The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Coping with Death - December 2007

Selected and annotated by Anna Forslund

Bateman, Teresa. Keeper of Soles. New York: Holiday House, 2005. Gr. 2-4
When Death comes knocking, Colin, an aging shoemaker, notices that he is barefoot. He uses his wit to gain a one-month reprieve for making Death a pair of sandals. The sandals are quickly followed up with boots, walking shoes, slippers, etc. Death finally demands Colin's soul, to which Colin replies that he has already given Death "sole after sole."

Boyden, Linda. The Blue Roses. New York: Lee & Low Books, 2002. Gr. 2-4
Rosalie, a young Native American girl, must deal with the death of her grandfather, a man who helped to raise her. From him, Rosalie has learned that life is like a garden where things live a beautiful life, but have a time to die.

Clark, Catherine. The Alison Rules. New York: HarperTempest, 2004. Gr. 6-9.
Alison is a sophomore in high school, leading a normal life. She even continues to act normal after her mother dies, avoiding the subject entirely. She is forced to face her feelings, however, when death strikes close again, taking another important person in Alison's life.

Corrigan, Eireann. Ordinary Ghosts. New York: Scholastic Press, 2007. Gr. 9-12
Emil has lost his mother and feels distant from his grieving family. Back at boarding school, he finds a key and spends his nights exploring the far corners of the school. It is in one of these corners that he meets a girl and learns to question and explore his loss.

Downham, Jenny. Before I Die. New York: Fickling, 2007. Gr. 7-12
Tessa is a 16-year-old leukemia patient who has recently been told she only has six months to live. She is determined to experience what life has to offer before it's too late, so she makes a list of what she deems necessary life experiences, including sex, drugs, fame, petty crime, and true love.

Edwards, Michelle. Stinky Stern Forever. Orlando: Harcourt, 2005. Gr. 2-4
Second-grader Stinky Stern is the class bully. Stinky is hit and killed by a van after running out in the street, and now his classmates must deal with the complex feelings evoked from losing a person they didn't really like. Pa Lia, who saw the accident has a particularly difficult time because she was angry at Stinky when he died for trying to ruin her art project.

Griffin, Adele. Where I Want to Be. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2005. Gr. 7-12
This story alternates between the perspectives of two sisters who are different in many ways beyond the obvious—Jane is dead after being hit by a car and Lily is left behind to deal with the loss. The story is about a difficult sibling relationship and coming to terms with loss.

Issa, Kobayashi (compiled and illustrated by G. Brian Karas). Today and Today. New York: Scholastic Press, 2007. Gr. 3-6
The haiku of Kobayashi Issa is accompanied by the beautiful illustrations of G. Brian Karas. The story begins following a family of happy children as they play outside with their grandfather in the springtime. Yet with each passing season, the reader sees the grandfather is deteriorating until he finally passes away in the winter. What could be sad story is, however, a tale of hope and renewal. Winter passes and spring begins again.

Johnson, Maureen. The Key to the Golden Firebird. New York: HarperCollins, 2004. Gr. 7-10
The story centers on May who is one of three teenage daughters trying to cope with the sudden death of their father. May's mother has thrown herself into work, leaving May to try to keep life normal for her two sisters, one of whom is drinking excessively and the other who is hiding panic attacks.

Kadohata, Cynthia. Kira-Kira. New York: Atheneum Books, 2004. Gr. 6-10
Katie has always looked up to her older sister Lynn—the girl who taught Katie her first word, kira-kira, which means glittering in Japanese. The story follows Katie and her Japanese-American family as they move from Iowa to Georgia in the 1950s, hoping to make a better life. When Lynn gets sick, Katie's family begins to fall apart, but after her death, Katie reaches a new understanding of her sister and of her own place in the world.

Kelly, Tom. Finn's Going. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2007. Gr. 7-10
One of a set of 10-year-old twins drowns in a nighttime accident. The story follows the survivor as he tries to recapture his family's happiness.

Martinez, Agnes. Poe Park. New York: Holiday House, 2004. Gr. 4-6
Enoch, 11, and his best friend Spence had just graduated from fifth grade when Spence is shot and killed as they played near Poe Park in the Bronx. Enoch is devastated at the loss of his friend, and even more so when he realizes that Spence was a drug runner. Feeling he can believe in no one, Enoch begins to believe in himself and fight against the violence in his neighborhood.

McGhee, Alison. Snap. Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2004. Gr. 4-6
Eleven-year-old Eddie keeps her arm adorned with colored rubber bands to remind her to do things, such as think of her best friend Sally's grandmother, Willie, who is dying of a blood disease. The illness disrupts Eddie's list-ordered world, but she remains focused on helping the friend who needs her most.

Oates, Joyce Carol. After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away. New York: HarperTempest, 2006. Gr. 9-12
Jenna, 15, and her mother were crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge when the car swerved, killing Jenna's mother and leaving Jenna herself both physically and emotionally damaged. Choosing to live with an aunt in New Hampshire instead of her estranged father, Jenna experiences the pain of losing her mother while also adjusting to a new life.

Parkinson, Siobhan. Something Invisible. New Milford, CT: Rolling Brook Press, 2006. Gr. 4-7
Stella and her large family have become 11-year-old Jake's refuge after his mother and dad (who is not Jake's real father) have a baby. But tragedy strikes Stella's family and Jake must learn to deal with his own grief, as well as coming to terms with the fact that his feelings are not always the most important—he must help his friends through a difficult time.

Ransom, Candice. Finding Day's Bottom. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 2006. Gr. 4-7
Jane Ery learns to heal when her grandpa comes to stay following her father's tragic death in a sawmill accident. He tells her about Day's Bottom, where a girl can find anything she wants.

Schreck, Karen Halvorsen. Dream Journal. New York: Hyperion Books, 2006. Gr. 9-12
Livy Moore, 16, has learned she is losing her mother and the grief causes her to alienate those closest to her. The text alternates between Livy's dream journal and traditional narrative. The story follows Livy as she deals with watching her mom die and learns how to survive after she is gone. In doing so, she also learns to trust her friends, her family, and herself.

Shusterman, Neil. Everlost. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. Gr. 7-9
Nick and Allie are caught together in a parallel world called Everlost after being killed in a car crash. Although they hardly knew each other on Earth, the two quickly bond and together, they struggle to survive in this strange and unknown world.

Smelcer, John. The Trap. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006. Gr. 6-10
Smelcer alternates between the viewpoints of 17-year-old Johnny Least-Weasel and his grandfather, Albert Least-Weasel to tell this story set in the Alaskan winter. Albert is stuck in an animal trap and Johnny is torn—he trusts in his grandfather's expert hunting skills, but is growing increasingly worried about that old man's absence.

Smith, Sherri. Sparrow. New York: Delacorte Press, 2006. Gr. 7-10
Kendall Washington was raised by her grandmother, who has recently and unexpectedly died. The high school student travels to New Orleans to live with her aunt. Although the reunion is not what Kendall had hoped for, she soon discovers that family isn't only built by blood.

Spinelli, Jerry. Eggs. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. Gr. 4-7
Nine-year-old David forms a close and unexpected friendship with Primrose, 13, when he stumbles upon her pretending to be dead in the woods. After losing his mother in a senseless accident, David knows there is something missing in his life. Primrose is also dealing with trouble at home and these two develop a fragile friendship.

St. John, Lauren. The White Giraffe. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007. Gr. 5-8
Eleven-year-old Martine loses her parents and her home in a house fire. Martine is sent to South Africa to live with a grandmother she doesn't know, but when she steps of the plane she realizes her new home holds special magic.

Vincent, Erin. Grief Girl: My True Story. New York: Delacorte, 2007. Gr. 9-12
This is the author's memoir—written to account her experiences after losing her parents within months of each other. Fourteen-year-old Erin and her 3-year-old brother are left in the care of their sister Tracy, who is herself only 18. Vincent tells the story of her real-life struggles with depression, and her family's struggle to go on without their parents.

Wiles, Deborah. Each Little Bird that Sings. Orlando, Fla.: Gulliver Books/Harcourt, 2005. Gr. 4-6
Death is a normal part of 10-year-old Comfort Snowberger's life—her family owns the local funeral home. Nonetheless, when Comfort's live-in great-uncle and great-great-aunt die in the same year, it is hard on family and friends alike. Comfort's colorful family makes for a book that deals with loss both realistically and humorously.

Yeomans, Ellen. Rubber Houses. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. Gr. 6-9
Kit, a high school junior, is forced to deal with the loss of her younger brother to cancer. Through a story told in lyrical verse the reader watches Kit distance herself from her best friend and go to therapy out of habit and obligation. Eventually though, Kit learns to rebuild her life and dares to hope for the future.

Zevin, Gabrielle. Elsewhere. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Gr. 7-12
After being hit by a taxi, 15-year-old Liz Hall finds herself on her way to Elsewhere, a place like Earth, yet also totally different. In Elsewhere, Liz ages backwards and resents the notion that she'll never have the chance for romance. Understandably, Liz has some trouble adjusting to her new "life," but eventually finds that happiness is still a possibility.