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Tragedy, whatever the form, requires a response. When kids see the world at its worst, they turn to their parents or guardians for hope and wisdom and understanding, even when the event is not understandable. Books at their best can serve as an aid to these adults, whatever the situation. That said, there’s not a book for every subject in the world. Finding the right book for the right child at the right time can be the hardest thing a children’s librarian ever has to do. So without concentrating on a single tragedy, here are some books that help with coping with a range of situations.

Picture Books

“A Terrible Thing Happened” by Margaret Holmes
A young raccoon sees something bad happen, and he worries about it for a long time until he sees a counselor and talks about his feelings.
Readers never learn what exactly the terrible thing is, which makes this book useful in a variety of situations.
Deals with tragedy and post-traumatic stress.

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“Ida, Always” by Caron Levis
Gus is a polar bear in the Central Park Zoo. When his longtime companion Ida begins to get very ill, Gus has to accept her death and learn ways to handle his grief.
Deals with terminal illness.

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“Tess’s Tree” by Jess Brallier
When a maple tree in Tess’s yard has to be cut down, she gathers her neighbors and family together to celebrate its life.
Deals with death and mourning.

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“The Purple Balloon” by Chris Raschka
Easy-to-read text reveals that dying is hard work, for the old and especially the young, and how good it is that so many people help when a person dies, from medical staff to clergy and friends to family members.
Deals with terminal illness.

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“When I Feel Sad,” “When I Feel Angry” and “When I Feel Worried” by Cornelia Maude Spelman.
Guinea pigs star in this series of straightforward books about handling emotions.
Deals with handling negative emotions.

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Books for Slightly Older Kids

“Bird” by Zetta Elliott
When a boy’s older brother becomes addicted to drugs, he turns to his art and an understanding uncle to help understand.

Deals with drug use and death of a sibling.
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“Con Cariño, Amalia”/ “Love, Amalia” (Spanish & English) by Alma Flor Ada
Amalia spends every Friday afternoon with her grandmother. After she dies, Amalia struggles to stay connected to her and the rest of her family.
Deals with death of  a grandparent.

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“14 Cows for America” by Carmen Agra Deedy
The true story of how the Massai people reacted to hearing about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Deals with terrorism.

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“Healing the Bruises” by Lori Morgan
Julia and her mother go to live in a shelter, to get away from her abusive father and begin life in a few place.
Deals with domestic violence and post-traumatic stress.