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Children's Fiction Emotions & Feelings

The Tunnel

by (author) Sarah Howden

illustrated by Erika Rodriguez Medina

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Mar 2022
Emotions & Feelings, Death & Dying, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2022
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: 1 to 12


A spare, powerful story about taking space to process difficult feelings

After something bad happens, a boy feels sad and gray. Mom and Aunt Cheryl try to talk about it, but he feels like running away. So he picks up a shovel and starts digging a tunnel from his room, deep down and into the backyard. Out there, far from the lights of the house, it’s dark enough that he could disappear. But the quiet distance also gives him the space he needs to see his family’s love and start returning home.

As he heads back, the journey upward is different. He notices familiar details and tunes into his senses. The tunnel isn’t so scary this time. The boy emerges into his room just as Mom peeks in. When she notices a twig in his hair, he is ready to talk about the tunnel and finds warmth in her gentle acknowledgment: “You came back.”

Quiet, emotionally resonant text is paired with grayscale drawings accented with red in this thoughtfully layered exploration of coping with tough emotions, and taking time and space to heal.

About the authors

SARAH HOWDEN is the author of several books for children, including 5-Minute Stories for Fearless Girls and Cone Cat. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and daughter and their two rambunctious cats. 

Sarah Howden's profile page

ERIKA RODRIGUEZ MEDINA is an art teacher and illustrator, currently living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia. Comfortable with both traditional and digital media, she prefers organic shapes and natural-looking textures, which will find their way in everything she makes. If asked, Erika will tell you that her favorite things to illustrate are expressive characters, grumpy children, and subjects related to plants and nature.


Erika Rodriguez Medina's profile page


  • Commended, CCBC Choices
  • Commended, USBBY Outstanding International Book
  • Commended, Best Books for Kids and Teens
  • Commended, A Best Children's Book of the Year

Editorial Reviews

"Howden has written a soothing book of bibliotherapy embedded in a quiet story ... a worthy addition to picture book shelves."

Canadian Review of Materials

"A quiet, subtle exploration of loss ... useful both as a choice for a mourning child and for kids wanting to understand a grieving friend."

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books – STARRED REVIEW

"Both metaphor and meditation, this touching, lovely story is a conversation-opener between children and caregivers dealing with loss; it recognizes the need to be alone, as well as the merits and comfort of finding one’s way to loved ones."

School Library Journal

"An effective tool to open discussion about grief with individuals or small groups of children."


"A young boy carves a path through grief in this moving picture book."

Foreword Reviews – STARRED REVIEW

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