Summer (Grief) Reading List for Kids + Teens

School is out, days are long–which means more time for reading. Whether it’s planning for relaxing days on the beach, at Barton Springs Pool, or inside soaking up some cool A/C, we are often looking for a good read in the summer. If your mind is occupied with grief matters, perhaps reading a grief tale will help you find connections and a different perspective. A couple of summers ago, we compiled a list for adult readers, but this summer, we asked our staff for their recommendations for grief reading for kids and teens:

For Kids


 Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children, by Bryan Mellonie.  The crux of the book explains in a beautiful way about beginnings, ending, and living in between!


Not the End: A Child’s Journey Through Grief, by Mari Dombkowski.  This book is special to me because the local author came and read the book to our Kids Who Kare group a couple of years ago, and recently stopped by to give us a few copies of her latest Spanish version of the book.  Based on a true story, this book describes a family’s journey through loss, providing insight and hope to the fact that as painful as loss can be, it is not the end of a family’s story, but rather, a very important chapter.


 The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst.  My all-time favorite, this bestseller is touching and comforting for all ages, because it describes the heart-to-heart connection that we never lose even when people become separated or when they die….the binding connection of love.


– Christi Neville, LPC – Peer Support Coordinator


My go to for bibliotherapy with children who have experienced trauma (including traumatic loss) is A Terrible Thing Happened, by Margaret M Holmes. A children’s book that tells the story of Sherman, who had a terrible thing happen to him; it addresses themes of physical and emotional symptoms of trauma and working with helping professionals to feel better.


-Jessica W. Brown, M.A., Program Coordinator



For Young Adults


My current favorite book is, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez
This book follows a young Mexican-American girl named Julia, who is searching for meaning after her older sister’s death. The story shows the struggles with that a family can have after their family is impacted by losing a loved one.


Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
SPOILER ALERT: Part of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, this book is about the bonds of young sisterhood changing as the characters become adults. Dealing with careers boyfriends, marriage, moves, the young women of this novel must navigate those challenges while also learning to navigate the sudden loss of a friend.


Everything We Keep: A Novel (Book 1 of 3) by Kerry Lonsdale
Everything We Keep is about a young woman named Aimee who has the perfect life: marrying her childhood sweetheart, perfect parents, and her dream job. But when her fiance vanishes after a trip, Aimee is left broken and has to put herself back together while also trying to keep her life afloat. Definitely a beach/park read.


– Jocelyn Chamra-Barrera, LMSW – Bilingual Support Coordinator


My favorite book about grief and death is young adult fantasy trilogy: The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix.

Couched within an action-packed, fantasy setting, a teenage girl learns that her father, The Abhorsen, keeper of  the dead, is missing and has passed into death. The series explores themes of loss, grief, and how we mourn our loved ones, as life continues around us. The protagonists in the series are all teenagers, and struggle with identity, fitting in and growing up. I appreciate this series for addressing a young adult audience and it’s non-stigmatizing approach to death and loss.


-Jessica W. Brown, M.A., Program Coordinator


Editor’s Note: We’ve linked Amazon here for ease and completeness of information about the books on our recommendation list, but also encourage kids and parents to check out your local library or independent book store. The City of Austin has a summer reading program for kids, 5 Book Dive, and children who complete 5 books over the summer can earn $5 credit at BookPeople
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