Take a look at our recommended titles for young children about compassion as part of St Elizabeth Hospice's Compassionate Communities project.
Compassionate Communities gives you the tools to help others whether it be at work, through community events or simply how to support a neighbour going through a bereavement. By developing these skills, we can build the confidence and resilience needed to care for one another before and after end of life
A shelter for sadness by Anne Booth and David Litchfield
Sadness has come to live with me and I am building it a shelter. I am building a shelter for my sadness and welcoming it inside. A small boy creates a shelter for his sadness, a safe space where Sadness is welcome, where it can curl up small, or be as big as it can be, where it can be noisy or quiet, or anything in between. The boy can visit the shelter whenever he needs to, every day, sometimes every hour, and the two of them will cry and talk or just sit, saying nothing. And the boy knows that one day Sadness may come out of the shelter, and together they will look out at the world, and see how beautiful it is.
Borrow A shelter for sadness →
The memory tree by Britta Teckentrup
Fox has lived a long and happy life in the forest. One day, he lies down in his favourite clearing, takes a deep breath and falls asleep forever. Before long, Fox's friends begin to gather in the clearing. One by one, they tell stories of the special moments that they shared with Fox. And, as they share their memories, a tree blooms, big and strong, eventually watching over all the friends, just as Fox did when he was alive. This gentle and comforting tale celebrates life and the memories that are left behind when a loved one dies.
Borrow The memory tree →
Daddy's rainbow by Lucy Rowland
Erin's daddy sees the colour in everything. Even on the greyest days, they put on their wellies and go splashing in puddles. But what happens when the greyest day of all comes, and Daddy isn't there any more? Can Erin learn to find colour in the world again? This deeply sensitive picture book about the loss of a parent is the ideal starting point for conversations about love, loss and learning to live again.
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The window by Laura Gehl
All the other windows in the hospital look out on dull, grey buildings, but Daria and her grandpa can see the beach from the window in his room. Whenever Daria visits, she and her grandpa sit and watch crashing waves, flying kites, and happy families. Daria hopes for the day she and Grandpa will be able to visit the beach and build sandcastles together. The surprise twist at the end of the book offers a light-handed yet emotional punch, showing how even in the darkest places, hope can be found.
Borrow The window →
Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr
Mog was tired - dead tired. She thought, 'I want to sleep for ever'. And so she did. But a little bit of her stayed awake to see what would happen next. So Mog keeps watch over the upset Thomas family, who miss her terribly, and she wonders how they will ever manage without her.
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Lost in the clouds by Tom Tinn-Disbury
Billy misses his mummy very much. She lives in the clouds. Some days the sun is shining and Mummy's clouds are nowhere to be seen. Those are Billy's favourite days. He and Daddy would play in the garden all day long, and Billy knows that Mummy is letting the sun shine for them. But not all days are like that. Sometimes Mummy's clouds are dark, and Billy feels sad and alone. This moving and sensitively-written picture book gently explores grief and teaches children how to deal with their emotions surrounding the death of a loved one.
Borrow Lost in the clouds →
If all the world were... by Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys
A moving, lyrical picture book about a young girl's love for her granddad and how she copes when he dies, written by poet and playwright Joseph Coelho. This powerful and ultimately uplifting text is the ideal way to introduce children to the concept of death and dying, particularly children who have lost a grandparent.
Borrow If all the world were →
Missing mummy by Rebecca Cobb
This title deals with the loss of a parent from a child's point of view. Perfectly pitched text and evocative artwork explore the many emotions a bereaved child may experience, from anger to guilt and from sadness to bewilderment. And importantly, the book also focuses on the positive, the recognition that the child is still part of a family.
Borrow Missing mummy →
The rabbit listened by Cori Doerrfeld
'The Rabbit Listened' is a tender meditation on loss. When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn't know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn't feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that's not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to process this loss, and one by one they fail. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs. Whether read in the wake of tragedy or as a primer for comforting others, this is a deeply moving and unforgettable story sure to soothe heartache of all sizes.
Borrow The rabbit listened →
If you miss me by Jocelyn Li Langrand
Charlie loves to dance her way through life with her grandma. They may not always be together, but each time they part Grandma says, If you miss me, look at the moon. Then winter brings unexpected change, and not even dancing feels the same. What will Charlie do? Will Grandma come to see her dance again?
Borrow If you miss me →
The boy and the gorilla by Jackie Azúa Kramer and Cindy Derby
On the day of his mother's funeral, a young boy conjures the very visitor he needs to see - a gorilla. Wise and gentle, the gorilla stays on to answer the heart-heavy questions the boy hesitates to ask his father: Where did his mother go? Will she come back home? Will we all die? With the gorilla's friendship, the boy slowly begins to discover moments of comfort in tending flowers, playing catch and climbing trees. Most of all, the gorilla knows that it helps to simply talk about the loss - especially with those who share your grief and who may feel alone too. The author's quietly thoughtful text and illustrator Cindy Derby's beautiful impressionistic artwork depict how this tender relationship leads the boy to open up to his father and find a path forward. Told entirely in dialogue, this direct and deeply affecting picture book will inspire conversations about grief, empathy, and healing.
Borrow The boy and the gorilla →
When dinosaurs die: a guide to understanding death by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
Explaining the concept of death to a child can often be an upsetting experience. This book deals with the issue in a healthy, open manner, addressing children's fears and curiousities head-on, therefore making the grieving process as painless as possible.
Borrow When dinosaurs die →
Storm in a jar by Samuel Langley-Swain
When Arlo finds out Nana has passed away, he keeps her sweetie jar with him to feel safe and closer to his Nana. As his sadness turns to anger, a storm builds inside the jar, until Arlo has enough and smashes it open! After the storm washes him out to sea, Arlo spots Nana sailing off into the moonlight. He knows she will be happy and safe, wherever she is headed.
Borrow Storm in a jar →
Fox: a circle of life story by Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egneus
In the frost-covered forest of early spring, fox is on a mission to find food for her three cubs. As they grow, she teaches them how to survive in the wild. Until one day, fox dies. But what happens then? Can new life grow from old?
Borrow Fox →
Let's Talk about when someone dies by Molly Potter
When someone dies, we can feel a whole host of different emotions and explaining them to a child isn't so easy. This book uses clear, easy-to-understand language to answer complex questions about death and how a child might feel when someone dies. It covers all manner of tricky subjects with sensitivity and honesty, from what death is to why people die. Each double page spread takes a child through how they might feel, what they might think and how they might behave.
Borrow Let's talk about when someone dies →
Badger's parting gifts by Susan Varley
Badger was dependable, and always ready to lend a helping paw. He was very old and wise, and knew that he would die soon. Susan Varley wrote this book to help children overcome the death of loved ones, and it has since become a children's classic.
Borrow Badger's parting gifts →
Grandad's island by Benji Davies
A beautifully realised, delicately handled story about a little boy coming to terms with the loss of his much-loved grandfather.
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When Sadness comes to call, by Eva Eland
When Sadness arrives, try not to be afraid: give it a name, listen to it and spend some time together. Maybe all it wants is to know that it's welcome. This beautiful debut by new author-illustrator talent Eva Eland takes a poignant but uplifting look at dealing with uncomfortable emotions.
Borrow When Sadness comes to call →
The ocean meets the sky by Eric and Terry Fan
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.
Borrow The ocean meets the sky →
Waiting for wolf by Sandra Dieckmann
Fox and Wolf spend all their perfect days together - talking and laughing for hours, swimming together in the big blue lake, and watching the stars come out, one by one. Until one day, Wolf is gone. This is a moving tale of friendship and loss and learning to carry on.
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The immortal jellyfish by Sang Miao
When a young boy's grandfather dies suddenly, he feels overwhelmed and confused. They will never see each other again. To his delight, they meet again in a dream, where his grandfather takes him to Transfer City, where our departed loved ones live on through our memories. In this modern, Eastern telling of the afterlife, death is not an ending, but a new start to life, just like the Immortal Jellyfish which is constantly maturing and then regressing, staying as present as our deceased loved ones do in our memories.
Borrow The immortal jellyfish →
Always and forever by Debi Gliori and Alan Durant
When Fox dies, the rest of his family are distraught. How will Mole, Otter and Hare go on without their beloved friend? But months later, Squirrel reminds them all of how funny Fox used to be, and they all realize that Fox is still there in their hearts and memories.
Borrow Always and forever →
Michael Rosen's sad book by Michael Rosen
We all have 'sad stuff' to deal with in life. What makes Michael Rosen most sad is thinking about his son, Eddie, who died. In this book he writes about his sadness, how it affects him, and some of the things he does to try to cope with it.
Borrow Michael Rosen's sad book →
You will be okay: find strength, stay hopeful and get to grips with grief by Julie A. Stokes
The death of a parent, sibling or friend is one of the most traumatic experiences for a child and it can be hard to know how to talk to them about it. In this honest, comforting and strength-building guide, children can look toward the future with hope. The author shares case studies of children's stories of loss. She offers comforting and practical advice for coping, remembering and taking time for you.
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Who will love me when you're gone? by Anna Friend
With his mum very poorly, Jack is worried about what will happen when she's gone. Will Mummy take her love as well? Anna Friend was inspired to write this book in memory of her friend Ellen Wollaston-Cooper, who lost her life to breast cancer, but prepared her young family for the journey they were on with love and strength.
Borrow Who will love me when you're gone? →