Top Children's Picture Books About the Death of a Pet

Child holding a pet gerbil
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When a pet dies, the right children's book can help kids deal with the death of a pet. It may be a book about dog heaven, a book about what happens when a cat dies, a special day for a dying dog or a burial for a beloved pet mouse. These ten children’s picture books about the death of a pet will provide comfort to children ages 3-12 and their families when a dog, cat or other pet dies. The authors and illustrators of these children’s picture books pay homage to the enduring love between a pet and a child and a pet and a family through their stories. Sharing a children's picture book about the death of a pet can provide an opportunity for children to express their feelings when a beloved pet dies.

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Dog Heaven

Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant - picture book cover
Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant. Scholastic

Dog Heaven, an affectionate and joyous look at what heaven must be like for dogs, can be a great comfort for both children and adults who believe in a heaven as a place where dogs go. When our dog died, I bought this children's picture book, which was written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant, for my husband and it helped to ease his grief. With text and full-page acrylic paintings, Rylant shows a heaven filled with dogs’ favorite things. (Scholastic, 1995. ISBN: 9780590417013)

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Goodbye, Mousie

Two boys in backyard burying pet
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Goodbye, Mousie is an excellent picture book for 3-5-year-olds dealing with the death of a pet. With denial, then a mixture of anger and sadness, a little boy reacts to the death of his pet. With sensitivity and love, his parents help him prepare to bury Mousie. He finds comfort in painting the box Mousie is to be buried in and filling it with things the mouse would enjoy. This reassuring story by Robie H. Harris is beautifully illustrated with muted watercolor and black pencil artwork by Jan Ormerod. (Aladdin, 2004. ISBN: 9780689871344)

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The Tenth Good Thing About Barney

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst, with illustrations by Erik Blegvad, is a classic. A boy grieves about the death of his cat, Barney. His mother suggests he think of ten good things to remember about Barney. His friend Annie thinks Barney is in heaven, but the boy and his father aren’t sure. Remembering Barney as brave, smart, funny, and more is a comfort, but the boy can’t think of the tenth thing until he realizes that “Barney’s in the ground and he’s helping to grow flowers.” (Atheneum, 1971. ISBN: 9780689206887)

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Jasper’s Day

Jasper's Day, by Marjorie Blain Parker, is a poignant, yet wonderfully comforting, picture book about a beloved dying dog's special day before he is euthanized by the vet. Having been through the experience several times, the book really moved me. Janet Wilson’s chalk pastels beautifully illustrate a little boy's love for his dog and the whole family's sadness as they say goodbye by giving Jasper a last day filled with his favorite activities. (Kids Can Press, 2002. ISBN: 9781550749571)

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Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children

Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie is an excellent book to use to introduce death as part of the cycle of life in nature. It starts, "There is a beginning and ending for everything that is alive. In between is living." The artwork for that text is a full-page painting of a bird's nest with two eggs nestled in it. The text and beautifully rendered illustrations by Robert Ingpen include animals, flowers, plants, and people. This picture book is perfect for introducing young children to the concept of death without scaring them. (Bantam, 1983. ISBN: 9780553344028)

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Toby, a children’s picture book for 6-12-year-olds by Margaret Wild, provides a realistic look at the different ways siblings may react to the impending death of a beloved pet. Toby has always been Sara’s dog. Now, at 14, Sara’s age, Toby is nearing death. Sara’s response is anger and rejection of Toby. Her younger brothers, furious at her response, lavish attention on Toby. The boys remain angry at Sara until something happens to convince them Sara still loves Toby. Look for this book at your public library. (Ticknor & Fields, 1994. ISBN: 9780395670248)

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Saying Goodbye to Lulu

Saying Goodbye to Lulu is a good book about the grieving process. When a little girl’s dog slows down because of old age, she is very sad and says, “I don’t want another dog. I want Lulu back the way she used to be.” When Lulu dies, the girl is ​grief-stricken. All winter she misses Lulu and grieves for her dog. In the spring, the family plants a cherry tree near Lulu’s grave. As the months pass, the little girl becomes ready to accept and love a new pet, a puppy, while still remembering Lulu with affection. (Little, Brown and Company, 2004. ISBN: 9780316702782; 2009 Paperback ISBN: 9780316047494)

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Murphy and Kate

Murphy and Kate, the story of a girl, her dog, and their 14 years together is a good one for 7-12-year-olds. Murphy joined her family when Kate was a baby and immediately became her lifelong playmate. As the two grow older, Kate has less time for Murphy, but her love for the dog remains strong. Grief-stricken at Murphy’s death, Kate is comforted by her memories and knows that she will never forget Murphy. Oil paintings by Mark Graham enhance the text by Ellen Howard. (Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN: 9781416961574)

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Jim's Dog Muffins

Jim's Dog Muffins deals with a boy's grief and his friends' responses. When his dog dies after being hit by a truck, Jim is distraught. His classmates write a letter of sympathy to Jim. When he returns to school, Jim doesn’t want to participate in any of the activities. He responds angrily when a classmate tells him, “It doesn’t do any good to be sad.” His teacher wisely tells the class that Jim may need to spend some time feeling sad. By the end of the day, his friends’ sympathy has Jim feeling better.  The author is Miriam Cohen and the illustrator is Ronald Himler. (Star Bright Books, 2008. ISBN: 9781595720993)

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Cat Heaven

Like the first book on this list, Dog Heaven, Cat Heaven was written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant. However, heaven for cats is quite different from heaven for dogs. Cat heaven is custom designed for cats, with all of their favorite things and activities. Rylant’s full-page acrylic paintings provide a joyous and childlike view of cat heaven. (Blue Sky Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780590100540)

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Your Citation
Kennedy, Elizabeth. "Top Children's Picture Books About the Death of a Pet." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Kennedy, Elizabeth. (2021, February 16). Top Children's Picture Books About the Death of a Pet. Retrieved from Kennedy, Elizabeth. "Top Children's Picture Books About the Death of a Pet." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).