Books for siblings of children who are chronically ill or hospitalized:
“Anna’s Special Present,” by Yoriko Tsutsui (Ages 4-8)
Anna’s special present is about a girl who hates it when her younger sister, Katy, plays and begs for her favorite doll. But when Katy is sick and needs to go to the hospital, Anna knows just what gift to give her. It’s a sweet story about two siblings, Anna and Katy, fighting over a doll, but when the Katy gets rushed to the hospital, Anna is scared and worried about Katy. Anna comes up with the perfect gift to give her to help her feel better.
“When Molly was in the Hospital: A Book for Brothers and Sisters of Hospitalized Children,” by Debbie Duncan (Ages 4-8)
This book describes the feelings of an older sibling and family when their youngest child is hospitalized for a serious medical problem. It helps to normalize the feelings the older sibling might have and shows that adults are there for support.
“The Sibling Slam Book: What It’s Really Like to Have a Brother or Sister with Special Needs,” by Don Meyer (Ages 13-17)
This book took 80 teenagers and had them express their thoughts and feelings about having a brother or sister with special needs.
“Views From Our Shoes: Growing up with a Brother or Sister with Special Needs,” by Don Meyer (Ages 9-12)
This book is a collaboration of about 45 essays from brothers and sisters who have a sibling with special needs, including autism, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, chronic health conditions, attention deficit disorder, hydrocephalus, visual and hearing impairments, Down syndrome and Tourette syndrome. It allows siblings to read experiences of other siblings and understand that what they may be feeling is okay.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Books for Siblings:
“Noah’s Garden: When someone you love is in the hospital,” by Mo Johnson (Ages 9-12)
Noah’s garden is about a little boy whose little sister was born with a serious medical condition. Noah and his family live at the hospital where his sister is getting taken care of. During the stay he spends most of his time in the hospital’s garden creating an imaginary world, longing for the day when his sister can join him.
“We Were Gonna Have a Baby but We Had an Angel Instead,” by Pat Schweibert (Ages 3-8)
This book is useful in helping siblings who have lost their brother or sister prematurely or at birth to cope. It is a story about a little boy who lost his sibling and looked forward to doing things with his sister. However, the sibling died. The author does a great job in touching upon such a sensitive subject in a way that does not intrude on how someone should be feeling or coping.
“Very Special Preemie Book,” by Clorinda Walters (Ages 4-8)
This book offers help for siblings when their new baby sibling is born premature and has to be in the NICU. It helps them to better understand why their baby brother or sister is in the hospital after they are born.
“Watching Bradley Grow: A Story About Premature Birth,” by Elizabeth Murphy-Melas (Ages 4-8)
This book is designed for parents to share about their preemie baby with the other children. It’s about a big sister who learns to cope with having a preemie younger brother and not being able to see him until he gets bigger.
“Waiting for Baby Joe,” by Pat Lowery Collins (Ages 4-8)
This book has photographs that illustrate the adjustment and reactions of an older sister to her new baby brother who was born premature.
Grief Books for Siblings:
“My Liddle Buddy Jake,” by Cristine Thomas (Ages 4-8)
This is a great book to explain Death, Heaven, Spirit and Jesus to a child who has lost a younger sibling suddenly. It’s about a little boy named Luke who lost his baby brother Jake. Luke explains all of his favorite things he and Jake used to do, until Jesus took Jake home to heaven.
“A Butterfly for Brittany: A Children’s Book About the Death of Another Child, from a Child’s Point of View,” by Cristine Thomas (Ages 3-7)
A beautifully written and illustrated children’s book of how children cope with the loss of another child to cancer. Megan helps her cousin Brittany on the day Brittany goes to heaven. Megan paints a pretty butterfly with beautiful wings, which Brittany will wear when the angels take her to heaven. An ideal book that opens the door for discussion about the death of a child.
“This Book Is For All Kids, Especially My Sister Libby. Libby died,” by Jewel Simon (Ages 4-8)
Jack Simon was five years old when his sister, Libby, died. She’d been born with a rare disorder and wasn’t expected to survive six months. But she lived three and a half years, giving Jack plenty of time to get to know her. When she died, Jack struggled to understand how God could take away his little sister. Everyone experiences grief, but children express it differently. Afraid to ask questions that might make someone sadder, children often keep their sorrow locked inside. Jack’s mom, Annette, encouraged her son to talk about his pain, and she insightfully began a diary. Jack’s questions eventually became the picture book.
“Last Week My Brother Anthony Died,” by Martha W. Hickman (Ages 4-8)
A small girl named Julie describes her feelings following the death of her four-week-old baby brother.
“Where’s Jess: For Children Who Have a Brother or Sister Die,” by Marvin Johnson (Ages 4-8)
This book is about a little boy whose sister dies and he notices that she is gone. His parents explain death to him and let him know that it is okay to talk about her. It’s a great book for children who think it is not okay to talk about the death of their sibling.
SIDS Specific Books on Grief for Siblings:
“Besos y abrazos al aire [Flying Hugs and Kisses],” by Jewel Sample (Ages 4-8)
Flying hugs and kisses is a great resource for families of children who have lost a baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The book is about five children who creatively take on the roles of support toward each other while showing their individual feelings about the death of their baby brother to SIDS.
“Missing Hannah: Based on a True Story of Sudden Infant Death” (Ages 4-8)
This simple picture book is written to help children understand the feelings and thoughts of a little girl who lost her sister. The message conveyed in the book will help parents tell the story of SIDS to children in a simple way.
Books on Autism for Siblings:
“Andy and His Yellow Frisbee,” by Mary Thompson (Ages 4-8)
This book is about a little boy named Andy who is autistic. At school he spends recess by himself spinning a yellow Frisbee that he is fascinated with. He has an older sister named Rosie who keeps an eye on him and gives background in the story on autism through a sibling’s perspective. This book is useful in helping kids understand that kids with special needs deserve kindness as much as anybody else.
“All About My Brother,” by Sarah Peralta (Ages 4-8)
This book gives insight to children about children with autism. The book is from the perspective of Sarah whose brother is autistic.
“Everybody is Different,” By Fiona Bleach (Ages 9-12)
“Everybody is Different” is made to answer questions that brothers and sisters have regarding their sibling having autism. It uses basic terms and offers suggestions for families to make family life more comfortable for everyone.
“Since We’re Friends: Autism Picture Book,” by Celeste Shally (Ages 4-8)
This book is not necessarily designed for siblings, but it can be used for siblings to help them be nice and accept their sibling with autism. It is about two boys, one who is autistic and one who is not. It teaches children how to be friends with someone who is autistic and that the child can contribute great things to the relationship.
Books on Cancer for Children:
“The Year My Mother was Bald,” by Ann Speltz (Ages 9-12)
This is a story about a fictional family and the experiences they go through as the mother undergoes cancer treatment. It is written from a child’s perspective which helps take away the mystery and fear about cancer.
“Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy,” by Amelia Frahm (Ages 4-8)
This book is not just for kids whose parent has cancer, but also if a close relative, friend or neighbor has cancer. It offers a child’s perspective of seeing someone they love or close to go through the changes associated with cancer and the treatments.
“When Someone You Love Has Cancer,” by Alaric Lewis (Ages 5-10)
A great guide for helping children who have someone they love that has cancer. It helps to explain all of the emotions they may have or possible outcomes they may experience.
Books on Diabetes for Children:
“Taking Diabetes to School,” by Kim Gosselin (Ages 4-8)
A book about a boy in grade school that has diabetes. He tells all of his classmates about the disease and what he does to manage it. It offers great insight for children with diabetes.
“Lara Takes Charge,” by Rocky Lang (Ages 9-12)
About a little girl named Lara who has diabetes. She talks about all of the fun things she can do just like other kids who don’t have diabetes. She talks about insulin pumps and doing blood tests in a way that is helpful for kids who have diabetes to understand and realize that they are not the only kid in the world with diabetes.
“Even Superheroes Get Diabetes,” by Sue Ganz-Schmitt (Ages 4-8)
A helpful book for kids, parents, teachers, siblings and friends in helping to cope with either having diabetes or knowing someone who has diabetes. It’s about a boy named Kelvin who loves everything about superheroes. One day his world is interrupted by getting diabetes. His doctor also finds out that he has superpowers, which he ends up using to help kids with diabetes.
“Rufus Comes Home,” by Kim Gosselin (Ages 4-8)
About a boy named Brian who goes to the hospital and finds out he has diabetes. To help him cope, his mother buys a stuffed bear and sews on patches for places where Brian will need to get insulin shots and hearts on the paws where he gets his finger pricked for glucose testing. The bear is now like Brian and has diabetes too and shares his same fears and experiences.
“The Little Red Sports Car,” by Eleanor Troutt (Ages 5-10)
A great book for children who are newly diagnosed with diabetes. It helps them realize that even though they have diabetes, their life can continue as normal except for a few adjustments.
General Hospitalization (not sibling specific):
“Being Brave is Best: Care Bears,” by Elizabeth Winthrop (Ages 2-4)
Jenny is afraid to go to the hospital to get her tonsils out, but with the help of Cheer bear and his friend, she is able to get over her fears.
“Adam Goes to the Operating Room,” by Barbara Ehreneich (Ages 6-11)
This book is helpful and shows through pictures and words about going to the hospital for a procedure or surgery. It answers questions some children may have through the pictures and words.
“It’s Check-Up Time, Elmo!” by Sarah Albee (Ages 18-36 months)
This book is very interactive for young children and allows them to interact with Elmo and the tools it comes with such as: Elmo, a stethoscope, a thermometer, a tissue and a bandage to help give Elmo a check up. Also, when you squeeze Elmo’s hand he will guide you to the spot that doesn’t feel well and you can use all of the play pieces to give him a check up and make him feel better. Each spot activates sound effects and phrases from Elmo. It teaches young children about the doctor and helps them to become less afraid.
“The Boo Boo Book,” By Joy Masoff (All Ages)
This book helps children understand and explore various “boo boo’s” that can occur such as needing an X-ray, getting stitches and breaking a bone.
“Say Ahh: Dora goes to the Doctor,” by Pheobe Neinstein (Ages 3-7)
This book is about Dora going to the doctor for the first time for a check-up. It shows Dora having her heart listened to, the doctor measuring her weight and height, and looking into her eyes, ears and throat. It is a helpful book for children who have never been to the doctor before and need to go for their first time.
“What to Expect When you go to the Doctor,” by Heidi Murkhoff (Ages 2-5)
This uses a friendly dog named Angus to help answer and explain questions that some children may have about going to the doctor.
“Clifford Visits the Hospital,” by Norman Bridwell (Ages 4-8)
This book is helpful in easing children’s fears about going to the hospital. Any kid who enjoys Clifford and his adventures will enjoy this book when they have fears about having to go to the hospital.
“Franklin Goes to the Hospital,” by Paulette Bourgeois (Ages 4-8)
In this book, Franklin breaks his shell while playing soccer and has to go to the hospital to get it fixed. The book explains everything that Franklin will see and experience in the hospital. This is a great book to help kids who break an arm and need to get it fixed or who need surgery for some other reason.
“Goodbye Tonsils,” by Juliana Lee (Age 6)
This book is great for children who are going to get their tonsils out. It’s about a girl named Juliana, who has sore throats that do not go away, and there is only one way to solve her sore throats and that is to remove them. Her doctor and parents help her understand what to expect when she comes to the hospital.
Books About Going to the Dentist:
“What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist,” by Heidi Murkoff (Ages 2-5)
This is a book for younger children who are going to the dentist for the first time and are nervous about it. It helps explain who the dentist is, what they do, what the tools are for and why going to the dentist on a regular basis is a good idea.
“Show Me Your Smile: A Trip to the Dentist,” by Christine Ricci (Ages 3-7)
This book is about Dora going to the dentist for the first time for a check-up. She explores and shows what it is like at the dentist. It is helpful to show children who are going to the dentist for the first time and what to expect.
“Open Wide: Tooth School Inside,” by Laurie Keller (Ages 5-10)
This book is helpful for school-age kids and learning about the dentist. The book is set through a classroom setting and the children are the teeth. It explains how important it is to go the dentist and what the dentist does.
General Grief Books:
“I Miss You: A First Look at Death,” by Thomas & Harker (Ages 4-8)
This book helps boys and girls understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death. Kids are encouraged to understand personal feelings and social problems as a first step in dealing with them.
“After the Funeral,” by Jane Loretta Winsch (Ages 4-8)
This book is a positive contribution that will help children and their families move forward toward acceptance, understanding and hope.
“My Friend Matilda,” by Ben Kecker (Ages 4-8)
Matilda, a golden retriever, faithfully stands by her master, Chris, during his journey through grief and his courageous struggle with a brain tumor.
“When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Life Guides for Families),” by Laurie Krasny Brown (Ages 4-8)
Unlike many books on death for little ones, this one doesn’t tell a story. Instead, it addresses children’s fears and curiosity head-on, and in a largely secular fashion, by answering some very basic questions: “Why does someone die?” “What does dead mean?” “What comes after death?”
“Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss (Elf-Help Books for Kids),” by Michaelene Mundy (Ages 4-8)
Loaded with positive, life-affirming advice for coping with loss as a child, this guide tells children what they need to know after a loss—that the world is still safe; life is good; and hurting hearts do mend. Written by a school counselor, this book helps comfort children facing the worst and hardest of reality.
“The Next Place,” by Warren Hanson (Ages 4-8)
An inspirational journey of light and hope to a place where earthly hurts are left behind.
“Gentle Willow: A Story for Children About Dying,” by Joycee C. Mills (Ages 9-12)
Written for children who may not survive their illness or for the children who know them, this tale helps address feelings of disbelief, anger and sadness, along with love and compassion. Amanda and Little Tree discover that their friend Gentle Willow isn’t feeling very well.
“Tear Soup,” by Pat Schweibert (Ages 9-12)
The story is about “Grandy,” but she could just as easily be me or you, and Grandy has suffered a loss, so Grandy begins to make tear soup. Tear soup cannot be made just out of a can, but is an individual process, as unique as each chef; and only through the soup making can we fully heal and move on.
“Part of Me Died Too: Stories of Creative Survival Among Bereaved Children and Teenagers,” by Virginia Lynn Fry (Ages 10+)
In this sensitive and informative presentation, a hospice artist and counselor uses examples from her work with children, ages 18 months and up, to teach about the healing process. Fry’s focus is on loss due to death, but the healing methods described could also be applied to divorce or abandonment.
“Straight Talk about Death for Teenagers: How to Cope with Losing Someone You Love,” by Earl A. Grollman (Age Young Adult)
With brief entries such as “Accidental Death,” “Self-Inflicted Death,” “Talking,” “Crying” and “Going Nuts,” Grollman offers advice and answers the kinds of questions that teens are likely to ask themselves when grieving the death of someone close.
Books to Encourage Children to Talk About their Feelings:
“The Way I Feel,” by Janan Cain (Ages 4-8)
This book is about different feelings and emotions children might be feeling. It is not necessarily for children who know someone in the hospital, but it can help them if they do. It encourages them to recognize their emotions.
“The Purple Balloon,” by Chris Raschka (Ages Baby-Kindergarten)
This gentle little book is a place to start talking about death with children. Softly colored balloons with expressive faces evoke the sorrow, concern and care that family and caregivers show for terminally ill family members.
“My Many Colored Days,” by Dr. Seuss (Ages 4-8)
Most colors are associated with an animal. Red is a horse kicking up its heels. Brown is a bear, “slow and low.” On a yellow day, “I am a busy, buzzy bee.” On a green day, he’s a “cool and quiet fish.” On a happy pink day, he’s a flamingo! On black days, he becomes a howling wolf.
“Glad Monster, Sad Monster: A Book About Feelings,” by Anne Miranda (Ages 4-8)
Children who lack the vocabulary to distinguish the emotions they’re feeling may find some comfort in this book, which makes use of masks to unmask feelings. Each spread shows little brightly colored monsters acting out different emotions… pink monsters cut out valentines and bake cookies to express love, yellow monsters play ball and open birthday presents in the name of happiness… while a gatefold page reveals a big mask of whatever emotion is covered in that spread.
Books For Caregivers:
“Talking About Death: A Dialogue Between Parent and Child,” by Earl A. Grollman
Why do people die? How do you explain the loss of a loved one to a child? This book is a compassionate guide for adults and children to read together, featuring a read along story, answers to questions children ask about death, and a comprehensive list of resources and organizations that can help.
“Beyond the Innocence of Childhood: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Life-Threatening Illness and Dying,” by Eleanor J. Deveau
This is a collection of 40 chapters that are divided into three separate volumes. The overall purpose of this series is to answer the question: How do we as educators, clinicians, other professionals and parents help children and adolescents deal with threat to their lives, dying, death and bereavement?
“All Kinds of Love: Experiencing Hospice (Death, Value, and Meaning),” by Carolyn Jaffe
This book is truly a humanistic tour de force. It is a classic, and should be read not only by those who must interact with a dying loved one, but by each of us as we confront our own mortality, and the meaning of a life well lived.
“Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings,” by Elle McVicker (Ages 4-8)
This book is a great resource for parents or caregivers to use as an education and support tool for children whose loved one has cancer. The story is told through a child’s eyes, which helps kids understand the content in their language.