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A Selected, Annotated Bibliography on Sibling Death in Literature for Children

A Selected, Annotated Bibliography on Sibling Death in Literature for Children

Prepared by Charles A. Corr, PhD, CT

The following bibliography on death-related literature for children is specifically focused on the death of a brother or sister. The twenty five listed books are arranged in four general categories: deaths resulting from illness; perinatal deaths, infant deaths, and SIDS; deaths resulting from accidents; and other bereavement situations. Brief descriptions of each title are intended to provide guidance concerning topics, themes, and reading levels. I always recommend, however, that you examine a specific title for yourself to determine its strengths, weaknesses, and suitability for the children to whom you might offer it. No book—or any other resource, for that matter—is appropriate for every child or situation.

You can simply make these books available to children who can read on their own, but it is often better to read a particular book together with a child and then to follow up with a discussion of the issues it raises. One way to encourage discussions with older children is to ask them to examine picture books or simple stories in order to help you evaluate their value or suitability for use with younger readers.

The titles that are included here have been selected from a much larger body of literature for children focused on deaths and losses of all types. You can often locate copies of these books in local public libraries or through used book services, such as Amazon.com. Another good source for information on these books and on related literature for children and adults is the Centering Corporation, 402-553-1200 or www.centering.org.

Readers who might be interested in other aspects of death-related literature for children can consult a special issue of Omega, Journal of Death and Dying (Vol. 48, No. 4; 2004). In addition to articles on using death-related literature to help bereaved children, that issue contains four articles that describe death-related literature for children in relation to: bereavement, grief, and mourning; spirituality; grandparents; and pet loss. For those who do not regularly subscribe or have access to this journal, the special issue is available from the publisher at a nominal fee (contact Baywood Publishing Company at 800-638-7819, 631-691-1270, or www.baywood.com).

Finally, if you know of a title in the field of death-related literature that you like or would want to recommend, please send it to me in care of charlescorr@mindspring.com or call 727-360-1118.

Deaths Resulting from Illness

Anonymous. (2004). My Always Sister Coloring Book. St. Paul, MN:

A Place
to Remember (
1885 University Ave., Suite 110
, 55104; www.aplacetoremember.com; tel. 800-631-0973 or 651-645-7045), 16 pages.

Callie is a bunny who talks in this book about learning that his new baby sister is sick and must stay in the hospital. One day, Callie%27s Daddy tells him that his new sister has died and they have a funeral with music. Callie experiences many emotions and draws a picture of how he feels. A coloring book for very young children.

Coburn, J. B. (1964). Annie and the Sand Dobbies: A Story about Death for Children and Their Parents. New York: Seabury Press, 121 pages.

In this book, 11-year-old Danny describes his encounters with the deaths of both his toddler sister from a respiratory infection and his dog after it ran away from home and is found frozen to death. Most important is the intervention of a neighbor who uses imaginary characters to suggest that the deceased are safe with God. The author was the Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts when he wrote this book for middle school readers.

Dean, A. (1992). Meggie%27s Magic. New York: Viking Penguin, 32 pages. Illustrated by C. Stevens.

This brightly-colored book begins by reporting that Meggie got very sick and died when she was 8 years old. Afterwards, her mother, father, and sister feel sad and lonely. Meggie%27s sister tells about the special place where they would hide, talk about special things, and play games. When she visits that place again, she finds it still filled with their special magic. It is an inside kind of magic, which means that Meggie%27s magic still remains inside each of her family members. A picture book for prereaders.

Dodge, N. C. (1984). Thumpy%27s Story: A Story of Love and Grief Shared by Thumpy, the Bunny. Illustrated by K. Veara. Springfield, IL: Prairie Lark Press (

P.O. Box 699, Springfield, IL62705
), 24 pages.

A rabbit tells a simple story about the death of his sister, Bun, after an unexplained episode of unusual breathing. Thumpy describes how Bun%27s death has affected each member of their family. He also explains that it helps to talk about death and to share sadness. A picture book for young readers; also available as a 32-page coloring book for children ages 3 and up, a 48-page workbook for older children, and a Spanish edition.

Jampolsky, G. G., & Taylor, P. (Eds.). (1978). There Is a Rainbow Behind Every Dark Cloud. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 96 pages.

Eleven children, 8 to 19 years old, explain what it is like to have a life-threatening illness and the choices that youngsters have in helping themselves (for example, when first told about one%27s illness, in going back to school, coping with feelings, and talking about death). The children themselves contributed most of the black and white drawings.

Jampolsky, G. G., & Murray, G. (Eds.). (1982). Straight from the Siblings: Another Look at the Rainbow. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 94 pages.

Brothers and sisters of children who have a life-threatening illness write about the feelings of siblings and ways to help all of the children who are involved in such difficult situations. The siblings also contributed most of the drawings in this book. These two books from the Center for Attitudinal Healing seem best suited for middle school readers. They remind readers that coping with loss and grief are not just postdeath experiences.

Lee, V. (1972). The Magic Moth. New York: Seabury, 64 pages. Drawings by R. Cuffari.

Ten-year-old Maryanne, the middle child in the Foss family, has been sick for a long time with an incurable heart disease. Knowing that Maryanne will soon die is hard for every member of the family. In particular, Mark-O (Mark Oliver), her 6-year-old brother, tries to show his love by bringing Maryanne presents and listening to her stories. When Maryanne dies, Mark-O is helped to make sense of this experience by the metaphor of a moth as it experiences a transition from one mode of life to another. A storybook for young readers.

Temes, R. (2002). The

Empty Place
: A Child%27s Guide through Grief. Far Hills, NJ: New Horizon Press (
P.O. Box 669, Far Hills, NJ07931
), 48 pages. Illustrated by K. Carlisle.

Both text and black-and-white drawings in this book reflect the emptiness a 9-year-old boy feels in his life and in his heart, along with many other reactions he encounters after his big sister, Jennifer, dies. Sharing his grief with his baby sitter, Betsy, helps because one of her brothers had also died much earlier. Betsy is a good role model for the boy, giving him permission to do many things he needs to do to cope with his loss. Betsy helps the boy find hope, tell jokes again, and begin a special Jennifer notebook. A storybook for young readers.

Weir, A. B. (1992). Am I Still a Big Sister? Newtown, PA: Fallen Leaf Press (

P.O. Box 942, Newtown, PA18940
), 38 pages. Illustrated by S. H. Thomer.

This story and its pen-and-ink drawings describe the many concerns and questions that a young girl has when her baby sister, Rachel, is ill and hospitalized. After Rachel%27s death, the girl%27s parents try to explain what happened. Above all, they stress the wonderful memories they all have of Rachel and the fact that the girl is still a big sister. The book also describes the subsequent birth of a new brother named Eric. This book grows out of the author%27s experience of the SIDS death of her second daughter and her attempts to explain those events to the girl%27s 4-year-old sister. A picture book for prereaders.

Yeomans, E. (2000). Lost and Found: Remembering a Sister. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation (

P.O. Box 4600, Omaha, NE68104
-6000; tel. 402-553-1200; www.centering.org; e-mail = j1200@aol.com), 32 pages. Illustrated by D. deRosa.

An unnamed child recounts the confusing experiences that she and her parents have after the chemotherapy and radiation stopped working and her sister dies. It confuses the girl when Grandma says that they “lost” Paige. The girl doesn%27t know what to do when her mother begins to cry a week after the funeral and just can%27t stop. So many things are different without a big sister to share and make the girl feel safe in the dark. A school assignment to draw a picture of her family makes the girl cry. One night, wrapped in Paige%27s blanket, the girl recognizes that Paige is still with her, loves her, and wants her to have fun.  Gradually, the girl draws on memories and special places shared with Paige to begin to realize that Paige isn%27t “lost” forever, she is right there in their hearts and the girl knows where to find her. A book with brightly-colored pictures for young children.

Perinatal Deaths, Infant Deaths, and SIDS

Chin-Yee, F. (1988). Sam%27s Story: A Story for Families Surviving Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Illustrations by B. Johnson. Distributed by the Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (

586 Eglinton Ave. E., Suite 308, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaM4P 1P2
; 416-488-3260), 32 pages.

Text and colorful drawings tell about the confusing experiences of a child in a family that experiences a death from SIDS. Sam is disturbed by the suddenness of Little Pat%27s death, the arrival of the ambulance and policemen, and all of the changes in Mom and Dad. As he says, “Little Pat took the HOME feeling away with him.”  The tension and anger are difficult to live with until Sam is able to talk about what death means with Gran. Only then did the HOME feeling begin to come back as Sam and his parents get beyond their mutual misunderstandings and discuss what happened when Little Pat died. A storybook for young readers.

Gryte, M. (1988). No New Baby: For Siblings Who Have a Brother or Sister Die before Birth. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation (

P.O. Box 4600, Omaha, NE68104
-6000; tel. 402-553-1200; www.centering.org; e-mail = j1200@aol.com), 16 pages. Illustrated by K. McClendon. (Also available in a Spanish edition as No Tenremos Un Nuevo Bebé.)

In this book, a young child tells about her reactions when the anticipated birth of a new sibling does not happen. Grandma discusses this experience with the child. She explains that no one is to blame and we do not always have answers. A picture book for preschool children.

Johnson, J., & Johnson, M. (2004). Where%27s Jess? Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation (

P.O. Box 4600, Omaha, NE68104
-6000; tel. 402-553-1200; www.centering.org; e-mail = j1200@aol.com), new edition, 24 pages. Artwork by P. Sieff.

Ray and Jody Goldstein%27s daughter, Jess, died at the age of nine months. That is the basis for this book, which is intended to be used with young children to help them cope with the death of an infant sibling whom they knew. A few lines of text, with simple drawings on alternate pages, explore topics like what “death” means, remembering the dead child, and the value of tears. A picture book for prereaders.

Keough, P. (2001). Remembering Our Baby: A Workbook for Children Whose Brother or Sister Dies before Birth. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation (

P.O. Box 4600, Omaha, NE68104
-6000; tel. 402-553-1200; www.centering.org; e-mail = j1200@aol.com), 20 pages.

This workbook includes pages designed to encourage writing and drawing to help share thoughts and feelings. It begins with finding out about the new baby in the family and then learning about the death. Also included are questions about these events and suggestions about things to do to remember the baby. An activity book for preschool and early school children.

Roper, J. (2001). Dancing on the Moon. Cheverly, MD: SIDS Educational Services (

2905 64th Avenue
, 20785; tel. 877-935-6839 or 301-322-2620), 36 pages. Illustrated by L. Grimm.

Five-year-old Carly is jealous over all the attention paid to the new baby when he comes home. But one day when Nigel dies suddenly, everyone is sad and Carly wants very much to bring him back home. In her dream, she imagines flying to the moon to find Nigel. Even though Carly can%27t bring Nigel back with her, she realizes that he is with her everywhere inside her heart and they will never again be apart. A storybook for young readers.

Schlitt, R. S. (1992). Robert Nathaniel%27s Tree. Maryville, TN: Lightbearers Publishers (

P.O. Box 5895, Maryville, TN37802-5895
), 36 pages. Illustrated by C. B. Armstrong.

With soft pastel drawings and just a few words on every other page, a child tells about the things he likes, including getting ready for a new baby. But the baby dies, and then there is much that he does not like. Later, he likes caring for Robert Nathaniel%27s memorial tree and being his big brother—“even if he didn%27t come home.” A picture book for pre-readers based on the death of the author%27s third child.

Schwiebert, P. (2003). We Were Gonna Have a Baby, but We Had an Angel Instead. Portland, OR: Grief Watch (

2116 NE 18th Ave., Portland, OR97212
; tel. 503-284-7426; www.griefwatch.com), 24 pages. Illlustrated by T. Bills.

Using bright, colored drawings and just one line of text on each page, a young boy tells how he anticipated the birth of the new baby. But something happened; the baby died and everyone is sad. Having the baby would have been more fun than missing him. The book also offers some suggestions to adults for helping bereaved children. A picture book for prereaders.

Simon, J. (2001). This Book Is for All Kids, but Especially My Sister Libby. Libby Died. Austin, TX: Idea University Press, 34 pages. Illustrated by A. Simon.

Five-year-old Jack struggles to understand the death of his young sister (from an unexplained congenital disorder). In a setting of his mother%27s dramatic, colorful illustrations, this book reproduces some of his many questions and comments. For example: “Mom, what if Libby was your first baby, and I was the middle kid? Would it have been me? Would I be dead now?”; “How do angels grow those wings out of their backs?”; “And if you don%27t need your body anymore are there just heads floating around?” A picture book for prereaders.

Deaths Resulting from Accidents

Aiken, S. (2001). Anna%27s Scrapbook: Journal of a Sister%27s Love. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation (

P.O. Box 4600, Omaha, NE68104
-6000; tel. 402-553-1200; www.centering.org; e-mail = j1200@aol.com), 46 pages. Illustrated by S. & S. Aiken.

The first six pages tell the following story. When Anna was eight, her baby sister, Amelia, was born. Anna loved Amelia and they shared many good times together. But one day, when she was a preschooler, Amelia had an accidental fall and did not make it through the night. Anna%27s grief was profound, as was the grief of the adults in her family. After the funeral, Anna kept a diary, which fills the next 18 pages of this book. In the diary, Anna writes about her reactions to the death of Amelia and then describes her project to make a scrapbook to keep her memories and photos of Amelia. Next a page invites the reader to develop the following 19 blank pages as his or her own journal and scrapbook. A spiral-bound book (approximately 5 ½” x 8 ½”) for middle school readers.

Connolly, M. (1997). It Isn%27t Easy. New York: Oxford University Press, 24 pages. Illustrations by R. Manahan.

When his big brother, 9-year-old Ross, is killed as he chases a ball into the street in front of a car, a little boy is flooded with many, complex feelings, including sadness, loneliness, and anger. As he reflects on good memories of his brother and the things the two of them did together, he gradually gets used to being an only child—but it isn%27t easy. A picture book for prereaders with soft pastel drawings and a few paragraphs of text on each page.

Greene, C. C. (1976). Beat the Turtle Drum. New York: Viking, 119 pages. Illustrated by B. Diamond.

This book describes the close relationship between 13-year-old Kate and her sister, 11-year-old Joss, in their warm, loving family. When Joss is abruptly and unexpectedly killed in a fall from a tree, the family is flooded with grief. Conveying this sense of the many dimensions of bereavement is the book%27s strong point. A storybook for middle school readers.

Other Bereavement Situations

Alexander, S. (1983). Nadia the Willful. New York: Pantheon Books, 48 pages. Illustrated by L. Bloom.

Nadia is a stubborn, impetuous young girl whose passions can only be restrained by her beloved older brother, Hamed. The Middle East setting for Nadia and her Bedouin community is depicted in the illustrations in this book. When Hamed does not return from a trip into the desert, her father, the sheik, in his grief decrees that no one may speak of his death. Nadia refuses to accept this decree and talks about Hamed openly. When a shepherd boy who talks with Nadia about Hamed is threatened with exile, Nadia helps her father and her family cope with their grief by sharing with them her warm memories of Hamed. In so doing, she illustrates the difference between coping with pain by closing off memories or by opening oneself to such memories and keeping them alive in one%27s life and heart. A storybook for young readers.

Muñoz-Kiehne, M. (2000). Since My Brother Died/Desde Que Murió Mi Hermano. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation (

P.O. Box 4600, Omaha, NE68104
-6000; tel. 402-553-1200; www.centering.org; e-mail = j1200@aol.com), 20 pages. Illustrated by G. Dietrich.

A child wonders if a brother%27s death is only a dream or if anything could have been done to keep him from dying. The child reports sadness in the family as well the child%27s own physical reactions (headaches and stomachaches). Afraid of forgetting this brother, the child begins to paint, with simple watercolor illustrations gradually turning into rainbows and the confidence that life can go forward. A charming book for young readers, also containing A Note to Parents and Caregivers, as well as A Note to Teachers and Counselors.

Romond, J. L. (1989). Children Facing Grief: Letters from Bereaved Brothers and Sisters. St. Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press, 40 pages.

In the form of letters to a friend, this book records the observations of 18 children (ages 6 to 15) who have each experienced the death of a brother or sister. In this way, it offers helpful comments from young people who have been there in grief. Perhaps best suited for middle school readers.

Turner, B. J. (1996). A Little Bit of Rob. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Co., 26 pages. Illustrated by M. Backer.

After the death of her big brother, Rob, Lena and her parents find themselves unable to mention his name. They are trying to be strong and avoid crying. Several weeks later, they take their boat out crabbing again in an effort to resume some of the activities they had shared with Rob. In doing so and by sharing Rob%27s old sweatshirt, they are finally able to speak about Rob and realize that they will always have their memories of him to comfort them. A storybook for young readers.