Receiving a cancer diagnosis is challenging at any age, but for children in particular, it can be hard to grasp just what’s happening.
HuffPost Parents turned to Mary Costello, a former third grade teacher and the mind behind the super-useful Instagram account @childrenslitlove, to recommend books that will help kids understand their own or a loved one’s illness.
Here are Costello’s picks for books that’ll help your child cope with a cancer diagnosis.
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“Cancer Hates Kisses”
Author Jessica Reid Sliwerski was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the birth of her daughter. Her book, “Cancer Hates Kisses,” is told from the perspective of a child whose mom is battling cancer. Also, check out “A Note from a Cancer Specialist” within the book for tips about talking to young kids about a parent’s diagnosis.
“You Are The Best Medicine”
Julie Aigner Clark wrote “You Are the Best Medicine” following her own journey. The story connects the ways that her child cared for and nurtured her through her treatments with how mothers care for and nurture their children through the early years of life.
“Hair For Mama”
Told from the perspective of an 8-year-old boy whose mom has cancer, Kelly A. Tinkham’s book “Hair for Mama” is based on a conversation she had with her own son, who wanted to give her his hair when hers started to fall out during chemotherapy.
“Our Dad Is Getting Better”
A companion book to “Our Mom Is Getting Better,” “Our Dad Is Getting Better” is written and illustrated by three children ― Alex, Emily and Anna Rose Silver ― about their father’s experience recovering from cancer treatments. This book looks at the recovery that’s needed even after chemo, and bonus, it’s written about a dad, which can be hard to find.
“The Hope Tree: Kids Talk About Breast Cancer”
“The Hope Tree” ― about a fictional support group for animals whose mothers have cancer ― addresses common cancer experiences, worries and coping mechanisms.
“Butterfly Kisses And Wishes On Wings”
“Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings,” by Ellen McVicker, gives a thorough but child-friendly explanation of what cancer is. It also addresses common questions children might have.
“The Year My Mother Was Bald”
“The Year My Mother Was Bald” is great for older kids who want to understand cancer from a scientific standpoint. Author Ann Speltz includes a long list of resources that might help families during their cancer journey.
“And Still They Bloom: A Family’s Journey Of Loss And Healing”
Author Amy Rovere lost her own mother to cancer when she was 9; now she works for the American Cancer Society. “And Still They Bloom” is a longer picture book that tells the story of two children who are grieving the loss of their mother in very different ways.
“The Invisible String”
Though not about cancer, “The Invisible String” is an excellent book for children to read with their loved ones at a time when life is changing, the future seems uncertain and scary, and someone they love is very, very sick. The message of Patrice Karst’s book is powerful: No matter what, you’re always connected to your loved ones.
And as a bonus, here are a few other activity books and guides for kids:
“Because… Someone I Love Has Cancer,” by the American Cancer Society, is part journal, part activity book for kids whose loved one has cancer.
“When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness: Children Can Learn to Cope with Loss and Change,” by Marge Heegaard, is a workbook and journal that will help kids process the changes in their lives when a loved one has an illness.
“Cancer Party! Explain Cancer, Chemo, and Radiation to Kids in a Totally Non-Scary Way” was written as a guide by Sara Olsher based on her own conversations sharing her cancer diagnosis with her 6-year-old daughter.