Inside: It’s never easy when a pet dies, whether expected or not, particularly for children. Take a look at this list of children’s books on losing a pet.
It is never easy when a pet dies whether it’s expected or unexpected, particularly for children. My Mom Friend at Yoga asked for picture book recommendations when her son’s hamster died. She knew this would be hard on her son and my other Mom Friend recommended they read the Rainbow book out loud during the burial in the backyard.
Luckily the ground wasn’t frozen over because the weather was still quite cold. The Mom reported back that the burial went well and that reading the book helped make the ceremony special and personal. I think they referred to The Legend of the Rainbow Bridge but there actually two picture books on the same topic with very similar names.
Top 10 books on losing a pet
Thank you to Twitter friends @serenity100 @nosycrow plus others who responded when I asked for help. I found many of these books on losing a pet as well on this list through BeatleBangs1964. This list is dedicated to the memory of Deacon, a joyful dog who was deeply loved.
10. The Legend of the Rainbow Bridge by William N. Britton
“A beautifully illustrated book of an extraordinary caliber that offers solace to people who have lost pets. This is one of the best books on the subject.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
9. The Rainbow Bridge by Niki Behrikis Shanahan
This is a beautiful picture book that includes Scripture and a Biblical view of loving and losing a pet. Readers are treated to good advice on the grieving process and ways of honoring their pets’ memories with the joyful hope of being reunited with their beloved animals across the Rainbow Bridge.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
8. Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker, illustrated by Janet Wilson
This is an advanced picture book about Jasper the dog’s last day with his family because he has cancer. It’s told from the point of view of the son, a young boy. He and his parents plan a wonderful last day for their dog. It’s a really sad but realistic and moving book.
For anyone who has been in this position of having to put a beloved very sick pet down, this book would be helpful to let the kids understand that this was the best but most difficult decision an adult makes. [advanced picture book, ages 6 and up]
7. Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas
“A very moving story about how a little girl copes with the loss of her beloved terrier mix, LuLu. Excellent for families.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
6. Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr
“Kerr seemingly caps her best–selling series of picture books about an affable family pet with this simultaneously sad and soothing story.” — Publishers Weekly [picture book, ages 5 and up]
5. Annie and The Old One by Miska Miles
This advanced picture book won a Newbery Honor Award, unusual because most Newbery winners are chapter books.
While the story is not about the loss of a pet, it’s a wiser story of a Navajo granddaughter, Annie, and her grandmother, a Wise One who understands the circle of life and is so connected to the rhythms of life that she understands when she will move from the physical world to the spirit world.
Annie, understandably, doesn’t want her grandmother to leave and she resists learning to weave because it’s connected to when her grandmother will die for her grandmother told her that when the rug she is working on is finished, she will return to Mother Earth.
Annie has trouble focusing at school and starts to undo the day’s weaving at night. Finally, her wise grandmother helps her come to terms with the circle of life by simply being with her in the Mesa and telling her, “The sun comes up from the edge of the earth in the morning.
It returns to the edge of the earth in the evening. Earth, for which good things come for the living creatures on it. Earth, to which all creatures finally go.” Finally, Annie is ready to learn to weave.
This still would work as a book to read after the loss of a pet for older children to help them comes to terms with their loss. [advanced picture book, ages 6 and up]
4. I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
This is a wonderful picture book about healing and bonding. It is the story of a young boy and his dog Elfie. When Elfie gets old and dies the boy sadly buries Elfie after openly sharing his grief. He vows that he will tell every pet he ever has that he will always love him.
The book helps young children understand death and provides a valuable lesson that it is always good to tell a loved one, human or pet, that you will always love them. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
3. The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jim LaMarche
This sweet book is about a cat who has lived a long and full life and is now ready to pass on. She knows that she is ready to die and she spends the day saying goodbye to her friends, animal and human. And when it’s time, she curls into a little ball under the rose bushes and makes one last jump to the beyond.
This is the only book on my list about cats who often leave when they are ready to pass on. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
2. Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
In this joyfully imagined place, God is a smiling, white-haired gentleman who watches the goings-on as dogs run and bark, play with kids, eat dog biscuits in cat shapes, and sleep on fluffy clouds. It’s also a place where dogs patiently wait for old friends: “They will be there at the door. Angel dogs.”
Rylant’s kindergarten concept of the hereafter is cheerful but not humorous or glib. A book for parent-child sharing and discussion. From Booklist (Stephanie Zvirin). [picture book, ages 4 and up]
1. The 10th Best Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst
I own this book and my Twitter friends mentioned this book the most often. It’s a special book about keeping all the good memories alive for Barney, a beloved dog. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Loss of Pet Books Honorable Mentions
The Longest Letsgoboy by Derick Wilder
Review from Caroline Starr Rose:
“A few months ago, my writing friend, Vaunda Nelson, mentioned this beautiful book to our writing group. When friends of mine lost their dog suddenly, I knew I wanted to give them a copy. This story is so tenderly written. It’s an absolute tearjerker in a healing way. Told from the perspective of an old dog nearing the end of his life, we see the world through his eyes (a “letsgoboy” is a walk). We experience his memories and his love for his child, whom he refers to as Little. It’s precious and joyous and profound.” [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Saying Goodbye to Barkley by Devon Sillett, illustrated by Nicky Johnston
Review by Children’s Books Heal:
“Devon Sillett’s Saying Goodbye to Barkley is a sensitive, uplifting, and heartwarming first book about death. Both children and adults will relate to the love and unbreakable bond between Barkley and his owner, Olivia. Sillett’s storytelling is compelling and her pacing keeps readers fully engaged.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Rough Patch by Brian Lies
Evan and his dog did everything together including working on his magnificent garden so when his dog passes away, nothing is the same. Evan destroys his garden and lets the weeds take over. The sad and desolate garden feels appropriate.
One day, a pumpkin vine appears and Evan lets it stay. A pumpkin sprouts and Evan takes care of it, bringing it to the fair where it wins third place. Evan can choose between money or a puppy, and it seems that his rough patch is over.
This story of loss and grief lets kids know that it’s okay to feel sad and mad for a long time. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Memoirs of a Tortoise by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers
Young readers will be able to relate to a young tortoise named Oliver who experiences loss when his human is gone forever. This picture book takes the theme of conventional picture books on losing a pet and flips it. The underlying message to make the most with loved ones and enjoy the memories that are created is a comforting thought. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
A Stone for Sasha by Aaron Becker
A little girl’s family vacation isn’t the same without the family dog but a special stone that she discovers (with a long history of its own) is a turning point for her grief. This book will help those processing losses. The conclusion can be helpful for open-ended discussion about loss, grief, and finding comfort. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
For Every Dog An Angel by Christine Davis
A light, magical little picture book that honors the timeless connection between people and their canine companions.
Written from the heart after the unexpected loss of her “forever dog” Martha, this charming picture book will bring comfort to anyone who has ever had to say goodbye to their best four-legged friend.
For Every Dog An Angel is also a heartfelt way to welcome a new puppy or to celebrate a much-loved doggie friend. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Annie Loses Her Leg but Finds Her Way by Sandra J. Philipson
Based on an actual incident, this is both a poignant and funny story of a nine-year-old English Springer Spaniel who loses her front leg to cancer. Annie and her high-spirited brother Max experience her illness and recovery in very different ways. Max is in denial and Annie is in a state of sad acceptance.
It isn’t until they meet Samantha, a three-legged Golden Retriever, that they both begin to heal. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Jekyll Says …: Good Deeds Cats Do That You Should, Too! by D.C. Blackbird
This self-published picture book is a tribute to a dear pet cat. It made me think that perhaps letting children make a tribute to their pet, perhaps a poem, note, scrapbook, or homemade book, would be healing. It could be part of a ceremony or just doing a project might be healing.
This book rhymes and gives life lessons from a cat’s point of view and perhaps your children may want to write about what their pet taught them. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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