Children who experience a parent’s death, the loss of a mother or father, feel overwhelming emotions. Reading well-written middle-grade books like these may help some kids cope with the loss of a parent with stories showing that other kids have experienced loss and grief also.
Stories can also show the possibilities of dealing with grief.
What’s more, stories like these can grow empathy in a child’s friends and the community, giving others insight into what it might be like to deal with the death, grief, and loss of a parent.
Parent Death in Middle-Grade Books (Ages 8 – 12)
Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay
Worth reading and rereading because there are layers upon layers of meaning, skillful writing, and a haunting truthtelling that resonates with us all. Ever since Conor’s mom got breast cancer, a wild, ancient tree monster has visited him in Conor’s nightmares. The monster demands that Conor admit the truth but Conor who refuses to give in to the monster’s demands, not really even understanding what those are. Meanwhile, in the awake world, Conor’s moved in with his cold, unfriendly grandmother. The metaphorical nightmare echos Conor’s real-world experiences as we journey with him into pain, loss, and eventually, healing. Astonishing and powerful, this is one of the best books I’ve EVER read.
Patina by Jason Reynolds
Patina’s anger sometimes gets the best of her but running helps. She’s mad about her dad dying, her mom’s legs being amputated, and her new school. When her track coach makes Patty work with her teammates in a relay, she’s forced to rely on them. And that changes things. Patina is a beautiful coming-of-age story that will tug at your emotions.
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
This story of suffering and overcoming is beautiful, moving, and life-changing. 12-year old Willow is a genius with limited social skills whose adopted parents die in a car crash leaving her both confused, grieving, and without any support to make sense of the world. But Willow pushes on and finds an unexpected new family in the back of a nail salon.
The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari
I read this cover to cover in one sitting, totally mesmerized. This book is a journey of grief with a tempting allegorical shadow world where Charlie and Imogene Price’s mom is “alive” and not dead. But not everything is right in this shadow world where you lose memories, especially the sad ones, to “feed” family members who have died. Charlie is afraid he’ll lose his sister, Imogene. forever to the shadow world, like he did his best friend, Frank. So well-written, this is a thoughtful treatment of emotions and grief — I highly recommend it, especially for book club discussions. (This book is on my BEST CHILDREN’S CHAPTER BOOKS OF 2016 list!)
The Seventh Most Important Thing: One Kid. One Crime. One Chance to Make Things Right. by Shelley Pearsall
Angry with grief over his dad’s death, Arthur throws a brick at Junk Man’s head. The judge sentences Arthur to work for the Junk Man who asks Arthur to collect the items on the list of the Seven Most Important Things. Transformed by the experience, Arthur becomes an advocate for the Junk Man’s art. This is fictional but is inspired by the true story of American folk artist James Hampton whose work is in the Smithsonian. This story resonates emotionally and would make for a great bedtime or class read aloud.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
Coyote and her dad are on a cross-country, coming-of-age trip to anywhere or nowhere after her mom and sisters die from a car accident. Then Coyote discovers that the park near her old home will be torn down, along with a special memory from her past, she is determined to get her dad to drive them back to where it all started.
Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny
After his mom dies, Charlie moves to a purple mansion with a portal to the world of nightmares. Charlie, his little brother, and his friends must learn to face their fears in order for the nightmare world not to have access to the real world.
Summerlost by Ally Condie
This is a dealing-with grief, coming-of-age, mystery, and friendship story all in one sweet story. Cedar, her younger brother, and her mom spend the summer together in a small town after her father and other brother’s death. Cedar befriends Leo who helps her get a job at the local Shakespeare festival. The duo also start giving unofficial tours about the town’s most famous resident, an actress who died under mysterious circumstances.
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Experience Amira’s life in Sudan before and after her village is attacked. After the attack, she must walk for days to get to the safety of a refugee camp. In her grief, she also finds hope in the form of a precious pencil as she sees its possibilities.
A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar
The Girl with the Ghost Machine by Lauren DeStefano