Little Nippers Top 10
by Michelle Berg
Four years ago my father died on his 60th birthday after a long battle with cancer. I have two children who, although were young, were very close to their grandfather and had many questions about his death. My oldest was 4. Unfortunately, she understood exactly what death meant since two other family members died shortly prior to my father’s passing. Her questions were in regards to Cancer; what it was and how people got it. My son, who had just turned 2, wanted to know where my father had gone. Every time we walked into his house to visit Grandma, he’d walk up stairs calling for his Papa. During this time, a very kind person gave me a children’s book to read to my kids. The story helped me answer many of their questions when I was incapable of doing so on my own. With the anniversary of my father’s death approaching, I wanted to help other families in similar situations. To all of those who have had to endure the loss of a loved one and have struggled to explain it to their children, may the following books provide support and comfort.
10. The Paper Chain
Written by Claire Blake, Eliza Blanchard and Kathy Parkinson.
Illustrated by Kathy Parkinson. Ages 4-8.
When two boys discover that their mother is ill and in need of surgery, they make a paper chain with 2 links for each day she’d be gone, one for each of them to tear off at night. When she arrived home they noticed her changed a bit; she was tired, became sick very often and couldn’t play as much as she used to. This book is a very realistic account of the issues families deal with when faced with cancer. It is offers insight, understanding, and hope.9. When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness
Written by Marge Heegaard.
Illustrated by readers. Ages 6-12.
Designed for children ages 6-12, this workbook invites children (with adult supervision) to illustrate and identify the emotions that can occur when a family member is seriously ill. It discusses change, the anatomy of an illness and the stages of grief. This book empowers children by openly discussing their feelings and provides therapeutic coping skills.
8. The Rainbow Feelings of Cancer
Written by Carrie Martin and Chia Martin.7. Becky and the Worry Cup
Illustrated by Carrie Martin. Ages 9-12.
This mother/daughter team highlights the art and emotions of a 10 year old when faced with her Mom’s Cancer diagnosis. Carrie’s emotions, although only 10 years of age, mirrored my own as an adult dealing with the same illness; feelings of helplessness and anger; feeling sometimes strong and sometimes scared and feeling happy and sad at the same time. This tenderly moving book will reassure people of all ages that their feelings are natural.
Written by Wendy S. Harpham, M.D.6. The Hope Tree
Illustrated by Jonas Kulikauskas. Ages 9-12.
Becky and the Worry Cup is a short chapter book about a young girl whose life changes dramatically when her mother is diagnosed with cancer. This great story gives a gripping portrayal of family life after a cancer diagnosis but most of all is full of therapeutic advice. In addition to the concept of a “worry cup” (an exercise to voice concerns and letting go of worries) Dr. Wendy Harpham also illustrates techniques for managing anger and visualize healing. I’d recommend this to any parent struggling to help their children cope with any serious illness of a loved one.
Written by Laura Numeroff and Wendy S. Harpham, M.D.5. Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-Tankerous Mommy
Illustrated by David McPhail. Ages 4-8.
An imaginary support group of animals whose Mom’s all have breast cancer have put together this “scrapbook” of their own personal stories. Drawn from real accounts about mothers with cancer, the authors have done a great job creating a picture book about this very difficult subject while crafting a story that is sure to be a comfort to many children in similar situations. The characters, all between the ages of 5-12 discuss many key topics and questions such as What is Cancer? and Can I catch it? The answers to these questions, along with other fundamental issues, are explained with simple, kid-friendly concepts.
Written by Amelia Frahm.4. Nana, What’s Cancer?
Illustrated by Elizabeth Schultz. Ages 4-8.
A frank story about a family living with cancer and all the moodiness it can cause. Tabitha, her brother and even their cat Albert all witness the doctors’ prediction that Mommy may get cantankerous! Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-Tankerous Mommy epitomizes touchy issues that can occur between Mommy, Daddy and children with humorous poignancy, proving yet again, that humor is the best medicine.
Written by Beverlye Hyman Fead and Tessa Mae Hamermesh.3. What’s Heaven?
Illustrated by Shennen Bersani. Ages 4-8.
Artist, Author and Stage IV Cancer survivor Beverlye Hyman Fead has teamed up with her 11 year old granddaughter in this book to discuss many common questions about cancer. Through their heartfelt conversation, readers (children and adults) will gain a better understanding of cancer. This powerful book will not only alleviate some of the fears associated with the illness but act as a guide to many productive conversations of your own.
Written by Maria Shriver.2. Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile
Illustrated by Sandra Speidel. Ages 4-8.
This book, inspired by questions her own children asked after the death of her grandmother Rose Kennedy, is beautifully written and answers many common questions that children have. Such as “What is heaven like?” “If heaven’s in the sky, then how come I can’t see it?” Shriver offers very simple, straight forward answers to these questions. She describes heaven as “a beautiful place up in the sky, where no one is sick…” She writes that “heaven isn’t a place you can see. It’s somewhere you believe in.” She also mentions that “Some people believe in different kinds of heaven and have different names for it.” This story is wordy and may seem a bit long for young children. However, I still recommend this book to any parent dealing with the loss of a loved one. If you find it’s too long for your family, use it as a guide for yourself.
Written by Julie Kaplow, PH.D. and Donna Pincus PH.D.1. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
Illustrated by Beth Spiegel. Ages 4-8.
Samantha Jane is a young girl who recently lost her Dad. She’s very sad and never smiles. However, through the guidance of her neighbor Mrs. Cooper, Samantha is able to cope with her grief and learn to move on. This book ends with a note to parents by Dr. Jane Annunziata discussing the stages of grief for children, the role of the surviving parent and various coping techniques.
Written by Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D.Michelle Berg is a publisher and author for Little Nipper Books. Please visit her website: www.littlenipperbooks.com
Photographs by a variety of photographers. Ages 4-8.
This wonderfully warm story explains life, death and the human experience through the eyes of Freddie the Leaf. Freddie has a wonderful life. From high on his branch of a tall tree, he watches children play in his shade; birds come to sit and sing morning songs and he is warmed by the sun. But seasons change and so does Freddie. With this change he has many questions. He wonders why each leaf on the same tree seems to be different, why the seasons have to change and finally why he exists at all if he is only going to fall and die. The answers to these questions are inspiring and wise. “It’s been about happy time’s together.” writes the author. “It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in the Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?” The Fall of Freddie the Leaf is a simple story that children can relate to and adults will find it profoundly moving.