Looking for the best children’s books about grief? These picture books about sadness for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various topics such as dealing with loss, feeling sad, coping with tragedy, and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. This mix of brand new and award winning books will help your students heal.
If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!
The Treasure Box by Dave Keane and Rahele Jomepour Bell
Searching for treasures with her grandpa is this young girl’s favorite thing to do. Every week they examine the items in her secret box and go on walks to find more—a broken robin’s egg, rusty spring, even a snakeskin that makes Grandpa squirm and make funny faces.
But then Grandpa is too sick to come. She leaves him a few treasures in the hospital, but when he dies, she can’t bring herself to even open the treasure box. When Grammy brings her some treasures Grandpa wanted her to have, they open the box together and continue the tradition, showing that memories of time together are the greatest treasures of all. The beautiful, emotion-evoking illustrations are sure to catch the attention of the Caldecott committee. That said, it is certainly darker in content matter than most winners and honorees in the past other than historical books like Unspoken.
I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black
Everyone feels sad sometimes—even flamingos. When Flamingo announces he’s feeling down, the little girl and Potato try to cheer him up, but nothing seems to work. Not even dirt! (Which usually works for Potato.)
Flamingo learns that he will not always feel this way. And his friends learn that sometimes being a friend means you don’t have to cheer someone up. You just have to stick by your pal no matter how they feel. Even if they’re a potato.
A Stone For Sascha by Aaron Becker
A girl grieves the loss of her dog in an achingly beautiful wordless epic from the Caldecott Honor–winning creator of Journey.
This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth. In his first picture book following the conclusion of his best-selling Journey trilogy, Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the private, personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia — and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again. One of my favorite children’s books about grief.
The Rough Patch by Brian Lies
Evan and his dog do everything together, from eating ice cream to caring for their prize-winning garden, which grows big and beautiful. One day the unthinkable happens: Evan’s dog dies. Heartbroken, Evan destroys the garden and everything in it. The ground becomes overgrown with prickly weeds and thorns, and Evan embraces the chaos.
But beauty grows in the darkest of places, and when a twisting vine turns into an immense pumpkin, Evan is drawn out of his isolation and back to the county fair, where friendships—old and new—await.
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
There is a wonder and magic to childhood. We don’t realize it at the time, of course . . . yet the adults in our lives do. They encourage us to see things in the stars, to find joy in colors and laughter as we play.
But what happens when that special someone who encourages such wonder and magic is no longer around? We can hide, we can place our heart in a bottle and grow up . . . or we can find another special someone who understands the magic. And we can encourage them to see things in the stars, find joy among colors and laughter as they play.
Oliver Jeffers delivers a remarkable book, a touching and resonant tale reminiscent of The Giving Tree that will speak to the hearts of children and parents alike.
In a Jar by Deborah Marcero
Here’s a marvelous picture book, charmingly written and beautifully illustrated, about the power of memory and the magic of friendship.
Llewellyn, a little rabbit, is a collector. He gathers things in jars–ordinary things like buttercups, feathers, and heart-shaped stones. Then he meets another rabbit, Evelyn, and together they begin to collect extraordinary things–like rainbows, the sound of the ocean, and the wind just before snow falls. And, best of all, when they hold the jars and peer inside, they remember all the wonderful things they’ve seen and done. But one day, Evelyn has sad news: Her family is moving away. How can the two friends continue their magical collection–and their special friendship–from afar?
Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Stumpkin is the most handsome pumpkin on the block. He’s as orange as a traffic cone! Twice as round as a basketball! He has no bad side! He’s perfect choice for a Halloween jack-o-lantern.
There’s just one problem—Stumpkin has a stump, not a stem. And no one seems to want a stemless jack-o-lantern for their window. As Halloween night approaches, more and more of his fellow pumpkins leave, but poor Stumpkin remains. Will anyone give Stumpkin his chance to shine?
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum is a funny and honest school story about teasing, self-esteem, and acceptance to share all year round. Chrysanthemum thinks her name is absolutely perfect—until her first day of school. “You’re named after a flower!” teases Victoria. “Let’s smell her,” says Jo. Chrysanthemum wilts. What will it take to make her blossom again?
Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers
Finn lives by the sea and the sea lives by him. Every time he looks out his window it’s a constant reminder of the stories his grandfather told him about the place where the ocean meets the sky. Where whales and jellyfish soar and birds and castles float.
Finn’s grandfather is gone now but Finn knows the perfect way to honor him. He’ll build his own ship and sail out to find this magical place himself! And when he arrives, maybe, just maybe, he’ll find something he didn’t know he was looking for.
You Are Special by Max Lucado
In the town of Wemmickville there lives a Wemmick named Punchinello. Each day the residents award stickers―gold stars for the talented, smart, and attractive Wemmicks, and gray dots for those who make mistakes or are just plain ordinary. Punchinello, covered in gray dots, begins to feel worthless. Then one day he visits Eli the woodcarver, his creator, and he learns that his worth comes from a different source.
America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven
The White Table is set in many mess halls as a symbol for and remembrance to service members fallen, missing, or held captive in the line of duty. Solitary and solemn, it is the table where no one will ever sit. As a special gift to her Uncle John, Katie and her sisters are asked to help set the white table for dinner. As their mother explains the significance of each item placed on the table Katie comes to understand and appreciate the depth of sacrifice that her uncle, and each member of the Armed Forces and their families, may be called to give. It was just a little white table… but it felt as big as America when we helped Mama put each item on it and she told us why it was so important. A book about remembering those who were lost especially on Memorial Day.
Best Children’s Books About Grief
What are some of your favorite children’s books about grief? Are there any must read children’s books about grief and managing loss that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!