5 Middle Grade Novels for Children Grieving a Parent or Sibling’s Death
Losing someone you love is devastating. When that person is a parent or sibling, it can be even more difficult for the child who is left to grieve their loss. The following are middle-grade novels (typically for readers ages 8-12) that deal with this experience, and that may help children put words to some of their feelings, feel less alone, and provide them with examples of different coping skills.
1. All Three Stooges by Erica Perl
Seventh grader Noah feels confused and frustrated when his best friend, Dash, shuts him out following the death by suicide of Dash’s father. Noah tries to be there for Dash, but ends up feeling as though he just makes things worse for both of them. Noah navigates a difficult journey as he learns to understand grief, healing, and compassion, taking the reader along with him every step of the way. A powerful read for young readers, especially those dealing with this painful experience. ‣Buy the book
2. Nest by Esther Ehrlich
Set in 1970s Cape Cod, Nest centers around the life of 11-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstain and her family, as they grapple with the deteriorating physical and mental health of Naomi’s mother. Chirp first attempts to deal with her mother’s conditions by trying to make her happy, defend her father’s resulting moods, and maintain her cheery demeanor. After her mother dies by suicide in the latter part of the novel, Chirp and her friend go on a rebellious but healing journey to Boston to help her through her grief. Though heavier and more difficult than typical middle grade reads, Nest authentically portrays Chirp’s confusion, emotional challenges, and grieving process, along with the power of love and friendship. ‣Buy the book
3. The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas
After a visit to NASA, 11-year-old Stella is surprised when a black hole follows her home. Taking advantage of her new “pet,” Stella begins to feed it all of the things that she doesn’t like — her ugly sweaters, a smelly class hamster, and everything that reminds her of her dead father. However, when the black hole begins to swallow the good things in her life, too, Stella realizes that she must come to terms with her bottled-up feelings and thoughts about the loss of her father. Fun but powerful, this novel provides a unique look at coping with grief and other difficult emotions. ‣Buy the book
4. The Stars Beneath our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Ages: 12+ (borders on middle school and high school)
Twelve-year-old Lolly struggles to deal with the recent shooting death of his older brother Jermaine. Through it all, Lolly finds surprising solace in an architecture book and his passion for building cities out of Lego. Lolly also finds support in an unexpected friendship with Rose, a fellow student who lost her mother to suicide, and whose artistic talents and attention to detail impress Lolly. Exploring different types of resiliency, adversity, gang violence and pressures, and grief, this novel highlights the importance of friendship, family, community, and creativity in helping a child cope with hardships. ‣Buy the book
5. What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Unlike the other books on this list, What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows focuses on grieving a parent’s death after some time has passed. Gabby lost her mother at three years old. Now a 6th grader, she hopes for a stepmother so that she can find the motherly support and guidance she’s missing. However, when her father ends his relationship with his girlfriend — and her prospective stepmother — Gabby sets out on a quest to recover her memories about her mother. Ultimately, this read provides a perceptive, but inherently positive, look at a young girl dealing with loss. ‣Buy the book
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cape native Brittany Taylor attended Nauset Regional High School before earning her bachelor's from Middlebury College and Masters in Library and Information Science from Simmons University. She is currently the assistant director of Provincetown Public Library. The daughter of a Sharing Kindness founding board member and current chairperson, Brittany experienced the pain of suicide loss at six years old, with the death of her Uncle Chris. She hopes to use her community involvement and professional experience to connect people with resources during difficult times. Brittany lives in Orleans with her fiancé, Nick, and their dog, Leroy.