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Middle Grade Books About Handling Grief

I’m pretty lucky, as far as grief goes. I didn’t experience my first loss until I was nearly in high school, and even that was tangential to me. As a child, I never had to deal with any serious loss. But even as an adult, the first pangs of grief were difficult to understand and deal with. Grief is hard handle. But it can be especially confusing for kids who are struggling to process emotions of loss that are wholly new.  All the books in this list deal with grief and help children to understand emotions that arise from bereavement. And, most importantly, they show there is an after. There is a time when the pain of loss will lessen and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Every Missing Piece

by Melanie Conklin

Maddy Gaines sees danger everywhere she looks: at the bus stop, around the roller rink, in the woods, and (especially) by the ocean. When Maddy meets a mysterious boy setting booby traps in the North Carolina woods, she suspects is Billy Holcomb–the boy who went missing in the fall.
As Maddy tries to uncover the truth about Billy Holcomb, ghosts from her own past surface, her best friend starts to slip away, and Maddy’s world tilts once again. Can she put the pieces of her life back together, even if some of them are lost forever?

 

The Thing About Jellyfish

by Ali Benjamin
After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting–things don’t just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.

 

Ghost Boys

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

 

Mayday

by Karen Harrington

Wayne Kovok lives in a world of After. After his uncle in the army was killed overseas. After Wayne and his mother survived a plane crash while coming back from the funeral. After he lost his voice.
Wayne has always used his love of facts to communicate (“Did you know more people die each year from shaking a vending machine than from shark attacks?”). Without his voice, how will he wow the prettiest girl in school? How will he stand up to his drill-sergeant grandfather? And how will he share his hopes with his deadbeat dad? It’s not until Wayne loses his voice completely that he realizes how much he doesn’t say.

 

The Light in the Lake

by Sarah R. Baughman

Twelve-year-old Addie should stay away from Maple Lake. After all, her twin brother, Amos, drowned there only a few month ago. But the notebook Amos left behind – filled with clues about a mysterious creature that lives in the lake’s inky depths – keeps calling her back.
So despite her parents’ fears, Addie accepts a Young Scientist position studying the lake for the summer, promising she’ll stick to her job of measuring water pollution levels under adult supervision. Still, Addie can’t resist trying to uncover the secrets of Maple Lake, and enlists the lead researcher’s son, Tai, to help her investigate. As they collect evidence, they also learn that the lake is in trouble – and the source of the pollution might be close to home. Addie finds herself caught between the science she has always loved and the magic that brings her closer to her brother.

 

The Absence of Sparrows

by Kurt Kirchmeier

In the small town of Griever’s Mill, eleven-year-old Ben Cameron is expecting to finish his summer of relaxing and bird-watching without a hitch. But everything goes wrong when dark clouds roll in. Old Man Crandall is the first to change – human one minute and a glass statue the next. Soon it’s happening across the world. Dark clouds fill the sky and, at random, people are turned into glass versions of themselves. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no one knows how to stop it.