When we lose a pet, we lose a part of our family. The sadness can echo through the entire household and the loss can be felt for weeks, months, even years. But how can we explain to our children what has happened and why it has happened?
Books often hold the key to unlocking these complex concepts and helping children come to terms with emotions like grief and sadness.
Whether your pet has died peacefully or has been taken from your family tragically and unexpectedly, snuggle up for story time with these 17 picture books designed to help even the youngest children after the death of a pet.
The Goodbye Book
The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr is a colourful and simple story told through the eyes of a fish who has lost his friend. Parr has a way of addressing the feelings and emotions around death that is super easy to understand – a great choice for little ones dealing with the loss of their own animal friend.
Missing Jack by Rebecca Elliott is another good one for the younger audience which focuses on a young boy named Toby and his emotional journey to say goodbye to his pet cat, Jack. The warmth, sensitivity and well-placed humour combined with the charming illustrations make Missing Jack a great choice for the younger audience.
I’ll Always Love You
I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm tells a familiar story of a family living with a dog, who, one day, doesn’t wake up. The text and images are simple yet eloquent and warm, perfectly suited for the mood that comes with death.
The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye
The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye by Jane Yolen and Jim LaMarche focuses on both the life and the death of an old cat named Tiger Rose. The peaceful story follows Tiger Rose’s last day as she says goodbye to all her friends and prepares for her death.
Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr is another picture book that focuses on the death of a beloved cat, Mog. Mog is the star of a number of books (Mog the Forgetful Cat) and Judith keeps the memory of Mog alive in this charming finale that injects a bit of humour into a usually dark topic.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant is a sweet, reassuring story for kids who have lost their pooch. Rylant paints a warm and affectionate picture of the ideal place for dogs to roam free after their life on earth is complete.
Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant includes similar imagery as the above but with a cat as the main character. Once again, readers will be transported to an idyllic haven especially designed for cats.
Jim’s Dog Muffins
Jim’s Dog Muffins by Miriam Cohen brings the death of a pet into the school yard as the entire class helps Jim cope with the loss of his dog, Muffins. It’s another one that plays on the emotions involved in the grieving process and a good choice for school aged kids.
Goodbye Mousie by Robie H. Harris is an excellent picture book which deals with the emotions involved when losing a fur friend. It is perfect for preschoolers and follows a young boy on his journey of mixed emotions as he says goodbye to his pet mouse.
Saying Goodbye to Lulu
Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corrine Demas is another book that shares the story of a dog who dies of old age. The award-winning picture book assures children that it’s okay to feel sad when a pet dies and that, in time, the pain will ease.
Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker looks at the special day before a beloved family dog is euthanised by the vet. You may want to bring a package of tissues into the storybook corner for this award-winning tear-jerker.
The Forever Dog
The Forever Dog by Bill Cochran and Dan Andreasen is another poignant and eloquent picture book designed to help young people cope with their grief. The endearing picture book comes with a very important message for all children dealing with this loss – friendship is forever.
The Berenstain Bears Lose a Friend
The Berenstain Bears Lose a Friend by Stan and Jan Berenstain follows the death of Sister Bear’s goldfish and how the family come to terms with this loss. The Berenstain Bears chain of storybooks touch on pretty much every subject under the sun and this story about loss and grief is a great one to share, especially if your kids (like mine) adore this family of bears.
The Heaven of Animals
The Heaven of Animals by Nancy Tillman is a calming and comforting book with eloquent text and gorgeous illustrations. If you want a story that touches on what happens to pets after they leave the earth, then this book provides a beautiful glimpse into Pet Heaven.
The Rainbow Bridge: A Visit to Pet Paradise
The Rainbow Bridge: A Visit to Pet Paradise by a magical and positive place for pets to live after they leave their masters.
Paw Prints in the Stars: A Farewell and Journal for a Beloved Pet
Paw Prints in the Stars
Paw Prints in the Stars: A Farewell and Journal for a Beloved Pet by story about losing a pet. It is a journal in which children can fill out to create their own story of the life and death of their beloved best friend.