“All Readers Benefit from Sad Stories”
Often times picture books with sad storylines are seen only as tools for children who have suffered loss, but they serve a vital role for opening up conversations about compassion and kindness for all readers. A safe window into grief fosters empathy and bravery. It allows readers to build recognition of struggle and a comforting vocabulary.
Sad stories also explore the beautiful relationship between love and loss. In Kate DeCamillo’s Time Magazine essay, Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Sad she wrote, “I think our job is to trust our readers. I think our job is to see and to let ourselves be seen. I think our job is to love the world.” That is what my book, Always Sisters: A Story of Loss and Love aims to do. Raya eagerly anticipates a sibling who is not yet born. Her hopes are crushed when her parents experience a pregnancy loss. Readers witness a love so strong that it grew before Raya met her sister and will continue long after. Raya learns to heal by honoring the love for her sister. In one spread, she speaks to classmates who’ve also recently lost loved ones and she feels less alone.
Readers can gain so much from sad stories: feel seen, appreciate the relationship between love and loss, and learn to care for heartache better, together.
Here are beautiful, sad picture book recommendations that can help all readers:
SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA
By Candy Wellins, Illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan
George loves Saturdays.
That’s because Saturdays mean time with Grandma Stella. The two of them love going on adventures downtown to visit the dinosaur museum and ride on the carousel! Even when they stay in, George and Stella have fun together, making cinnamon rolls without popping open a tube and sharing the biggest, best hugs.
Then one day Stella is gone, and George is ready to cancel Saturdays. But when a new addition to the family arrives, George finds a way to celebrate the priceless memories he made with his grandma―while making new ones too.
THE END OF SOMETHING WONDERFUL
By Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic, Illustrated by George Ermos
With gentle humor and quirkiness, this sympathetic book demonstrates how to say goodbye to a beloved pet and give it a proper sendoff. The End of Something Wonderful helps kids handle their feelings when they’re hurting and can’t find all the right words. In a warm, understanding, sometimes funny way, it guides children as they plan a backyard funeral to say goodbye, from choosing a box and a burial spot to giving a eulogy and wiping away tears.
JENNY MEI IS SAD
By Tracy Subisak
With this educational and entertaining picture book, learn how to approach difficult emotions with compassion and understanding—and be the best friend you can be.
My friend Jenny Mei is sad. But you might not be able to tell.
Jenny Mei still smiles a lot. She makes everyone laugh. And she still likes blue Popsicles the best. But, her friend knows that Jenny Mei is sad, and does her best to be there to support her.
This beautifully illustrated book is perfect for introducing kids to the complexity of sadness, and to show them that the best way to be a good friend, especially to someone sad, is by being there for the fun, the not-fun, and everything in between.
THE YELLOW SUITCASE
By Meera Sriram, Illustrated by Meera Sethi
In The Yellow Suitcase, Asha travels with her parents from America to India to mourn her grandmother’s passing. Asha’s grief and anger are compounded by the empty yellow suitcase usually reserved for gifts to and from Grandma, but when she discovers a gift left behind just for her, Asha realizes that the memory of her grandmother will live on inside her, no matter where she lives.
Always Sisters: A Story of Loss and Love
Author: Saira Mir
Illustrator: Shahrzad Maydani
Published August 22nd, 2023 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
About the Book: This much-needed picture book about navigating the difficult experience of pregnancy loss meets young readers at their level to offer a tender look at grieving someone who never entered the world.
Raya can’t wait for her baby sister to arrive. She’s already got a name—Nura—and Raya is certain they’ll be best friends. She’s got all kinds of plans for things they’ll do together like run through the sprinklers, play dress-up, and give piggyback rides.
But one day, Mama returns from the doctor with tears in her eyes. Nura won’t be coming home after all. Raya feels confused and sad, like all the love she has for Nura is trapped inside her. With the help of family, friends, and her school counselor, though, Raya finds a way to grieve this loss and to share the love she’ll always feel for her sister.
About the Author: Saira Mir is a physician and author of the award-winning picture book Muslim Girls Rise, which she wrote for her daughter and other children to have Muslim feminist role models. As an OB-GYN, she has cared for many families through pregnancy loss, but could not find the book she needed to help support her daughter through grief over her own family’s loss, which inspired her to write Always Sisters. She lives in the DC area with her kids and is always on the hunt for the next best playground and bubble tea. Learn more on her Instagram @sairamirbooks or her website www.sairamir.com.
Thank you, Saira, for this important reminder and recommendations!