams are inviting and provide balance to the heavy topic.”

The Horn Book Online

"This fresh, friendly and matter-of-fact tone is what makes After Life really work. This is a useful and interesting book intended to help nine to 12-year-olds deal with all of the thoughts and issues around this sometimes shunned topic."

January Magazine

"Readers curious or needing solace after a personal tragedy will find this insightful book very helpful…A welcome selection for most collections, especially those in need of bibliotherapy titles for middle schoolers."

School Library Journal

"In the age of social media, it is now more important than ever that we talk about death with young people. After Life explores the subject of death in a compassionate, straightforward and age-appropriate way. It is an essential resource for middle schoolers—and their educators and parents."

Dr. Jillian Roberts, child psychologist and author of the World Around Us series

Other titles by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox

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