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Top 10 Children’s Picture Books About the Death of a Pet

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These ten children’s picture books about the death of a pet will provide comfort to children ages 3-12 and their families. Through sensitive texts and complementary illustrations, the authors and illustrators of these children’s picture books pay homage to the enduring love between a pet and a child and a pet and a family. Sharing a children's picture book about the death of a pet can provide an opportunity for children to express their feelings.

1. Goodbye, Mousie

Two boys in backyard burying pet
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
This is an excellent picture book for 3-5-year-olds. With denial, then a mixture of anger and sadness, a little boy reacts to the death of his pet. With sensitivity and love, his parents help him prepare to bury Mousie. He finds comfort in painting the box Mousie is to be buried in and filling it with things the mouse would enjoy. This reassuring story by Robie H. Harris is beautifully illustrated with muted watercolor and black pencil artwork by Jan Omerod. (Aladdin, 2004. ISBN: 9780689871344)

2. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
This children’s picture book by Judith Viorst is a classic. A boy grieves about the death of his cat, Barney. His mother suggests he think of ten good things to remember about Barney. His friend Annie thinks Barney is in heaven, but the boy and his father aren’t sure. Remembering Barney as brave, smart, funny, and more is a comfort, but the boy can’t think of the tenth thing until he realizes that “Barney’s in the ground and he’s helping to grow flowers.” (Atheneum, 1971. ISBN: 9780689206887)

3. Jasper’s Day

“Jasper's Day,” by Marjorie Blain Parker, is a poignant, yet wonderfully comforting, picture book about a beloved dying dog's special day before he is "euthanized" by the vet. Having been through the experience several times, the book really moved me. Janet Wilson’s chalk pastels beautifully illustrate a little boy's love for his dog and the whole family's sadness as they say goodbye by giving Jasper a last day filled with his favorite activities. (Kids Can Press, 2002. ISBN: 9781550749571)

4. Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children

This is an excellent book to use to introduce death as part of the cycle of life in nature. It starts, "There is a beginning and ending for everything that is alive. In between is living." The artwork for that text is a full-page painting of a bird's nest with two eggs nestled in it. The text and illustrations include animals, flowers, plants, and people. This picture book is perfect for introducing young children to the concept of death without scaring them. (Bantam, 1983. ISBN: 9780553344028)

5. Toby

This children’s picture book for 6-12-year-olds provides a realistic look at the different ways siblings may react to the impending death of a beloved pet. Toby has always been Sara’s dog. Now, at 14, Sara’s age, Toby is nearing death. Sara’s response is anger and rejection of Toby. Her younger brothers, furious at her response, lavish attention on Toby. The boys remain angry at Sara until something happens to convince them Sara still loves Toby. Look for this book at your public library. (Ticknor & Fields, 1994. ISBN: 9780395670248)

6. Saying Goodbye to Lulu

When a little girl’s dog slows down because of old age, she is very sad and says, “I don’t want another dog. I want Lulu back the way she used to be.” When Lulu dies, the girl is grief stricken. All winter she misses Lulu and grieves for her dog. In the spring, the family plants a cherry tree near Lulu’s grave. As the months pass, the little girl becomes ready to accept and love a new pet, a puppy, while still remembering Lulu with affection. (Little, Brown and Company, 2004. ISBN: 9780316702782)

7. Murphy and Kate

This story of a girl, her dog, and their 14 years together is a good one for 7-12-year-olds. Murphy joined her family when Kate was a baby and immediately became her lifelong playmate. As the two grow older, Kate has less time for Murphy, but her love for the dog remains strong. Grief stricken at Murphy’s death, Kate is comforted by her memories and knows that she will never forget Murphy. Oil paintings by Mark Graham enhance the text by Ellen Howard. (Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN: 9781416961574)

8. Dog Heaven

This affectionate and joyous look at what heaven must be like for dogs can be a great comfort for both children and adults who believe in a heaven as a place where dogs go. When our dog died, I bought this children's picture book by Cynthia Rylant for my husband, and it helped to ease his grief. With text and full page acrylic paintings, Rylant shows a heaven filled with dogs’ favorite things. (Scholastic, 1995. ISBN: 9780590417013)

9. Jim's Dog Muffins

When his dog dies after being hit by a truck, Jim is distraught. His classmates write a letter of sympathy to Jim. When he returns to school, Jim doesn’t want to participate in any of the activities. He responds angrily when a classmate tells him, “It doesn’t do any good to be sad.” His teacher wisely tells the class that Jim may need to spend some time feeling sad. By the end of the day, his friends’ sympathy has Jim feeling better. (Star Bright Books, 2008. ISBN: 9781595720993)

10. Cat Heaven

Like the book “Dog Heaven,” this children's picture book was written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant. However, heaven for cats is quite different from heaven for dogs. Cat heaven is custom designed for cats, with all of their favorite things and activities. Rylant’s full-page acrylic paintings provide a joyous and childlike view of cat heaven. (Blue Sky Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780590100540)

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