Children's books about the death of pets help children deal with the death of someone close to them are listed and described so pediatricians can recommend them to patients and families.
The death of a pet is the first experience most children have with death and grieving. This can be a very difficult time for children and their families, and books about other children who have been through the same kind of loss can be comforting. This installment of Bookshelf will help you recommend books that are suitable for the age and circumstances of a particular child. Please feel free to reproduce this page and distribute copies to families in your practice.
Margaret Wise Brown: The Dead Bird. New York, Dell Publishing, 1979. This children's classic tells of four children who find a dead bird, hold a funeral service, and make a grave. Ages 48.
Carol Carrick: The Accident. New York, Clarion Books, 1981. Christopher must deal with a variety of feelings, including guilt, after his dog is killed in a truck accident. Ages 58.
Denys Cazet: A Fish in his Pocket. New York, Orchard Books, 1987. This book teaches about death in an interesting way: Russell the bear drops his book in the pond. When he retrieves the book, a fish is caught between the pages. After school, when Russell tries to return the fish to the pond, he is puzzled because the fish won't move. Ages 48.
Miriam Cohen: Jim's Dog Muffins. New York, Dell Publishing, 1986. When Jim's dog, Muffins, is hit and killed by a truck, Jim's first-grade class goes out of its way to help him feel better. Ages 48.
Ellen Howard: Murphy and Kate. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1995. Beautifully illustrated with oil paintings, this book about Kate and her dog Murphy, tells how they grew up together. When Kate and Murphy are both 14, Murphy dies. Although 14 is young for a person, Kate finds that 14 is old for a dog. She grieves the loss of Murphy, but knows she will always have the wonderful memories they shared. Ages 711.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: The Yearling. New York, Charles Scribner's and Sons, 1938, 1988 (50th edition). This Pulitzer Prizewinning classic is the story of Jody Baxter and his family living in the Florida scrub lands. Jody loves his pet yearling, Flag, more than anything. However, the harsh realities of life dictate that Jody must kill what he loves most and deal with his feelings. Ages 914.
Wilson Rawls: Where the Red Fern Grows. St. Paul, MN, EMC/ Paradigm Publishers, 1974. Billy's dream was to own two coonhounds to take hunting. After a lot of hard work, Billy brought two puppies and had many adventures hunting with them in the Ozark Mountains. In their final adventure together, Billy's beloved dogs save his life. Ages 914.
Fred Rogers: When a Pet Dies. New York, GB Putnam Sons, 1998. The well-known TV personality uses photographs and words to explain what happens when a pet dies and the many feelings we experience after a death. Talking with a loved one, being part of the funeral, and sharing our memories are suggested as some of the ways to express our feelings about a death. Ages 38.
Elisabeth Stewart: Bimmi Finds a Cat. New York, Clarion Books, 1996. An 8-year-old Creole boy grieves for his beloved cat, Crabmeat. When he finds a lost cat, he searches for her owners because he knows how much they miss the cat. Ages 58.
Judith Viorst: The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. New York, Atheneum, 1971. A young boy shares his feelings about the death of his cat, Barney. To commemorate Barney the boy's mother suggests he think of 10 good things about Barney to mention at the funeral. The boy can think of nine things very quickly. His father helps him think of a tenth. Ages 48.
Ruth Wallace-Brodeur: Goodbye, Mitch. Morton Grove, IL, A. Whitman and Co., 1995. When Mitch, his beloved cat, gets sick Michael brings him to the vet, who explains that Mitch has a tumor and isn't going to get better. After Mitch dies, Michael remembers all the good times they shared. Ages 48.
Hans Wilhelm: I'll Always Love You. New York Crown Publishers, 1988. A young boy and his dog, Elfie, grew up together butbecause dogs age more quickly than people doas the boy is growing taller, Elfie is growing older, and eventually she dies. The boy takes good care of Elfie throughout her ordeal, and the family members bury Elfie and talk about their feelings. Although the boy is sad it helps him to remember that he told Elfie every night, "I'll always love you." Ages 47.
Charlotte Zolotow: The Old Dog (revised). New York, HarperCollins, 1995. This story of a young African- American boy, Ben, whose dog dies, is beautifully illustrated with the oil paintings of James Ransome. Ages 4-8.
THE AUTHOR is Coordinator of the Good Grief Program of Boston Medical Center and Director of The Circle, a bereavement support group for children and their families.
Deborah Rivlin. KBOOKSHELF: Books for children whose pet has died. Contemporary Pediatrics 2000;4:179.