Our professional child life staff recommend the following books to help you and your children through illness. All listed books can be found on Amazon Smile.
Books for Parents
How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness by Kathleen McCue (1994)
Kathleen McCue offers a broader view of parenting children through any parental illness and provides guidance for parents on supporting their children and helping them cope with the many challenges and changes illness brings.
A Tiny Boat At Sea by Izetta Smith, M.A., CGT (2000)
This book is for parents, caregivers, and professionals helping children in their adjustments to the cancer diagnosis of an adult family member.
Cancer in the Family by Sue Heiney, Joan Hermann, Katherine Bruss, & Joy Fincannon (2001)
A comprehensive book published through the American Cancer Society, this publication offers information for parents and activities to help children cope.
When a Parent has Cancer: A Guide to Caring for Your Children by Wendy Schlessel Harpham, M.D. (1997)
This book for families, offers clear, direct, and sympathetic advice to parents trying to raise healthy children while fighting a potentially life-threatening illness.
Books for Children
2-6 Years Old
Sammy’s Mom Has Cancer by Sherry Kohlenberg (1993)
Written by Sherry Kohlenberg, a mother of an 18-month old son, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, this story helps young children understand and accept the changes in their lives when a parent is diagnosed with cancer.
5-10 Years Old
Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings by Ellen McVicker (2006)
Ellen McVicker shares the story of a young boy who learns about his mother’s cancer and finds hope and strength.
The Hope Tree by Laura Numeroff & Wendy Harpham (1999)
This book is a compilation of stories from children whose mothers have breast cancer. The children describe life in their family from the time of diagnosis through treatment.
The Rainbow Feelings of Cancer by Carrie Martin & Chia Martin (2001)
This book invites children to share their thoughts, feelings, and questions when a life-threatening illness has touched a parent or someone they love. Written and illustrated by a mother and daughter experiencing their own diagnosis of cancer, it is appropriate for preschool to elementary-age children.
Our Mom Has Cancer by Abigail & Adrienne Ackermann (2001)
Sisters Abigail and Adrienne Ackermann, ages 11 and 13, describe what it was like for them when their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery and chemotherapy.
When Eric’s Mom Fought Cancer by Judith Vigna (1993)
Judith Vigna shares the story of a young boy’s ski trip with his father when he feels angry and afraid about his mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer.
Nowhere Hair by Sue Glader (2010)
This story focuses on hair loss in a fun, non-threatening way. Using rhyme and colorful illustrations, it provides honest information about cancer and hair loss.
Becky and the Worry Cup by Wendy S. Harpham, M.D. & Jonas Kulikauskas (1997)
This book follows six year-old Becky who has many adjustments to make and new emotions to deal with when her mother is diagnosed with cancer.
Promises by Elizabeth Winthrop (2000)
Promises details a young girl’s experience with her mother’s cancer treatment, including her desire for her mother to promise that the cancer will never return.
Good Luck Mrs. K.! by Louise Borden (1999)
This book tells the story of the 3rd grade students affected by the hospitalization of their beloved teacher who has been diagnosed with cancer.
Pre-Teens and Early Teens
10-14 Years Old
Can I Still Kiss You? by Neil Russell (2001)
In a question-and-answer format, Neil Russel deals with questions frequently asked by children and adolescents about cancer. It is both an informative narrative and an interactive journal.
The Year My Mother Was Bald by Ann Speltz (2002)
Written as a diary from a 13-year-old girl’s perspective during the year her mother went through cancer treatment, this book provides a helpful teaching tool for discussing cancer cells, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It includes separate teaching pages appropriate for pre-teens and teens.
Nana, What’s Cancer? by Beverlye Hyman Fead (2009)
This tale captures the questions of a young teen girl as she asks her grandmother about her cancer. The book provides honest answers to her questions and addresses questions related to recurrent cancer.
13 Years and Older
Both Sides Now by Ruth Pennebaker (2000)
As the control of Liza’s once predictable high school life unravels, she sees her mother’s courage facing recurring breast cancer in a whole new light.
Stress and Coping
These books introduce children and teens to the concept of stress and the mind, body and spirit connections. They lead children and teens, along with adults, through a variety of coping strategies including belly breathing, positive self-talk, positive imagery, aromatherapy and acupuncture.
Don’t Pop Your Cork on Monday by Adolf J. Moser (1988)
Ages 5 to 10 years
Adolf J. Moser explores the causes and effects of stress and offers children practical approaches and techniques for dealing with stress in daily life.
Be the Boss of Your Stress by Timothy Culbert & Rebecca Kajander (2007)
Ages 5 years to adult
Timothy Culber and Rebecca Kajander speak to kids ages 8 and up with the following message: When your body, mind, and spirit are balanced – or working together – they can help you stay healthy and positive, even when you are dealing with stress.
A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret M. Holmes & Sasha J. Mudlaff (2000)
Ages 4 to 8
This book follows Sherman after he sees something terrible happen. He becomes anxious and angry, but when a caring adult helps him talk about these emotions, he feels better.
End of Life
Gentle Willow: A Story for Children About Dying by Joyce C. Mills (2002)
Ages 4 to 10 years
This is a comforting story about a tender-spirited tree who is dying, and her relationship with her friends in the forest. A healing metaphor, it addresses feelings of sadness, love, disbelief and anger, and provides children with a transformational way of viewing death and dying. This is a helpful book for beginning conversations with children about a loved one who is facing the end of their life.
A Teen’s Guide to Coping: When a Loved One is Sick and Preparing to Die by Fairview Hospice (2002)
Ages 13 to 17 years
Fairview Hospice’s booklet is for teenagers who have a loved one who is very sick and facing the end of their life. It provides answers to common questions facing teens, focuses on positive ways to cope, and provides information about what to expect in terms of feelings and grief. The booklet also provides space for teens to write and draw to express their emotions and capture memories.
Dying to Know: Straight Talk About Death and Dying by Tani Bahti (2006)
This book is for adults who are facing the end of their life – and for their caregivers. Easy to read in short bursts, the book is filled with valuable information about end-of-life care. A nurse who has worked in hospice care for many years, Bahti honestly and gently answers important questions about the dying process and teaches us how to gently let life go. Readers have found comfort and peace in this practical book.
Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman (2010)
Ages 2 to 10 years
This is a beautiful story about how love is something that we can carry with us always, no matter how near, far, young or old we are. Tillman focuses on a parent’s unending love for their child.
I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas & Leslie Harker (2001)
Ages 3 to 6 years
This book helps young children 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.
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie & Robert Ingpen (1983)
Ages 3 to 10 years
This sensitive book is a useful tool in explaining to children that death (including the loss of pets) is a part of life and that, eventually, all living things reach the end of their own special lifetimes.
The Kissing Hand for Chester Raccoon by Audrey Penn & Barbara Leonard Gibson (1993)
Ages 2 to 10 years
This book tells the story of a baby raccoon who does not want to leave his mother for the first day of school. His mother shares the secret of the Kissing Hand with him so he can find comfort on his first day.
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Brown & Marc Brown (1996)
Ages 5 to 10 years
This guide explains what it means to be alive and what it means to die. Appropriate for preschool- and elementary-age children, Laurie and Marc Brown also cover the importance of the funeral and other aspects of loss, including feelings that young children may experience at these times.
What’s Heaven? by Maria Shriver & Sandra Speidel (1999)
Ages 5 to 13 years
Through a grandmother’s death, Maria Shriver and Sandra Speidel discuss how parents can start talking to their children about death.
Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley (1984)
Ages 5 to 13 years
In this book, animals share memories of their friend, Badger, after he dies. The special things the animals learned from Badger continue to live on through them.
The Brightest Star by Kathleen Hemery & Ron Boldt (1998)
Ages 5 to 13 years
The Brightest Star tells the story of a little girl grieving the death of her mother. She finds comfort in looking for the brightest star in the sky to remind her of her mother’s love.
Fire in My Heart, Ice in My Veins by Enid Samuel-Traisman (1992)
Ages 13 to 18 years
This journal allows teens to write letters, note lyrics, create songs and finish conversations with the loved one who died in a creative way.
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen (2004)
Ages 13 to adult
In this book, Grand has suffered a big loss in her life and is cooking up her own unique batch of Tear Soup for her own grief process.