Books about Bereavement


Good Books for Tough Times 9-12 - BEREAVEMENT










How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant

Author Elen Caldecott
Reading age 9+
Interest level 8-12

Review Just before Kirsty’s beloved Grandad dies she makes him a promise - that she will look after his allotment. Unfortunately, Mr Thomas from the council has other ideas.  Finding herself up against official opposition, Kirsty is determined to keep her promise, and she formulates an ingenious, intricate and almost believable plan to steal an elephant from the local museum and hold it to ransom. 

This is a beautifully written story which has warmth, humour, excitement and an underlying poignancy, and also explores bereavement and the nature of grieving in an accessible and sensitive way.

Publisher Bloomsbury
Published 2009
ISBN 9780747599197

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Wenny Has Wings

Author Janet Lee Carey   
Reading age 9+
Interest level 9-12

Review When seven year-old Wenny and her 11 year-old brother Will are hit by a truck, the little girl is killed and her older brother hospitalised. Will has a near-death experience and, afraid to tell anyone about it, records his feelings about the accident and its aftermath in letters to his younger sister. While the letters explore the effects of grief on his family, he also writes with humour about everyday life and the scrapes and conflicts he gets embroiled with.

Carey keeps the tone matter-of-fact in this moving, yet never mawkish, account of the effect of bereavement on a family.

Publisher Faber Children’s Books
Published 2005   
ISBN 9780571223534

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Bindi Babes

Author Narinder Dhami
Reading age 9+
Interest level 9-12

Review The Bindi sisters seem to be coping very well following the death of their mother. They are popular at school and manage the housekeeping; their father buys them anything they want.

When their aunt comes over from India to look after them, they resent the intrusion and resolve to get rid of her. This, however, proves to be difficult, and they begin to realise that in fact their lives are not so perfect. Although these are serious themes, Narinder Dhami has a light touch which girls in particular will enjoy.

Publisher Corgi Yearling
Published 2003   
ISBN 9780440865124

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The Tiger Rising

Author Kate DiCamillo
Reading age 10+
Interest level 10-12

Review For Rob, finding the tiger in the woods is miraculous. After his mother’s funeral he has become master of the art of not thinking about things - especially at school where he is horribly bullied. Things start to change when Rob meets Sistine: eccentric, stubborn, and very angry, Sistine doesn’t believe in keeping quiet.

As Rob and Sistine become friends, he finds himself opening up to feelings that he had kept locked up – like the tiger in its cage.  Should he open the cage and set the tiger free?

Publisher Walker Books
Published 2001   
ISBN 9780744589641

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Spilled Water

Author Sally Grindley
Reading age 9+
Interest level 9-11

Review Spilled Water is the story of Lu Si-Yan, a young Chinese girl whose happy home life is bluntly terminated by her father’s sudden death, followed by the illness of her mother and the family’s descent into poverty. To her horror, she is sold by her uncle to be an unpaid domestic servant and bride-to-be.

Lu Si-Yan is determined to escape and get back to her mother and brother, but she must go through worse trials before things can get better. This powerful novel is a sad but utterly compelling read, and a worthy winner of the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize Gold Award.

Publisher Bloomsbury
Published 2005
ISBN 9780747571469

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Love, Aubrey

Author Suzanne LaFleur
Reading age 9+
Interest level 9+

Review Something terrible has happened, and Aubrey finds
herself left alone.  Rather than face the truth, she’d rather just hide away and fend for herself.  But Gram won’t let that happen, and insists in taking Aubrey to stay with her.  Gradually, with the help of Gram, new friends and the letters she writes to say how she feels, Aubrey starts to come to terms with all that she’s lost and what she might regain.

This is a beautifully written novel about loss, understanding and forgiveness, and ultimately, hope for the future.

Publisher Puffin Books
Published 2010
ISBN 9780141327044

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The Thing with Finn

Author Tom Kelly
Reading age 9+
Interest level 9+

Review Tom Kelly’s debut novel combines humour with heartbreak, and keeps readers guessing until the final pages. We know that the cause of Danny’s distress is Finn, and gradually we discover what lies behind it. Written in a quirky, comic style, the author acutely understands and portrays both the turmoil driving Danny and the irreverent fascination ten year-olds have with bodily functions.

Chapters are short (sometimes just a list), and the style direct, making this an easy-to-read but profound novel about loss.

Publisher Macmillan Children’s Books
Published 2008
ISBN 9780330444552

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Goodnight Mister Tom

Author Michelle Magorian    
Reading age 11+
Interest level 11+

Review Willie has been badly abused by his mother, but at the start of World War II he is evacuated from London, to lodge with an old countryman, Tom. 

They’re an unlikely pair, but Willie gradually grows in confidence, discovering new talents and learning to accept the deaths of both his mother and his best friend.  Tom, whose wife and newborn son died 40 years ago, finds new purpose in caring for Willie.

This heartwarming story is about turning past sadness into future hope.

Publisher Puffin Classics   
Published 1998   
ISBN 9780141329703

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Ice Lolly

Author Jean Ure
Reading age 9+
Interest level 9+

Review When Lauren’s mum dies, she has to go and live with Uncle Mark and Auntie Ellen, and her cousins Michael and Holly.  All she has to take with her from her old life are Mr Pooter, her beloved old cat, and the books that she and her mum used to read together. 

But Auntie Ellen doesn’t like pets, and Lauren feels desperately out of place in her new home.  So she freezes, like an ice lolly, so that no one will know what she’s feeling.  A poignant and touching story about a young girl struggling to cope with the shock of bereavement and change.

Publisher HarperCollins Children’s Books
Published 2010   
ISBN 9780007281732

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Vicky Angel

Author Jacqueline Wilson
Reading age 9+
Interest level 9+

Review This is a bold and imaginative story about a girl coming to terms with the death of her best friend, Vicky, who is hit by a car as they walk home from school. 

As Jade mourns and tries to move on, Vicky keeps appearing beside her – but is she a guardian angel or an unhelpful ghost? 

Many books tackle bereavement, but this one is particularly helpful for girls who have lost friends of their own age.

Publisher Corgi Yearling
Published 2007
ISBN 9780440867807

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