There are several appealing children’s books on the market either helping parents to explain death to young children, or targeted directly at children for their reading pleasure, which incorporate an explanation of death. But surprisingly few of these are specifically Christian books. However, I am able to recommend three such books which are very engaging.
1) Water Bugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney was published by The Pilgrim Press in 1982. This is a very small, slim book, containing a story which starts below the surface of a quiet pond among a little colony of water bugs. The story finishes with the transformation of a water bug into a dragonfly and illustrates beautifully the fact that the dragonfly cannot return below the surface of the water to tell the water bugs what has happened to it, and what life is like in its new body. A prayer follows, which the child reader may use as a guide when praying for the person whose loss he or she is mourning. The book then gives notes for parents advising them on what they can say to a child about death, and backing this up with quotations from Matthew and Mark showing the way Jesus approached little children. The book ends with a prayer for parents. I think this is an ideal resource for parents who might be unsure and insecure about how to handle the subject.
2) Will I Live Forever? by Carolyn Nystrom illustrated by Jo-Anne Shilliam was published by Lion Hudson in 2006. Told in the first person through the viewpoint of the young child, it directly addresses the reader with a question about sad, scary thoughts, and then relates those questions to the child’s world. The story encapsulates the Christian understanding of why we die, starting with the story of the Creation, and of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It goes on to incorporate quotations from the Gospels. It is also very honest and straightforward about the physical processes of death – the corruption of the body, the reason why it must be cremated or buried, etc. It goes on to reflect upon heaven – once again answering the kind of direct, logical questions a young child will demand to be answered. This is an excellent book, one you will wish you’d had access to when you were a young child.
3) Grandma’s Party by Meg Harper, illustrated by Paul Nicholls, was brought out by The Bible Reading Fellowship in 2003. This is a delightful book centred around the funeral of a grandmother, and it offers practical ways to help children be part of the grieving process when a loved one dies. It includes a story and also creative craft ideas for how a child may become involved in preparing for a tea following the funeral; recipes; instructions on calligraphy to make place cards; and how to make picture frames, books of memories, and paper water-lilies. The book has a solid Christian base, explaining the resurrection from the dead, and finishing with prayers which may be read by a child at the funeral. This is a lovely, practical book, helping parents to understand how to involve and include children at every stage, so they may live out the truth that death is a part of life, not something alien and taboo and frightening, to be hidden behind a wall of silence and mystifying rituals.