Books for Kids about Aging, Illness, and Death
Berkeley Parents Network >
The Arts, Books, Entertainment, & Media >
Books for Kids about Aging, Illness, and Death
I'm looking for recommendations for picture books that
discuss cancer (specifically a parent or family member
having cancer/being in the hospital)at a level that a
preschooler could understand. Any recommendations would be
appreciated. Thanks anon
Picture books about cancer: The Rockridge Branch of the
Oakland Public Library has a wonderful section in the
Children's Library dealing with family issues. The section
has picture and children's books on Cancer, going to the
hospital, going to the doctor, pets dying, going to the
dentist, etc. The children's librarian in that branch is
very helpful and can show you that section.
Here is a link to a book published by a cancer survivor with
material from her daughter.
Good luck with everything
I asked two listservs and here is a wealth of information.
Some responses are from independent booksellers, some from
authors in the children's lit field.
Hugs On The Wind is not about cancer specifically, but it is
about separation. It is written so it can be used for a
loved one away in a hospital, a grandparent who lives far
away, a parent off to work each morning, someone who has
died, etc. It has been very helpful to young ones. It's
told from POV of Little Cottontail who misses his
grandfather who has gone far across the Great Green Meadow.
Death is never mentioned; it's just about separation and how
Little Cottontail uses nature symbols to feel close to his
The Lemonade Club by Patricia Polacco
(from Hicklebees in San Jose)
Kathy's Hats: A Story of Hope by Trudy Krisher
(Hicklebees, San Jose)
The Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka is about terminally ill
children. Books Inc.
Sammy's Mommy Has Cancer by Sherry Kohlberg (definitely at a
pre-school level with basic but colorful illustrations)
Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy by Amelia Frahm The
Paper Chains by Claire Blake Good Luck, Mrs. K.! (an
affecting and more artfully done book and only book by a big
NYC publisher. Please note this is for k-3, as it's about a
beloved elementary teacher's cancer)
Can I Catch Cancer? By Cristine Thomas
Our Mom Has Cancer by Abigail Ackerman
My Mom Has Cancer by Carolyn Parkinson
Shennen Bersani has a new book out, 'Nana, What's Cancer?'
There is a news link that shows an interview with the
granddaughter/ grandmother who wrote the book, and all
proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. I think of the
books mentioned in this thread this might be the most
I looked hard, as best I could online, at the others. Since
my youngest grandson was in Kindergarten when his mom was
going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, and even
though I was a primary caregiver for her, I didn't know
until recently he wet his pants at school every time she had
a chemo appointment. I'm impressed this book,' Nana, What's
Cancer?', was written by a survivor and the grandchild who
first asked this question. So if I were to buy a book for
kids on cancer, this is the one I'd purchase. In fact, I am
buying a copy.
The American Cancer Soc. website has a number of books
aimed at different ages about family members who have cancer
including one about a mommy with breast cancer for very
young children, workbooks, and books aimed at older kids.
There are also books for kids who have cancer... all sorts
p.s. If any of you have cancer, or need support around that
illness as a friend or family member, I can't recommend the
ACS more. They are wonderful.
There's a picture book called 'When Someone You Love Has
Cancer' that I've heard is good, though I haven't read it.
It's on Amazon and two other titles on the subject are
listed on the page. I hope this helps.
Jacqueline Golding, Ph.D. has a reference book, HEALING
STORIES that compiles picture books for the big & small
changes in a child's life. It does have a section on
chronic illness that lists titles of PBs that apply to this
The American Psychology Association has a wonderful
children's book publisher called Magination Press. They have
children's books available for very many difficult topics
such as cancer. I would check out this website.
Debbie Duncan's When Molly Was In The Hospital: A Book For
Brothers And Sisters Of Hospitalized Children isn't about
cancer but just might fit the bill. Nancy
My friend's mother has cancer and may pass away. My friend has
two boys, ages 2 and 4, and is looking for a children's book
relating to this issue that presents it in a non-negative
light. She's not looking for a religious book but isn't opposed
to a discussion of ''heaven'' if its not too involved. She asked
me to find one for her. Any recommendations would be great.
This was not among the books listed previously, but I have
recommended this one before. It is ''Badger's Parting Gifts'' by
Susan Varley, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is
great for the age group (well at least the 4 year old) you have
in mind and is good for any age really
Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley. It manages to be non-religious
think it comforted me as much as it did my child.
Maria Shriver has a fairly current and very popular book on the
[I think this is called "What's Happening to Grandpa?" -Ed]
My son has really liked ''I miss you: a first look at death'' by
Pat Thomas. It's very matter of fact, explains about death and
the emotions that go along with it, and the illustrations carry a
sub-plot about a little girl whose grandmother dies. All around,
it's very well done
Good for you for helping support your friend! Here are some of the books
into when my kids' great-grandfather died last year.
''Liplap's Wish'' talks about grieving from a child's point of view, and
is suitable for
2-4 year olds. ''Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs'' by Tomie de Paola
aging and death. ''The Tenth Good Thing about Barney'' is about a pet
rather than a
grandmother, but it answers children's questions about death in a very
You might also check out Marc Brown's ''When Dinosaurs Die.'' I was
concerned that a couple of pages were too intense for my kids, but they
only the information they neded and just had no interest in the rest
How thoughtful of you to help your friend. I'm a former librarian
and have several suggestions for preschool level books. My
Grandson Lew, by Charlotte Zolotow (about to be reprinted, but
available at libraries) is a lovely story about a 6-year-old boy
who learns long after the fact about his grandfather's death. His
mother had not told him of the death because he was only 2 and
she thought he would not miss or remember the grandfather. They
learn remembering together is healing. In the book My Grandpa
Died Today, by J. Fassler, the grandfather prepares his grandson
for his death (''I'm not afraid to die because you are not afraid
to live.''). But one of my favorites is Annie and the Old One, by
M. Miles. It's a tale of a Navajo child who tries to prevent her
grandmother's death by secretly unweaving the rug the grandmother
is trying to finish before she dies. The grandmother helps her
understand the circle of life. A book about the death of a pet
can also help start a conversation. Try The Tenth Good Thing
About Barney, by Judith Viorst. (Nana Upstairs and Nana
Downstairs by de Paola, already mentioned on a previous post, is
also excellent.) Please talk to a children's librarian for other
suggestions, including some non-fiction titles. Here is a link to
a list of books on death and dying for children of various ages:
And here's to improving health for this child's grandmother
there is the book ''anna and the old one'' which i found quite nice,
about a child whose grandmother knows she is old and passing away
soon and how the child tries to stop it, and then, with her
grandmother, learns to accept it. i didn't see the original post,
so i don't know what age child(ren) the books are for, but it is
a very nice book.
There's a book called ''Flip Flop'' about a little rabbit who's sad after being
his grandmother who has recently died. Not religious at all. At the end, he is
knowing that she's the brightest star in the sky and he can look up to her and
remember her. I don't know the auther offhand, and if I go into my kids' room, I
wake them. I definitely recommend it for your friends' kids after their grandmother
passes away. I hope someone has a good book for right now.
Maria Shriver has a popular book on this subject.
I have a fantastic book to recommend about a grandmother who
dies. It's called ''Ghost Wings'' by Barbara Joosse and
beautifully illustrated by Giselle Potter. The theme is about a
mexican family with a little girl who experiences the death of
her grandmother. Dios de las Muertas plays a part in this
wonderfully told story! Can't say enough good things about this
For the parent wanting recommendations for books on aging and the elderly:
I highly recommend Tomie de Paola's book, "Nana Upstairs-Nana Downstairs."
While it's about 20 years old, and can be checked out of the library, he
also recently re-did the illustrations, so you should be able to find it at
the book store.
It's based on his own childhood experience when he was four years old.
One of my favorites is "Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs," or something
like that, by Tomie de Paola. The relationship between the little boy and
his great-grandma is wonderful. She dies at the end, though, and you may
not be ready to talk about *that* just yet!
this page was last updated: May 13, 2012
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network