death and dying reference list

Below is a list of some favorite books about life and aging, death and dying and grief. There are a variety of perspectives on the subject matter, which include: personal memoir, contemplative reflection, psychology and consciousness studies, spiritual teachings, practical direction and advice and historical study. There is fortunately an ever-growing body of work and writing emerging on these subjects and so much wisdom from the past available to us. 


Belk, Donna; Holly Stevens. Undertaken with Love: A Home Funeral Guide for Families and Community Care. June, 2016.

“In most of the US, a family may care for its own dead until burial or cremation without involving licensed funeral professionals. It requires a willingness to be something of a pioneer in today’s hands-off society, but those who have chosen to reclaim this historical tradition confirm that the process is enormously healing and meaningful. While a motivated family can acquire the legal knowledge and practical skills to arrange a home or family-directed funeral, the process is eased considerablly when a group assists. Undertaken With Love was created to help families and community care groups learn ways to continue caring for their loved ones all the way to the cemetery or crematory. This manual will teach you -how to research state laws and identify your legal rights and responsibilities, -how to handle, bathe and transport the body, and -how to create and sustain an effective community care group.”

Bonanno, George. The Other Side of Sadness. 2009. 
     “The conventional view of grieving--encapsulated by the famous five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance--is defined by a mourning process that we can only hope to accept and endure. In The Other Side of Sadness, psychologist and emotions expert George Bonanno argues otherwise. Mourning is far from predictable, and all of us share a surprising ability to be resilient. Our inborn emotions--anger and denial, but also relief and joy--help us deal effectively with loss. To expect or require only grief-stricken behavior from the bereaved does them harm. In fact, grieving goes beyond mere sadness, and it can actually deepen interpersonal connections and even lead to a new sense of meaning in life."

Carlson, Lisa; Josh Slocum. Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death. 2011. 
     “In Slocum’s preface, he says, “When you read this book, I hope you will have many of the same reactions I did when I started digging beneath the surface of the American way of death. I want you to be surprised at the options you didn’t know you had and emerge knowledgeable enough to have frank conversation with your family about the things you, and they, do and don’t want in a funeral. I also hope you will be indignant enough to join your local nonprofit FCA, or start one if none exists in your area. … The FCA cares about protecting every individual’s right to choose the last hurrah that fits her taste and her budget.”

Didion, Joan. A Year of Magical Thinking. 2005. 
     “Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage--and a life, in good times and bad--that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.”

Devine, Megan. It’s Ok That You’re Not OK. 2017. 
     “Many people who have suffered a loss feel judged, dismissed, and misunderstood by a culture that wants to “solve” grief. Megan writes, “Grief no more needs a solution than love needs a solution.” Through stories, research, life tips, and creative and mindfulness-based practices, she offers a unique guide through an experience we all must face—in our personal lives, in the lives of those we love, and in the wider world. She debunks the culturally prescribed goal of returning to a normal, “happy” life, replacing it with a far healthier middle path, one that invites us to build a life alongside grief rather than seeking to overcome it.”

Doughty, Caitlin. From Here to Eternity . 2017.
     “With boundless curiosity and gallows humor, Doughty vividly describes decomposed bodies and investigates the world’s funerary history. She introduces deathcare innovators researching body composting and green burial, and examines how varied traditions, from Mexico’s Días de los Muertos to Zoroastrian sky burial help us see our own death customs in a new light.

     Doughty contends that the American funeral industry sells a particular―and, upon close inspection, peculiar―set of "respectful" rites: bodies are whisked to a mortuary, pumped full of chemicals, and entombed in concrete. She argues that our expensive, impersonal system fosters a corrosive fear of death that hinders our ability to cope and mourn. By comparing customs, she demonstrates that mourners everywhere respond best when they help care for the deceased, and have space to participate in the process.”

Doughty, Caitlin. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. 2014.
     "Armed with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre, Caitlin Doughty took a job at a crematory and turned morbid curiosity into her life’s work. She cared for bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, and became an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. In this best-selling memoir, brimming with gallows humor and vivid characters, she marvels at the gruesome history of undertaking and relates her unique coming-of-age story with bold curiosity and mordant wit. By turns hilarious, dark, and uplifting, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes reveals how the fear of dying warps our society and "will make you reconsider how our culture treats the dead" "

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer. 2018.
    “Natural Causes examines the ways in which we obsess over death, our bodies and our health. Both funny and caustic, Ehrenreich tackles the seemingly unsolvable problem of how we might better prepare ourselves for the end - while still reveling in the lives that remain to us.”

Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal. 2014.
     “In his bestselling books, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures – in his own practices as well as others’ – as life draws to a close. And he discovers how we can do better. He follows a hospice nurse on her rounds, a geriatrician in his clinic, and reformers turning nursing homes upside down. He finds people who show us how to have the hard conversations and how to ensure we never sacrifice what people really care about.”

Goodman, Arnold. A Plain Pine Box. 1981.
     “A Plain Pine Box is an elegant, simple book. It is about how we must prepare for kavod hamet (honor and care for the dead) and nichum avelim (comfort the bereaved).We walk with Rabbi Goodman as he and his congregation learn about traditional Jewish practices and organize a Chevra Kadisha. A Plain Pine Box interweaves the teachings of Jewish tradition with the reality of Jewish communal organizing.

Grof, Stanislov. Books of the Dead: Manuals for Living and Dying. 1994.
     “Shamans and mystics seeking to enter the afterlife by "dying before dying" have inspired Books of the Dead across continents and millennia, from Egypt and Tibet to Europe and the Americas. Stanislav Grof suggests that these depictions, ritual manuals, and mythic maps for the afterlife are bound by common threads and that modern consciousness research may bring us closer than ever to the realms beyond life.     

Grof, Stanislov. The Ultimate Journey: Consciousness Research and the Mystery of Death. 2006.
    “Dr. Grof distills teachings from ancient wisdom and modern science that suggest how to face the process of death and dying. The ultimate journey challenges us all, and how we approach it is much more than major personal issue. The book describes ancient and aboriginal ritual and spiritual practices that help us understand the experience of death, develop effective ways of making dying easier, and integrate it as a meaningful part of life. The book also summarizes modern studies that shed new light on a variety of phenomena related to death and dying, including psycho-spiritual death and rebirth, near-death experiences, and the new expanded cartography  of the psyche that has emerged from Grof’s fifty years of research of psychedelic therapy, Holotropic Breathwork, and spontaneous psychospiritual crises.

Halifax, Joan. Being with Dying. 2008. 
     “Inspired by traditional Buddhist teachings, her work is a source of wisdom for all those who are charged with a dying person’s care, facing their own death, or wishing to explore and contemplate the transformative power of the dying process. Her teachings affirm that we can open and contact our inner strength, and that we can help others who are suffering to do the same.”

Harris, Mark. Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natura Way of Burial. New York: Scribner, 2007.
     “Grave Matters details the embalming process and the environmental aftermath of the standard funeral. Harris also traces the history of burial in America, from frontier cemeteries to the billion-dollar business it is today, reporting on real families who opted for more simple, natural returns. 

     For readers who want to follow the examples of these families and, literally, give back from the grave, appendices detail everything you need to know, from exact costs and laws to natural burial providers and their contact information.”

Heschel, Abraham Joshua. The Sabbath. 1951.
     "Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath has been hailed as a classic of Jewish spirituality ever since its original publication--and has been read by thousands of people seeking meaning in modern life. In this brief yet profound meditation on the meaning of the Seventh Day, Heschel, one of the most widely respected religious leaders of the twentieth century, introduced the influential idea of an 'architecture of holiness" that appears not in space but in time. Judaism, he argues, is a religion of time: it finds meaning not in space and the materials things that fill it but in time and the eternity that imbues it, so that 'the Sabbaths are our greatcatherdrals.' "

Holocek, Andrew. Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition. 2013.
     “We all face death, but how many of us are actually ready for it? Whether our own death or that of a loved one comes first, how prepared are we, spiritually or practically? In Preparing to Die, Andrew Holecek presents a wide array of resources to help the reader address this unfinished business.

     Preparing to Die is for anyone interested in learning how to prepare for death from a Buddhist perspective, both spiritually and practically. It is also for those who want to learn how to help someone else who is dying, both during the time of illness and death as well as after death."

Jenkinson, Stephen. Die Wise. 2015.
      “Die Wise teaches the skills of dying, skills that have to be learned in the course of living deeply and well. Die Wise is for those who will fail to live forever.

     Dying well is a right and responsibility of everyone. It is a moral, political, and spiritual obligation each person owes their ancestors and their heirs. It is not a lifestyle option. It is a birthright and a debt. How we die, how we care for dying people, and how we carry our dead: this work makes our village life, or breaks it.”

Jenkinson, Stephen. Come of Age. 2018.
      “How we approach death and dying, how or whether we remember or care for the dead – these questions are inextricably bound up with how we age, or don’t, in the dominant culture of the West – and with the disappearance of elderhood as a skilled function in these times”

Kalanithi, Paul. When Breath Becomes Air. Penguin Random House. 2016. 
     "A profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?”

Keating, Father Thomas; Carl J. Arico. The Gift of Life: Death & Dying, Life & Living Companion Book. 
     “The Gift of Life:  Death & Dying, Life & Living offers a vision of hope and a view of reality that counter the cultural norms that view death as a tragedy, or the end of living, or an entry into harsh judgment and retribution.  This is an intimate conversation between Fr. Thomas Keating and Fr. Carl Arico focusing on the transformative process of death and dying as part of, rather than the end of, life’s journey.”

Keating, Father Thomas. World Without End. Bloomsbury Continuum, September, 2017.
     “Thomas Keating, author of Open Mind, Open Heart and father of the Centering Prayer movement, reflects on his life and Christian practice. In these conversations with film maker and writer Lucette Verboven, Thomas Keating OCSO--bestselling author, Trappist monk and founder of the Centering Prayer movement--looks back on his long life and spiritual development. Following his previous books Invitation to Love, Open Mind, Open Heart and The Mystery of Christ, Father Keating turns his attention to the themes of awakening, the nature of true happiness and the character and purpose of death.”

Laderman, Gary. Rest in Peace: A Cultural History of Death and the Funeral Home in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
     "Gary Laderman traces the origins of American funeral rituals, from the evolution of embalming techniques during and after the Civil War and the shift from home funerals to funeral homes at the turn of the century, to the increasing subordination of priests, ministers, and other religious figures to the funeral director throughout the twentieth century. In doing so he shows that far from manipulating vulnerable mourners, as Jessica Mitford claimed in her best-selling The American Way of Death (1963), funeral directors are highly respected figures whose services reflect the community's deepest needs and wishes. Indeed, Laderman shows that funeral directors generally give the people what they want when it is time to bury our dead. He reveals, for example, that the open casket, often criticized as barbaric, provides a deeply meaningful moment for friends and family who must say goodbye to their loved one. But he also shows how the dead often come back to life in the popular imagination to disturb the peace of the living.

     Drawing upon interviews with funeral directors, major historical events like the funerals of John F. Kennedy and Rudolf Valentino, films, television, newspaper reports, proposals for funeral reform, and other primary sources, Rest in Peace cuts through the rhetoric to show us the reality--and the real cultural value--of the American funeral."

Laderman, Gary. The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death 1799-1883. 1999.
     "Drawing on medical histories, religious documents, personal diaries and letters, literature, painting, and photography, Laderman examines the cultural transformations that led to nationally organized death specialists, the practice of embalming, and the commodification of the corpse. These cultural changes included the development of liberal theology, which provided more spiritual views of heaven and the afterlife; the concern for health, which turned those who managed death toward more scientific treatment of bodies; and growing sentimentalism, which produced an increased desire to gaze upon the corpse or to take and keep death photographs. In particular Laderman focuses on the transforming effect of the Civil War, which presented so many Americans with dead relatives who needed to be recovered, viewed, and given a "proper burial." "

Lamm, Maurice. The Jewish Way of Death and Mourning. 1969. 
     “Selected by The New York Times as one of the ten best religious books of the year when it was first published in 1969, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning leads the family and friends of the deceased through the most difficult chapter of life-from the moment of death through the funeral service, the burial, and the various periods of mourning.”

Levine, Stephen. Who Dies: An investigation into Conscious Living and Conscious Dying 1982. 
     “Who Dies? shows the reader how to open to the immensity of living with death, to participate fully in life as the perfect preparation for whatever may come next. The Levines provide calm compassion rather than the frightening melodrama of death.”

Levine, Stephen. Meetings at the Edge: Dialogues with the Grieving and the Dying, the Healing and the Healed. 1984.
     “Based on his extensive counseling work with the terminally ill, Levine's book integrates death into the context of life with compassion, skill, and hope.  Capturing the range of emotions and challenges that accompany the dying process, he offers unique support to readers dealing with this difficult experience.”

Lewis, C.S. A Grief Observed. 1961. 
     “Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moment,” A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period.”

Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. 1962.
     "New Seeds of Contemplation seeks to awaken the dormant inner depths of the spirit so long neglected by Western man, to nurture a deeply contemplative and mystical dimension in our lives. For Merton, "Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the soil of freedom, spontaneity and love." "

Mosher, Lucinda. Faith in the Neighborhood: Understanding America's Religious Diversity - Loss (Bk. 3). 2007.
     "This series of books explores what it means to live and worship among the many faiths unique to America's neighborhoods. Different faiths have different ideals of community, and different kinds of rules.

     Here is a book to help Christians understand the complex attitudes toward illness and death among the many faiths of their neighbors. Mosher lets us listen in as nurses, physicians, chaplains, religious leaders, and laypersons wrestle with questions such as: Why are we here and what is our destiny? What causes illness? What happens when we die, and what should happen to the body of the deceased? How does our religion help us handle the grieving process? And how does our religion help us make decisions about medical treatment options? This title includes quick guides to various religions, glossary, recommended reading list."

Ostaseski, Frank. The Five Invitations: Discovering what Death Can Teach us about Living Fully.  Pan MacMillan. 2017. 
     “Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight, helping us to discover what matters most. Life and death are a package deal. They cannot be pulled apart and we cannot truly live unless we are aware of death. The Five Invitations is an exhilarating meditation on the meaning of life and how maintaining an ever-present consciousness of death can bring us closer to our truest selves.”

Paley Ellison, Koshin; Matt Weingast, ed. Awake at Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End-Of-Life Care. Wisdom Publications. 2016. 
     “How do we think about death? How do we think about the dying? What’s the current state of palliative and end-of-life health care, and how can we improve it? And how do we give care without becoming emotionally and spiritually depleted? In Awake at the Bedside, pioneers of palliative and end-of-life care — as well as doctors, Dharma teachers, chaplains, poets, and caregivers of all kinds — offer insights on incredibly challenging questions like these.”

Palmer, Parker. On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 2018. 
     “This book is not for elders only. It was written to encourage adults of all ages to explore the way their lives are unfolding. It's not a how-to-do-it book on aging, but a set of meditations in prose and poetry that turn the prism on the meaning(s) of one's life, refracting new light at every turn.”

Prothero, Stephen. Purified by Fire: A History of Cremation in America. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2001. 
     “Purified by Fire tells the fascinating story of cremation's rise from notoriety to legitimacy and takes a provocative new look at important transformations in the American cultural landscape over the last 150 years. Stephen Prothero synthesizes a wide array of previously untapped source material, including newspapers, consumer guides, mortician trade journals, and popular magazines such as Reader's Digest to provide this first historical study of cremation in the United States.”

Rinpoche, Anyen. Dying With Confidence. Wisdom Publications. 2010. 
     “Anyen Rinpoche’s wise and reassuring voice guides readers through the Tibetan Buddhist teachings on death and dying, while providing practical tools for end-of-life and estate planning. Dying with Confidence reads like a remarkable how-to guide, laying out in clear and straightforward language the preparations we must make and the best practices to use while dying”

Roach, Mary. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. 2003
     “For 2,000 years, cadavers --   some willingly, some unwittingly -- have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem.”

Sacks, Oliver. Gratitude. Knopf, 2015
     “During the last few months of his life, Sacks wrote a set of essays in which he movingly explored his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with his own death. “It is the fate of every human being,” Sacks writes, “to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.” Together, these four essays form an ode to the uniqueness of each human being and to gratitude for the gift of life.”

Taylor, Corey. Dying: A Memoir. 2016. 
     “At the age of sixty, Cory Taylor is dying of melanoma-related brain cancer. Her illness is no longer treatable: she now weighs less than her neighbor’s retriever. As her body weakens, she describes the experience―the vulnerability and strength, the courage and humility, the anger and acceptance―of knowing she will soon die.

     Written in the space of a few weeks, in a tremendous creative surge, this powerful and beautiful memoir is a clear-eyed account of what dying teaches: Taylor describes the tangle of her feelings, remembers the lives and deaths of her parents, and examines why she would like to be able to choose the circumstances of her death.”

Thondup, Tulku. Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth. 2005. 
     “A Tibetan Buddhist Guidebook presenting Buddhist teachings on facing death with openness and insight.”

Trungpa, Chogyam and Francesca Freemantle (translation and commentary by). The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation Through Hearing In The Bardo. Shambhala Publications 2000. 
     "In this classic scripture of Tibetan Buddhism—traditionally read aloud to the dying to help them attain liberation—death and rebirth are seen as a process that provides an opportunity to recognize the true nature of mind. This translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead emphasizes the practical advice that the book offers to the living. The insightful commentary by Chögyam Trungpa, written in clear, concise language, explains what the text teaches us about human psychology. This book will be of interest to people concerned with death and dying, as well as those who seek greater spiritual understanding in everyday life."

Webster, Lee. Changing Landscapes: Exploring the Growth of Ethical, Compassionate and Environmentally Sustainable Green Funeral Practices. January 2017.

“How are funeral professionals responding to the rapidly growing, persistent demand for green products and services? Will the industry be able to pivot and produce nimbly enough to save the profession from rising any higher on the endangered careers list? What does it mean to be an innovator in the field of green funeral service from the inside? And how can greenwashing be avoided? These writers provide a different glimpse into the world of funeral service than the standard mortuary fare. Many of them have devoted their lives to envisioning a more just, eco-responsible, and honorable way to care for our dead, while others are acting as the canaries in the coal mine, adopting green practices early and parenting them as they develop. All the thought leaders in this collection have one central theme in common: finding ways to honor our commitment to ethical and compassionate funeral practices that nourish the relationships between families and providers, the profession and the public, and human beings and the Earth.”

Webster, Lee; Josh Slocum. Restoring Families’ Rights to Choose: The Call for Funeral Legislation Change in America. July 2016.

“In this book you will learn 1. About pertinent funeral laws and the issues around them. Anyone who has considered the benefits of home funerals has probably also been concerned about the laws governing after-death processes and procedures. Restoring Families’ Right to Choose: the call for funeral legislation change in America was written to educate the public and their policymakers at all levels of government about the issues that inform current laws and policies affecting home funeral families. In addition, it lays out a vision in clear language for legislative funeral reform in America that empowers families while addressing the needs of government. 2. How to navigate and overcome noncompliant institutional policies. Knowing that all Americans have the right to care for their own in their homes after death is the first step. But what happens when following the legal process still leads to roadblocks in institutions and businesses that have policies that are not in sync with the law? What to Do When Home Funeral Rights Are Challenged contains a concise list of potential obstacles and how to anticipate and resolve issues quickly.”


Books for Kids, younger and older (and adults)

Alvarez, Julia. Where Do They Go?. Triangle Square, November 2017.
     "Author Julia Alvarez's picture book is a beautifully crafted poem for children that gently addresses the emotional side of death. The book asks, "When somebody dies, where do they go? / Do they go where the wind goes when it blows? ... Do they wink back at me when I wish on a star? Do they whisper, 'You're perfect, just as you are'? ..." Illustrated by Vermont woodcut artist, Sabra Field, Where Do They Go? is a beautiful and comforting meditation on death, asking questions young readers might have about what happens to those they love after they die.”

Barton, Bri. Everything Dies! A Coloring Book about Life. 
     “Everything Dies! A Coloring Book About Life! is a 100 page coloring book that depicts, among other things, soil biology and decomposition, funeral rites from around the world, mourning loved ones, the murders of human rights leaders, and modern embalming. It is full of celebration, but it is also frank and delves into heavy subjects. Adults will get a lot out of the images and words, and, as long as a guardian makes this book part of a larger conversation, most kids 10 and up will, too.”

Erlbruch, Wolf. Death, Duck and the Tulip. Gecko Press, September 2011.
     "In a strangely heart-warming story, a duck strikes up an unlikely friendship with Death. Death, Duck and the Tulip will intrigue, haunt and enchant readers of all ages. Simple, unusual, warm and witty, this book deals with a difficult subject in a way that is elegant, straightforward, and thought-provoking.”

Girard, Pascal. Nicolas. Drawn and Quarterly, September 2016.
     "Nicolas is Pascal Girard's exploration of the long-term effects his brother's death had on his childhood and adult life. Girard captures all of those feelings and more, through his childhood and into his teen years, when grief and angst intermingle to make a muffled anger. What I love the most about Nicolas (and there's a lot to love, so don't take it lightly!) is the way that Girard refuses to fall into the trap of portraying himself as a saint in his grief. Often, when reflecting on death, there is a tendency to distance yourself from it, to present a more polished version of the truth, or one that reflects where you have gotten to with time, and not where you were in the moment. Girard shows us grief in all its mess, all its cruelty and even its boredom (will people stop distracting him from playing video games with death talk? He's trying to concentrate!)”

Jeffers, Oliver. The Heart and the Bottle. Philomel Books; March 2010.
     “What happens when that special someone who encourages such wonder and magic is no longer around? We can hide, we can place our heart in a bottle and grow up . . . or we can find another special someone who understands the magic. And we can encourage them to see things in the stars, find joy among colors and laughter as they play.

     Oliver Jeffers delivers a remarkable book, a tale of poignancy and resonance reminiscent of The Giving Tree that will speak to the hearts of children and parents alike.”

Lunde, Stein Erik. My Father’s Arms are a Boat. Enchanted Lion Books; February, 2013.
     “Originally published in Norwegian in 2008, My Father’s Arms Are a Boat is translated by Kari Dickson for this first Aerican edition. It’s the story of a young boy and his father who are trying to make some sense of the fresh grief inhabiting their home. The boy’s mother has died.Raw but hopeful. Spare and beautiful. Definitely thought-provoking. It’s not often we see picture books like this, ones unafraid to be contemplative. Or even sad."

Mason, David. Davey Mccgravy. Paul Dry Books, March 2015.
     “In a misty, faraway-feeling "land of rain," Davey McGravy lives with his father and brothers, but mourns his missing mother. He follows the rhymes in his head into a forest of ferns, moss, and cedar trees where he meets animals wise and strange. A coaxing crow urges him onwards. A consoling peacock tells him that nothing is really lost. A fierce lioness frightens him. Following their voices, Davey travels deeper and deeper into the mysterious woods. Then he must find his way home, to a father who is sad but loving, and brothers who care for him no matter how they fight.

     Caught between his forest-world and the world of school, shopping, and family life, Davey wanders his way through grief. With playful and evocative verse, poet David Mason delivers him back to his boyhood but leaves the mysteries of love intact. Full of humor and melancholy, Davey McGravy movingly captures the longing of a child for his lost mother.”

Ness, Patrick. A Monster Calls. Walker Books, May 2015.
     “Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It's ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. 

     Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and above all, the courage it takes to survive.”

Oskarsson, The Flat Rabbit. Owlkid Books, September 2014.
     “When a dog and a rat come upon a rabbit flattened on the road in their neighborhood, they contemplate her situation, wondering what they should do to help her. They decide it can’t be much fun to lie there; she should be moved. But how? And to where? Finally, the dog comes up with an inspired and unique idea and they work together through the night to make it happen. Once finished, they can’t be positive, but they think they have done their best to help the flat rabbit get somewhere better than the middle of the road where they found her. Sparely told with simple artwork, The Flat Rabbit treats the concept of death with a sense of compassion and gentle humor — and a note of practicality. In the end, the dog’s and the rat’s caring, thoughtful approach results in an unusual yet perfect way to respect their departed friend.”

Ringtved, Glenn. Cry, Heart, but Never Break. Enchanted Lion Books, February 2016.
     “Aware their grandmother is gravely ill, four siblings make a pact to keep death from taking her away. But Death does arrive all the same, as it must. He comes gently, naturally. And he comes with enough time to share a story with the children that helps them to realize the value of loss to life and the importance of being able to say goodbye.”

Williams, Margory. The Velveteen Rabbit. Grosset & Dunlap, 1987.
     “At first a brand-new toy, now a threadbare and discarded nursery relic, the velveteen rabbit is saved from peril by a magic fairy who whisks him away to the idyllic world of Rabbitland. There, he becomes “Real,” a cherished childhood companion who will be loved for eternity. Treasured for generations, here is a timeless tale about the magic of boundless love.” A beautiful, classic and subtle contemplation of love and loss and the transformations both catalyze.