Grief in children – resources

Grief in children: a handbook for adults

Atle Dyregrov
2nd edition, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London, 2008. ISBN 9781843106128

“Atle Dyregrov has written about children and death with a calm and clear voice”

Explaining death, grief and loss to children and young people can be incredibly challenging especially for grieving parents and carers. Even health professionals, emergency workers, police and teachers working with children find talking about death, grief and loss with kids hard.

This became clear to me when a nurse asked AWCH for information about how to talk to children in her own family about their parent’s serious illness. She wanted to talk with and prepare children at their level and in a supportive way. This was a critical time in their lives.

Grief in children: a handbook for adults, is an accessible book for parents, carers, family and professionals. It is for people who want to prepare, care for and support children living through grief, loss or trauma when someone is dying or has died. Circumstances covered vary from anticipated to sudden and traumatic death. 
Children and adolescents at different age levels have different understandings about death and grief. So how do we help children through their grief journey? 
Atle Dyregrov has written about children and death with a calm and clear voice. This is valuable in western culture where people often find it difficult to know how to talk about death. This book gives information about children and how they might think about death based on their age, sex and developmental stage. Useful examples have been drawn from family life experiences. In this second edition, more children’s voices are included with children’s questions and reactions. There is also more material on traumatic deaths. Atle Dyregrov has listened to what children have said about what is helpful and supportive.
To view contents link to the book, Grief in children: a handbook for adults. The chapter Guidelines for taking care of children’s needs, explores open and direct communication. There is information on death following an illness, making the loss real and giving time for understanding to grow. Children need information, adolescents may want to have websites to look at. 
The section Handling death in a playgroup and at school, is an inevitable situation for teachers and this book will help to do this well. Find help with mental preparation and planning before a death or other critical event occurs. Atle Dyregrov includes information on terminal illness of a child, although the general focus of the book is on sudden death.
This handbook overviews crisis or grief therapy for children and bereavement groups for children, caring for oneself and peer support.

Grief in children, draws on the author’s experience as a clinical psychologist, author and director of the Center for Crisis Psychology in Bergen, Norway.  His extensive experience and research underpins this book, yet the tone is informative and very readable. The case studies bring experience and understanding to the topic. Concerned adults will find a good overview and helpful information for what can be a hard task involving raw emotions.  
For children’s healthcare facilities valuing patient and family centered care, Grief in children will be a good addition to the bookshelf. It is also an accessible reference book for early childhood educators, teachers, school counselors, pastoral carers, libraries and families.
If you found this blog informative you might also like to read our blog G is for Grief and Grandma.

More information

Crisis support

Kidshelpline  Call 1800 55 1800

Hey teachers there’s also the Kids helpline @ School program
Lifeline  Call  13 11 14

Resources and links

Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement

Parent and carer information

Do you have a resource that has been helpful? We’d love to hear from you.

Jillian Rattray
AWCH librarian
AWCH Library

My friend has Down’s syndrome – review

Written by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos.
Illustrated by Marta Fabrega.
Lets talk series.
Book house, Brighton, UK, 2012

#Down syndrome, #WDSD17, #notspecialneeds #Child wellbeing, #Healthcare preparation, #Health literacy, #Play, #Recreational activities, #School children, #Social inclusion, #Therapeutic books for children
“Do you have a special friend? I do! Her name is Ella, and she’s my best friend”
“My friend has Down’s syndrome” is a bright children’s book with colourful illustrations and an upbeat approach. Written essentially for school children about peer friendships. “Do you have a special friend? I do! Her name is Ella, and she’s my best friend”.
Positive messages surround the setting of children at summer camp with activities and fun. At first there is reluctance to have a new group member, Ella, who has Down syndrome. The camp club leader, Miss Theresa, tells the children about Ella and there are concerns; however with information comes understanding.
The story is told through the eyes of one girl and Ella is her new buddy. The girls play together, learning and sharing and partnering in sports, arts and crafts; also the camp show. Ella teaches her enthusiastic buddy pottery skills. Both girls are unique and have things they love to do as well as strengths.
“Note to parents”, about the book’s purpose is at the back. Acceptance and acknowledgment of children with Down syndrome and eliminating existing barriers with peers is a focus. Another aim is promoting a better understanding of children with Down syndrome. Find information about health problems that may be experienced by some children with Down syndrome, as well as supportive interventions. 
Developing relationships, breaking down barriers and providing opportunities enables children to strive towards being the best they can be.
More information
Visit Down Syndrome Australia to find out more, including links to personal stories and videos to challenge thinking, there’s an Easy Read version.
Notes about healthcare 
Child-friendly Information and healthcare 
The book highlights children have information needs, information helps when coping with new situations and the instability of life. Going to hospital or even the doctors can be a disjointed interruption. Finding ways to make healthcare more normal and less stressful is essential.
When it comes to healthcare, children cope better when their information needs are met. For example, if having a procedure such as an x-ray, parents and healthcare professionals read books to children. Healthcare professionals, early childhood educators and teachers can link to factsheets, infographics, online resources such as Apps. 
Is the information child-friendly? One child-friendly App tested on children is Okee in medical imaging. Health literacy is important, what are the information needs of each child and how can he or she be prepared for a doctor’s or dentist visit or hospital? See related blogs Four ways parents can increase their protective role, Keeping kids needs in the picture, H is for healthcare preparation and the Paediatric nurse.
Jillian Rattray
AWCH librarian
* please email if you wish to borrow this book. 

The Internet is like a puddle – review

Five Mile Press, Victoria, 2014
ISBN 9781760064167

For children aged 3-6 yrs

A cautionary tale

Don’t let the wide-eyed animals in “The internet is like a puddle” lull you into thinking all is calm. Expect a serious message. There are loads of fun things to do and games to play on the internet. Look out for a crocodile with plenty of teeth idling in the puddle but don’t be deceived. This book will help adults communicate a cautionary approach to internet time and start conversations with young children about safe internet play.

The internet can be a bit tricky

There’s lots of games and splashing fun to be had in a puddle, the water may appear to be shallow but can be deep and mirky underneath. In this picture book koala is absorbed stepping out with his mobile phone, rabbit and bear are on a lap top, ipad or ‘device’, mouse looks on holding a red polka-dot ball. The first inkling of difficulty comes when frog jumps head first into the pond, the internet can be “a bit tricky”. 
The first inkling of difficulty comes when frog jumps head first into the pond

Child-friendly story about online safety

Young children in many Australian families may not ask “what’s the internet?” Going online is just part of daily life. This little gem of a book is going to be helpful for adults wanting to create awareness about internet safety from a child’s perspective. 
Shona Innes, the author, uses words like “deep’, ‘stuck’, ‘trouble’ and ‘tricky’. Awareness is raised about safety and chatting to strangers, also health and wellbeing. Bears eyes droop from playing too long.
Feelings and reactions are explored, the internet is fun to play with and because of this it can be hard to say ‘no’. This validates feelings children may have if they are asked to say ‘no’ to the chance to dip into the ‘internet puddle’. It might seem unfair when ‘everyone else gets to play’.

Role of a parent or carer

Big bear holds Little bears paw at the edge of a pond. Duck is happily floating in the “puddle”. Then something doesn’t look right, a large crocodile with lots of teeth and a menacing smile waits in the pond with an inflatable purple floaty ring. The message is clear, a safe person needs to be there to make sure children don’t go in too deep and if this happens, they know what to do next. Notes for parents and teachers about technology use, setting limits and being internet safe are at the back of the book. Shona Innes, is a qualified clinical and forensic psychologist.
This book has engaging illustrations with thoughtful text and provides a wonderful means for communicating with children in a child-friendly way. It is one of several books from the Big hug series featuring expressive and warm animal illustrations and sharing emotional challenges.

Please get in touch if you would like to read The Internet is like a puddle, You are like you or Worries are like clouds. I purchased copies from The Children’s Bookshop they can also be purchased online. Recommended retail price is $14.95.

Crocodile, Freshwater Station, Cairns

More on internet, cyber or online safety?

World issues: Staying safe online is a recent book for primary students, with plenty of photos and accessible text.  Parents can link to Australian Government’s Office of the Children’s eSafety Commission, for guidance and strategies in the home, including managing technology. The publication A parent’s guide to online safety is available 5 languages. Life Education, visits schools to empower children and young people to make safer and healthier resources through education. Parents can find out about how to start conversations with their children.
Your feedback is valuable. Do you have any children’s 
resources that have helped explain internet safety?

Jillian Rattray

AWCH librarian
November 2016

Who’s got a normal family? – review

By Belinda Nowell and illustrated by Miša Alexander
Little Steps Publishing, Glebe 2016.  ISBN 9781925117752.

“I read the book three times… it makes people feel okay about the type of family they have”, said one primary school reader


Who’s got a normal family?
‘Who’s got a normal family?’ a delegate at the recent ACWA* conference read out loud.  “Well whose family is normal?” she asked, laughing. It’s not hard to see why this recent Australian book caught the interest of many who came by our ACWA resource booth.

With two hats on, one friendly delegate working with children in out-of-home care, had also recently become a foster parent. She said how helpful this book would be for a sibling adjusting to a new family member.

Welcome to a new foster child
The story is about Alex, an easy going boy. It is news time at school, Alex is greeted with classroom cheers when he tells the children his new baby foster sister has arrived. That is all except one boy, Jimmy Martin, who has a “stomp in his step and upside-down smile”. He yells “babies are boring” and “she’s not your real sister”.

Alex is sad and asks his mum about “normal families” when he gets home from school. She pulls out his class photo and they talk about the families at school. Alex’s mum is a supportive adult presence who helps sort through Alex’s difficult emotions.

Different but unique 
This picture book entices readers with its character-filled illustrations. Each school child is introduced with their family. Alex is a foster child, Alir came to Australia for safety with his large family, Eva has a daddy but not a mummy, Henry has two dads, etc. With an upbeat tone, Alex chats about what makes each child and family unique. There’s a sense of fun and acceptance which makes this book enjoyable to read.

Something to share
Alex finds a way, with the help of his mum, to connect with Jimmy. He realises Jimmy is sad because his daddy doesn’t live with him anymore. Alex shares what he has just learned about “normal families” with Jimmy, as well as showing him his hidden blue-tongue lizard family and all ends well.
Who might like this book?

Families with infant school children, the book is aimed at children 5-7 years. Younger children and older independent readers may also find this book engaging and helpful.

More resources

  • Dhiiyaan is a beautiful reading App written and illustrated by Elaine Russell, for grandparent kinship carers to share with their kids.
  • Healthcare professionals may want to look at Out of homecare and healthcare pathways, by NSW Health.

You are like you and The Internet is like a puddle A Big Hug Book Series, recent Australian resources displayed at our ACWA* conference booth.

Have you found a children’s resource promoting child wellbeing to recommend? If so, please let us know.

 * Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) is the NSW non-government peak body representing the voice of community organisations working with vulnerable children, young people and their families.

Jillian Rattray


AWCH librarian

September 2016

Our Stripy Baby – review

Written by Gillian Shields and illustrated by Paula Metcalf
Macmillan children’s books, 2006. ISBN 1405022108.

Our stripy baby, written for young children, is essentially a story about embracing differences.

Get ready for a splash of colour and an imaginative tale about a family of made-up creatures with spots – the Moon family. There’s daddy Moon, mummy Moon, Zara Moon and soon to be born, baby Moon. Young readers are taken on a journey with this endearing family and Zara can’t wait for the arrival of the new baby. She tells friend Molly, “our baby will be just like your brother Max”.

“One, two, three, four”, there are now four family members but there is something wrong. Zara faces strong feelings of disappointment, sadness and even anger. Zara wants to know why baby Zack has stripes not spots. She wants to take him back.

Mummy Moon is reassuring, “He’s our baby”, and Daddy Moon affirms, “He’s got a lovely smile”. Zara is sad and cuddles Mummy Moon. Why is her brother different? At the park Zara thinks people might stare and so she doesn’t even want to play. Attempts to change Zack by wrapping him in a long spotty scarf lead to frustration. Mummy Moon and Daddy Moon explain he is beautiful. They don’t want to change Zack. He is just different.

“One, two, three, four”, there are now four happy people in the Moon family. The story finishes with reassurance and a new beginning. Zara discovers more about Zack and finds a way to show she’s sorry. She draws something that looks like Zack’s beautiful stripes – a rainbow.

I recently read Our stripy baby to a group of young children at story time, they clearly enjoyed the warm illustrations and comforting family theme. This picture book features an engaging mix of single and two page illustrations filled with colour, humour and gentle expression. Children found it fun to count with repetition “one, two, three, four” and look for the Moon family. Among the group were two children who didn’t have long to wait for a new baby in their families and so the child care teacher had much to chat about with the children afterwards.

Parenting children with health issues and special needs: essentials for raising happy, healthier kids – review

Condensed version. 2009.
By Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Lisa C. Greene

Just in case you have read too many parenting books and your interest factor has plummeted, this little book might spark your imagination and hand over some useful parenting tools.

What makes the difference here? Children with health issues or special needs are the focus and parenting tools described, go with what is already working in families. The authors talk about “consultant parents” and before you wonder if this is just an idea floating around, this approach comes from many years of hands-on experience and research.

The book encourages parents who find it challenging to know how to motivate their children to take medication or make positive health choices, such as when to fit in physical therapy. The “consultant parent” is not a “helicopter parent” or a “drill sergeant”. Read about ways to inspire children to make healthy choices and look after themselves. This approach focuses on family, building healthy relationships with “love” as the underpinning ingredient.

About the authors: Foster Cline is a well-known North American psychiatrist, physician, author and international speaker. Lisa Greene is a mother of two children with cystic fibrosis and a parent educator. She is raising her children with Love and logic parenting tools.

Families of children with cancer were given the book through the American Childhood Cancer Organization, Inland Northwest. This book is the condensed version of award-winning Parenting children with health issues, link to the web page for families. Resources, include video, audio and articles from the Blog. Topics span from parenting children of different ages, including teens, transition, school life, couples relationships and community. Special feature articles may capture an interest, Caring and compassion: the do’s and don’ts for giving and receiving support during hard times.

AWCH Library has a copy available for loan for people within Australia, please email your interest.

Jillian Rattray

Jessica’s box – review

Written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas.


New Frontier publishing. Cerebral Palsy Alliance edition, re-released 2013.


Paperback, ISBN 9781921928581

A book that takes you on a journey, ending with a child who smiles as she finds out about herself

This charming story book is all about Jessica and the friendships she hopes to make as she starts school and will spark the imagination of preschool and kindergarten children. Author and illustrator, Peter Carnavas, has captured some of the fearful feelings young children have when they begin in a new situation and as they find ways to adjust.

Jessica comes up with an idea, she takes a large brown box to school and over a few days we see what happens as children react to what is inside the box. Jessica thinks of different special things to put inside. At first it doesn’t turn out as Jessica would like leading to sadness and disappointment. Dejected Jessica plonks the box on her head only to find she has started a game of hide and seek with a new friend.

Written in a warm tone, Jessica’s family encourage her as she thinks of ideas and a cute little dog and bird accompany her. The supportive family are delighted when Jessica finds a new friend. Jessica is bright, creative and energetic and readers are taken to an imaginative childhood place.
Peter Carnavas’ illustrations really compliment the story. The bright water colours followed by sepia blues and greys, show both the energy and expression of being a child and the disappointment and sadness that can follow when friendships don’t form.

Altogether this is a book that takes you on a journey, ending with a child who smiles as she finds out about herself, learning she is the best thing to come out of the brown box.

An award winning Australian book and this edition was commissioned for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. The text is identical to the earlier editions, however the illustrations here show Jessica in a wheel chair, and so this will be useful for primary schools and kindergartens focusing on social inclusion.  A media release for the book describes why it is a good fit for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s school disability awareness program Just Like You!

This mini edition is small enough for children to hold whilst in school reading groups and there is a larger special hardcopy.

Jessica’s box is available for loan from the AWCH Library.

Jillian Rattray
AWCH librarian
October 2015

G is for Grief and Grandma


“MG”, a dear friend of mine died recently. She had been fighting illness for over eight years and before thinking that is long enough, the health professionals who got to know her, regarded her as a miracle person. There were times of bounce back and return to health.

Even in the ill stages my friend was not known for sitting back, she took herself to and from treatment at different times for many years, was dynamic, stylish, generous and energetic. She had a spirit of compassion, acceptance of others and was also gifted with the ability to care. Her language of love included cooking fresh food from scratch, recipes came from the top of her head along with the dishes that just kept coming. MG always had a beautiful home and used her green thumbs to create a lush garden. Dance was a lifelong passion and included teaching seniors. Over recent years she cherished time with her grandchildren and cared for one grandson from nine months old for several days a week. With a sparkle in her eyes and a song in her voice, MG loved a lot and left many better off with her presence.

It was not easy for MG to be cared for in the last few months, having spent most of her life giving to others. Yet even at the end, in her fragile state, she reached out to her grandson and they began a little dance by the hospital bed.  Hearing about this caught my breath away.

“Yet even at the end, in her fragile state, she reached out to her grandson and they began a little dance by the hospital bed”

For much of his three years, this little boy had known Grandma was sick and also that she went to hospital. Recently, he watched nurses asking Grandma questions such as “what’s your name, birthdate and is this your medication?” Visiting Grandma in hospital meant he was an expert observer of Grandma’s care. It was a poignant moment for his mother, when she was about to take some medicine and her three-year old asked, “where’s your bracelet, what’s your name and birthdate?” With these words, I’m taken to a childish place.
This little boy’s parents had communicated about Grandma’s sickness and then her death. There are many children who are not given this opportunity, through circumstances and by parent or carer choice.

Children approaching a medical or surgical procedure are cared for by adults who are trained and experienced in pediatrics, they are “child-friendly”. However, children visiting sick adults in hospital are in an adult world with strange circumstances, sights and sounds.  I wonder what children who face this experience think? Parents and carers are there to guide, comfort and help make sense of what is happening.

My friend MG and her grandson, had a unique way of observing life and death. Amidst the grief felt by families, children observe many things. I’ve learned that a child’s approach to death may catch adults by surprise and for at least a moment, take our breath away.


Jillian Rattray

AWCH librarian
August 2015

Photograph: thank you to the children who created dancing grandmother, grandson and the special happy tree.

Adventures of the little black trackas – review

Written by Merle Hall
Graphic design and illustrations by Gary Saunders
Neenann: Mill Park, VIC.

To celebrate NAIDOC week 2015, AWCH purchased Adventures of the little black trackas, we are celebrating by looking at a children’s resource which “studies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and crafts”. The resource is a collection of four books, “welcome in Bangerang” country poster and CD, created for children aged 1 to 8. The children’s books and CD teach Bangerang language words. Through these vibrant books children discover Bangerang culture and learn about habitat and environment.

The books can be read to individual children or within a class. With 15 suggested activities written on the back cover, children can be inspired to write or create their own artworks. Local Aboriginal words can be substituted for Bangerang language words for people from a different Nation/Clan area.

The four books are:

  • Adventures of the little black trackas: Yedabila (animals)
  • Adventures of the little black trackas: Wala yedabila (water animals)
  • Adventures of the little black trackas: Djunda (bird)
  • Adventures of the little black trackas: Bamanebala (insects)

Each book features a different child who takes readers on a tracking journey. The readers are asked questions, learning Bangerang words as they look closely at the animals, birds, insects and habitat. Each journey starts with an introduction by the narrator who is the little black tracka. Readers accompany the little black tracka and learn about habitat and Aboriginal culture. At the end of each story the focus is returned to the smiling face of the little black tracka and the shared experience.

Graphic design and illustrations are in bright and earthy tones, they are both expressive and wonderfully detailed. The glossy A4 pages and bold pictures make these books useful for classroom reading. The books meet “Victorian essential learning standards VELS level 1 and 2 (pre, grade 1 and 2)”.

Adventures of the little black trackas is available for loan from the AWCH library or can be purchased through the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, SNAIC distributes this resource on behalf of the Neenann family, publishers. SNAICC writes how the resource supports “the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia of Belonging, Being and Becoming”. Visit their website to find out about the cultural significance of Adventures of the little black trackas.

Jillian Rattray
AWCH librarian


NAIDOC week 2015

Indigo solves the pzulze – review

Written by Wendy Fitzgerald, Illustrated by Sophie Norsa
Little steps publishing, NSW 2012
ISBN 9781921928987 (hardcover)

A book with a message about a girl who finds out she has dyslexia. She wants to feel normal and to help other people who have dyslexia.”  By Josh, aged 11

Indigo solves the pzulze is a book splashed with vibrant hues, charming watercolour illustrations and the unfolding personal story of Indigo. Without any fuss, ten-year old Indigo describes a bit about herself. She loves acting, netball, horse riding, swimming, playing guitar and spending time with her family. The illustrations depict an energetic and creative girl and so it is interesting to read that although Indigo loves hearing stories she has trouble at school learning to read.

The book’s slightly higgledy-piggledy font matches reversed and jumbled letters of posters on the classroom walls, Indigo doesn’t know why letters jump out at her. Readers understand why reading is difficult for Indigo.  Life for Indigo at school was lonely and girls in her class taunted her. Illustrator Sophie Norsa has drawn these faceless girls in grey and as bystanders. Indigo becomes secretive, hiding her feelings and sitting by herself in the playground at lunchtime. Her sadness is expressed at home when she can’t stop crying.    Her mum says we’ll work this out together.

Here is a turning point. Indigo’s mum walks with her to school accompanied by a whole chorus of birds. A revelation is about to take place! Indigo has some tests and finds that her IQ shows she is clever but she has dyslexia. Indigo and her mum are relieved and now something can be done to help her read letters, numbers and words.

Primary school children and their parents reading Indigo solves the pzulze will learn about dyslexia. Many will relate to Indigo’s personal experience because they have had similar feelings of being isolated and bullied.

A note for parents and teachers at the beginning of the book speaks of the prevalence of dyslexia for children and particularly for girls. The difference between boys and girls behaviour is explained. Girls may try to cover up their reading difficulties which go unnoticed. Many parents may not realise their daughters are struggling and are not getting the help they need.

Indigo solves the pzulze is a book which promotes early support and assistance for children to improve literacy. This has far-reaching implications for people’s lives. Indigo, her mum and Dr Catriona Wallace want to make a difference so they launched the Indigo Express Fund. Purchasing this book will help the fundraising initiative.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can have trouble with reading and writing too. Indigo Express Fund works with the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, MultiLit and the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation. Find more about initiatives to improve children’s literacy through resource links at the back of the book.

Jillian Rattray
AWCH librarian
July 2015