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Sad books for children

(16 Posts)
Gogos Sun 10-Feb-19 12:43:12

Hi there

Does anyone have a view about children (younger than teens, i.e. 8 to 12 year olds) reading books with very sad subject matter? I recently bought a book for my 9 and 7 year olds, and it involved the brother of the main character dying. I was in buckets of tears reading that part, and my children were saddened by it too.

They were of course over it in no time, but they did ask me not to get them sad books again. Would any child that age enjoy reading a book with sad content? There seem to be plenty of such books around.


Witchend Wed 13-Feb-19 16:58:14

It depends on the child.

I remember choosing to read the Ladybird book "Ginger's Adventures" despite knowing it had me in tears every time.

However the point I noticed in your OP is "I was in buckets of tears reading that part, and my children were saddened by it too.".
You may well find that they were actually more effected by the fact you were in tears than the actual story.

At that age ds was often in tears, and not always at the point I thought he would be. I would ask him if he wanted to me to stop and he never did. He often chose to read the books again to himself, and yes, he'd cry again.

ILoveCrunchyAutumnLeaves Wed 13-Feb-19 16:59:18

The Happy Prince

ILoveCrunchyAutumnLeaves Wed 13-Feb-19 17:03:18

Apologies, my ds aged 10 found reading boring and I wanted to show him the power of words, and for him to connect emotionally to the text.

We both cried at the end, it's not a theme I would like him to read all the time, it does have a time and place.

LetItGoToRuin Mon 18-Feb-19 15:00:17

My daughter’s quite an advanced reader, and I’ve learnt to be cautious.

In Reception she brought home Hans Andersen’s The Little Match Girl which I hadn’t heard of at the time, and when she read it to me I was in floods of tears. Fortunately, she was sitting on my lap and didn’t see my face, but I struggled to have the conversations with her about how the little girl literally starved to death, and about the positive message of hope and dreams to help people through extreme hardship. She was 5 and it was a bit too much really!

More recently, when she was 7, she was reading a Jacqueline Wilson novel in bed one night. I’d already ‘vetted’ the book for boyfriend/girlfriend stuff, but had missed the fact that the girl’s mother was dying. DD was upset/worried as she was anticipating the mother’s death, so I flicked forward a few pages and discovered that the description of the mother’s death was very graphic (haemorrhaging blood and gasping etc) so I read to DD for a while and paraphrased that bit.

Of course, this book (I forget which one it was) was designed for older children, so I had nobody to blame but myself!

I do think it’s important for children to read sad stories and also learn about the realities of the world. They just need to be supported in it. DD has only recently got into reading Michael Morpurgo, whose books often contain sadness/hardship/war. She just wasn’t ready before, but now I can see how it deepens her understanding of the world. We also get a weekly children’s news magazine which means she has quite a good awareness, for someone her age, of what is happening.

kelper Mon 18-Feb-19 15:05:15

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume is incredibly sad, I bought it recently as an adult having read it age around 11, the same age as my DS is now, and there's no way its suitable for him at his stage of (im)maturity.

HalfBloodPrincess Mon 18-Feb-19 15:12:40

My dd was about 9/10 and couldn’t finish one of Michael morpugo books (think it was the butterfly lion) because it was so upsetting.
Whereas my ds at a not much older age read lord of the flies and loved it.

Confusedbeetle Mon 18-Feb-19 15:18:18

It is very important that children read books that provoke a variety of emotions and it is really important that parents are involved in the stories, the questions, and the emotions. It is not difficult to find age-appropriate books. They need to learn to cope with issues, to recognise their emotions and to deal with them. eg grief. This is the only way they will develop emotional intelligence and resilience. They need to know that it is ok to be sad sometimes and that adults get sad too. Anger is a subject that most toddlers and primary school children should talk through with parents. We do them no favours but protecting them from life

DawnMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 19-Feb-19 15:59:46

I feel the same as Confusedbeetle - that it's useful, important even, for children to explore the concepts of sadness and grief; whether that's before life has dealt them any major blows or as a way of coping with them, books can help with the conversation.

And actually, some children do enjoy them - is enjoy the right word? My DD, for one. Always loved Goodbye Mog (Judith Kerr), even though it made her (us!) cry. And we both wept buckets over Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons - probably read it when she was about 10. Heart-achingly sad, brilliant book.

Threewheeler1 Tue 19-Feb-19 16:14:14

When we were kids we used to spend the summer with my Nan. She had some old books, one was 2 stories in 1 volume called 'Little Megs Children' and 'Alone in London'. Old leather bound book, think I was about 10 when I read it. I've never forgotten it.
Absolutely heartbreaking story of orphans, Meg trying to care for her younger siblings in Victorian London.
I cried my eyes out. My Nan had a similar life in Brighton and used to tell us really sad stories.
I think it helps to develop empathy in young kids.
Also Watership Down, think I cried all the way through that sad

PsychoCrayon Tue 19-Feb-19 19:00:56

it is very important that children read books that provoke a variety of emotions and it is really important that parents are involved in the stories, the questions, and the emotions

I agree, but it’s equally important to make sure the books are suitable for that particular child emotionally too.

I come from a family of non readers but I spent all my spare time in the library. I was reading Jackie Collins and Virginia Andrews books at 9/10/11 which were largely unsuitable but had no one to police that. It’s because of this that I’ve vetted the children’s reading materials (and also the reason I’ve read the bloody twilight series 🙃) up until they were probably 13/14.

DialANumber Tue 26-Mar-19 21:37:55

I have really clear memories of reading books that upset me as a child, and I know I read many of them more than once - The Little Princess, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Goodnight Mr Tom etc. Apparently my Mum was very worried by my opting for distressing books but was advised by the librarian or teacher that she discussed it with to let me censor my own book diet.

I have been v cautious with my DD but she has read many Jacqueline Wilson and Roald Dahl books that I remember being worried by, without sharing the same emotions.

I think it's really important to explore what they like and don't like together and to respect their wishes too.

Contraceptionismyfriend Tue 26-Mar-19 23:32:41

The boy in the stripped Pyjamas.

letsgooutstiiiiiiide Wed 10-Apr-19 09:07:55

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes had me in tears regularly at that age.

Karlwho Tue 21-May-19 16:43:29

Six year old was hysterical reading The Ghost Next Door (finding out protagonist is a ghost, and her dead mum 'calling for her' from the afterlife). She's now eight, and the last book she read and got 'bothered by' was The Gods Lie.
I think it's a positive if a book evokes emotions like that. Shows kiddo understands what's going on. Emotional intelligence. It spurred questions that probably would not have come about if she hadn't read it.

JMarie1 Fri 24-May-19 11:25:14

I wondered if anyone could spare a few minutes to answer some questions as part of my Major Project for my MA in Publishing Media course.

The purpose of this questionnaire is to aid my research project in understanding the appropriate strategies and techniques when communicating with children who are facing challenging and difficult circumstances. This research will consequently aid the design and communication decisions of the book that I am creating, which will specifically target young children (5-7) coping with their parent/guardian facing breast cancer. In short - I am creating a children's book about breast cancer.

I understand that this is a difficult subject matter and would only advise individuals who are comfortable answering questions about this. It would be useful to gain any response of anyone with young children or have dealt with this kind of experience - don't feel like you have to be an expert (but if you know any please let me know!), it's just useful to understand other peoples perspectives in my research part of my project. Thank you! smile

The link is below for the google docs form:

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