Books can serve as valuable tools to help youth process emotions because children and teens identify with characters their age who experience similar situations. Often, books can act as catalysts for youth to talk about their feelings with friends and trusted adults.
The following books explore the theme of grief and are available at the library. Place holds at roseburg.biblionix.com, or contact library staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-492-7050 for assistance.
The difficulty of losing a pet and working through what to do after is the focus of “Bear Island” written and illustrated by Caldecott medalist Matthew Cordell. Louise lives by a lake with an island where she and her dog, Charlie, used to love going together. One day Louise goes to the island and is angry and missing her pet when all of a sudden she becomes afraid because of a bear on the island! Louise and the bear interact as the seasons change, with each of them having good days and bad, until it is time for the bear to hibernate. In the end, Louise gets a new dog who enjoys different things than Charlie. This is a sweet story to help talk about feelings of anger when a pet passes away.
Not all grief is caused by death. Our next recommendation, “I Dream of Popo” written by Livia Blackburne and illustrated by Julia Kuo, is a story of moving across the sea away from a grandmother. The girl in this story starts out living in Taiwan with her grandmother, going to the park, eating delicious food and spending quality time together. The girl then moves to San Diego, California, and experiences school and life different from Taiwan. She talks to her grandmother on the phone and returns for a visit. The grandmother gets sick, and in the end the girl dreams of talking to her grandmother and sharing new adventures. The story focuses on missing someone yet still being able to share experiences with them. The end is ambiguous about what happens with the grandmother as a result of her illness.
Our final picture book recommendation is “Ghost Cat” by Kevan Atteberry. This story shows a boy who thinks he keeps seeing a ghost of his cat in the house, but he can’t be sure because it darts around and slips away. The cat’s presence is felt throughout the house at various times. This is another story that ends with a new pet, a kitten, coming into the home. This book is wonderful at addressing the simple feeling of missing your pet in day-to-day life around the house.
June Bug Jordan is the tween girl at the heart of “Trowbridge Road,” a National Book Award longlist title by Marcella Pixley. It is 1982, and June Bug is grieving the loss of her father from AIDS, a new and misunderstood illness. She is left with her mom, whose mental illness becomes all consuming, often forcing June Bug to act the role of an adult. Her Uncle Toby tries to help, but he does not recognize the seriousness of their situation. Things begin to change when June Bug befriends new neighbor Ziggy, a tween boy who also comes from a difficult environment. Together, they find comfort in imaginative play and stability in Ziggy’s grandmother, Nana Jean.
“The Lucky Ones” by Liz Lawson is a book for older teens that includes intense scenes, strong language and authentic characters. May survived a school shooting because she was in a closet when one of her classmates opened fire during band class. Seven people died, including May’s twin brother, Jordan. May has grieved by starting fights, getting kicked out of school and alienating her friends. Zach attended another school but has been ostracized because his mother is the shooter’s defense attorney. May and Zach meet, and in alternating chapters, they begin to lean more on each other. Still, May has kept a secret from Zach, and as the one-year anniversary of the shooting approaches, her grief may overwhelm any hope she has for the future, especially one that includes Zach.