Best Picture Books about the Death of a Friend

Picture books can provide emotional resources to children who have lost a friend.

Today I’ll share:

  • When picture books about the death of a friend can be helpful
  • A gap in this type of literature
  • An appeal to share resources

NOTE: The information and other materials presented by The Bibliotherapy Project are for informational purposes only, and are not intended to substitute for medical or mental health advice.

When a Child’s Friend Dies…

As a parent, I can only hope that my child never has to experience the loss of a friend to death.

Unfortunately, death is a reality that sometimes takes a child too soon.

When that happens, how can we begin to help our children make sense of it? What can we offer them that–though it may not “make things better”–may provide some emotional resources to lean on, and the knowledge that they’re not alone?

I believe in the power of stories–particularly picture books, read-aloud by a loving adult–to both stir up life’s questions and offer aid to a hurting heart.

Stories are powerful.

I believe in the power of stories–particularly picture books, read-aloud by a loving adult–to both stir up life’s questions and offer aid to a hurting heart.

For that reason, one simple thing adults can do is to read bibliotherapy to their children, both when nothing has gone wrong, and when life has gone completely awry.

So if you’re reading this, you may have a particular need for a book about a child who has lost a friend.

There are scores of AMAZING books about loss, death, and bereavement, and these are certainly recommended.

…But which ones feature the loss of a friend in particular? Not a grandmother, not a pet, but a friend?

Friends are so important to human life.

Which books are available about the death of a friend?

Losing a friend, understandably, is a very difficult experience.

It is understandable, therefore, that not many publishers are jumping to publish such a book, especially not one about human friends.

A few, however, have found a loophole: a way to discuss this painful topic without featuring a story about a child’s death. (If you DO know a book like this, please let me know in the comments. I’d be interested to check it out.)

These are a couple of my favorite reads in which the main character’s friend dies:

1. Ida, Always

Ida, Always is a story about two polar bear friends at the zoo, one of whom dies.

A story based on two real zoo bears, and well-told with beautiful illustrations, Ida, Always fits the bill.

Ida, Gus’s friend, becomes sick, weak, and tired, so Gus knows what is going to happen. The friends have a chance to spend time together with that knowledge. During that time, they share anger at their circumstances, but also tenderness toward each other, and a poignant gratitude for their shared life.

After Ida’s death, Gus grieves, and the book ends with hope as he looks at the city through her eyes, and understands that she will always be part of who he is and how he sees the world.

Ida, Always would do well for a child who has lost a friend, but especially for a case in which the death was foreseen. This would even be a good pick to share with a child whose friend is currently sick with a poor prognosis.

2. The Goodbye Book

The Goodbye Book is an explanatory book about how you might feel after loss.

The Goodbye Book is a direct, explanatory book that shows how you might feel after a loss. It is not a story, but rather an explanation.

“You might not feel like eating. You might not feel like sleeping. You might try to stop thinking about it. You might pretend it didn’t happen. You might be confused.”

The illustrations are colorful and simple, with simple.

The Goodbye Book does not indicate who died, though the illustrations show a fish having died (one of two in the fishbowl).

The book ends with comfort in the memories of the lost loved one and comfort in knowing that “there will always be someone to love you and hold you tight.”

If a child’s friend had died suddenly, this could be a helpful resource for parents to share so their child knows that every emotion they encounter is okay, and that they are going to be all right.

A final word…

Children suffering hardship like the loss of a friend deserve to know that they are not alone, their emotions are valid, and that life can still hold joy.

Let’s share stories that put these truths in children’s hearts.

Picture books can offer insight and support in the unfortunate circumstance that a child’s friend dies.

Did we leave any helpful resources off this list? Please leave a comment below!

I look forward to chatting with you in the comments.

Sincerely, Theresa Kiser

About Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, a mother and award-winning children’s book author passionate about connecting children with the books that will help them through life’s inevitable tough times. On a rare moment when I’m not writing or changing diapers, I might indulge in fruity teas, dark chocolate, and a good book.

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