Eight Books that Explain Life’s Big and Small Changes to Young Readers
by Yaisha Liz Cordero Rivera
In life, things change. Parents leaving for work after a period at home; a child’s first day of school; a big move; dealing with the death of a loved one. If periods of transition can be overwhelming for adults, imagine how children feel. As parents or educators, you encounter many of these times of change at home or in the classroom, but the conversations are never easy.
As book-loving people, we believe that reading stories that show vulnerability and treat the subject of change with honesty and respect can help introduce children to these difficult topics of discussion. Below, find eight books that tackle topics ranging from changing locations of one’s home to changing societal perceptions to changing family roles to a loved one passing away.
Books on Moving
Seeing boxes and furniture in moving trucks is difficult for the entire family; share a heart-warming moment with them by reading a story that captures similar experiences of transition.
If you like:
Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst
Alexander is not going to leave his best friend Paul. Or Rachel, the best babysitter in the world. Or the Baldwins, who have a terrific dog named Swoozie. Or Mr. and Mrs. Oberdorfer, who always give great treats on Halloween. Who cares if his father has a new job a thousand miles away? Alexander is not—Do you hear him? He Means it!—going to move. (via Goodreads)
A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn
Moving is hard on everyone, but especially children. Chester Raccoon, whom readers have come to know and love through the New York Times bestseller The Kissing Hand, and its sequel, A Pocket Full of Kisses, is facing another dilemma common to the lives of many children; he and his family are moving. Young readers will love the way Chester says goodbye to his old home and learns that there are some exciting aspects to his new home.
Author Audrey Penn has done it again. In A Kiss Goodbye, she has taken her beloved character, Chester Raccoon, and gently guided him through another childhood dilemma [moving]…Audrey Penn’s dedication says it all: “To all my friends, big and little, who find their way to the other end of the path.” In A Kiss Goodbye, Chester continues to help make that journey an easier one for children everywhere.” —myshelf.com
Books on Death
Nothing prepares us for the death of a loved one, but a touching book that helps us understand these troubling times can certainly help.
If You Found This Helpful:
I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas
When a close friend or family member dies, it can be difficult for children to express their feelings. This book helps boys and girls 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. Titles in this sensitively presented series explore the dynamics of various relationships experienced by children of preschool through early school age. Kids are encouraged to understand personal feelings and social problems as a first step in dealing with them. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, these books promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. The story lines are simple and direct―easily accessible to younger children. There are full-color illustrations on every page. (via Goodreads)
Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories by Audrey Penn
Chester Raccoon’s good friend Skiddel Squirrel has had an accident and will not be returning–ever.
Chester is upset that he won’t get to play with his friend anymore. Mrs. Raccoon suggests that Chester and his friends create some memories of Skiddel, so that they will have good memories when they miss him. Chester, his brother Ronny, and their friends decide to gather at the pond, where they combine their memories and create a touching celebration of their friend’s life.
Many young children must face the loss of loved ones or the need to attend a funeral. This sweet story will help children to understand the positive purpose behind memorial services and how “making memories” can provide cheer and comfort when missing an absent loved one.
Simple, direct dialogue demonstrates the love between this mother and child. Bright, stylized illustrations on high-gloss pages depict the animals with human emotions, convey warmth, and reinforce the text. Despite the tough subject, this fifth book in the series that began with The Kissing Hand…has a reassuring tone and provides an opening for a discussion on death and remembering loved ones. —School Library Journal
Books on Family Dynamics
Parents make difficult decisions—like going off to work and travelling—that might be confusing for children, which is why we suggest reading a book that helps us explain why these things happen.
If You Liked:
My Daddy and Me by Jerry Spinelli
I can’t wait for my daddy to come home from work. There are so many things to do! In a loving tribute to fathers and sons, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli and New Yorker artist Seymour Chwast join talents to celebrate the very best moment of the day: when daddy comes home. (via Goodreads)
Miss You Like Crazy by Pamela Hall
Walnut and his mom agree that it would be fun if he could go to work with her, and they fantasize about the adventures they could share.
While they realize that scenario can’t always happen, Walnut’s mother assures him that he is always on her mind, and together they come up with ways to have a physical presence for each other even when at work or at school.
Working parents know that in spite of time away from home, their children are never far from their hearts and minds. This light-hearted story provides parents an opportunity to reassure children on their importance in busy parents’ lives.
Miss You Like Crazy fills an important niche in the life of a working mother (who pays the rent, is good at her work, and values it!) and a child who misses her when she’s away. The mother assures the child he comes first in her heart. Together they devise a touching way to keep a piece of each one close during the day. —Patricia MacLachlan, author of Newbery winner Sarah Plain and Tall and Snowflakes Fall
YA on Change
One of the most challenging periods of our life is adolescence. Explore this time with a book that features relatable characters who might be experiencing emotions to the ones you or your teenager might find familiar.
If Your Teen Enjoyed:
Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.
Now Parker wants a new life. So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three. Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially Flirty? But how far is too far before she loses herself completely? (via Goodreads)
They Should Try:
The Deepest Blue by Kim Williams-Justesen
Mike hasn’t spoken to his mother in years, and what few memories he has of her are painful.
When Mike’s dad is killed in a car accident, Mike wants to stay in his hometown and live with Maggie, his dad’s girlfriend, who has been like a mother to him for the last five years. But Mike’s mother reappears in his life and demands that he return to her custody and live on the other side of the country with a family he doesn’t know. The law is on his mother’s side, and Mike will have to grow up quickly and take on the legal system to have the life he wants.
This deeply moving story of a young teen’s difficult family relationships reflects the reality of many children and teens with strong emotional ties to adults who have no legal rights in the instance of death or divorce.
Justesen hits the emotional points perfectly, using first-person narration to reveal Mike’s impressive powers of observation and his puzzlement over his own unfamiliar behavior. Teens…will be drawn into Mike’s struggle to keep going after death has changed everything. —Kirkus Reviews
Books can communicate what we as adults sometimes can’t. We hope these books help you discuss changes—big or small—with young readers. For more recommendations and bookish fun, follow Tanglewood on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.