Books to Help with Bad News

By Lee Littlewood

June 17, 2016 5 min read

Lately it seems like everywhere we turn there's more bad news. Even if kids don't see the news on TV, they can be affected by hardships and internalize their parents' stress. These books can help children cope with sadness, all the while learning a little about topics like environmental sustainability and healthy eating.

"Ida, Always" by Caron Levis; illustrations by Charles Santoso; Simon & Schuster; 40 pages; $18.

Kids may have heard recent news stories of animal woes at the Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio, where a rare gorilla was killed. "Ida, Always," inspired by the true story of Central Park Zoo polar bears Ida and Gus, is a moving story about how to deal with loss.

Big-hearted Gus plays with a ball and has fun with Ida every chance he can get. One day, the zookeeper comes to tell Gus that Ida is sick and won't get better, but that she isn't hurting. Gus and Ida face the news with whispers, sniffles, giggles and cuddles. They continue to play together, just more gently. Eventually Ida starts sleeping a lot, and finally she is gone. But she lives on in Gus' mind and heart forever.

Caron Levis has crafted a graceful, beautiful story about how to deal with loss. But it's also about how to care for the dying and ensure that their day-to-day life is as close to normal as possible. Charles Santoso's hopeful depiction of Ida as a bear-shaped cloud in the sky (after her passing) is a lovely touch, as are all his sweet pages. Levis and Santoso hope "Ida, Always" helps families broach the difficult topic of death, which is always a mystery to kids.

"What a Beautiful Morning" by Arthur A. Levine; illustrated by Katie Kath; Running Press; 40 pages; $16.95.

If families have a loved one who is suffering from dementia, children will enjoy this touching story of a boy who learns to enjoy his grandfather's fun personality despite his memory loss. Grandpa sometimes forgets how to splash through puddles and walk the dog. Grandma helps him remember things and get through everyday activities as best she can, but Noah discovers it's still possible to make many beautiful memories with him.

While they spending time together, Noah sees flickers of the old Grandpa shine through. Thanks to Arthur A. Levine's hopeful, matter-of-fact writing style, Grandpa's memory loss doesn't seem like a big deal. Katie Kath's shining watercolors remind readers that even with challenges, life can still be colorful and happy.

"Green City" by Allan Drummond; Farrar, Straus Giroux; 34 pages; $18.

Kids may become worried and scared when they hear about storms and climate change. Allan Drummond knows how to cheer them up: with a picture book depicting hopeful, real solutions to dangerous situations.

"Green City" is the true story of the tornado that destroyed the town of Greensburg, Kansas, in 2007. When the residents decided to rebuild the town after the storm, they committed to build it as green as possible — with sustainable houses, silos and buildings that would not only be stronger to survive another storm but also have less impact on the environment. A wind farm was built to power the community; banks were built to be as eco-friendly as possible; and Kiowa County Unified School District was designed to lead the way in green school design, offering sustainable buildings and making a huge impact on students.

This inspiring story also comes with an author's note, tips for going green and other helpful ideas. "Green City" is indeed, as the subtitle says, a story of "How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future."

"On the Farm, At the Market" by G. Brian Karas; Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Co.; 38 pages; $18.

In order for kids to eat healthier they need to know where their food comes from — besides grocery stores. G. Brian Karas' fun book gives a behind-the scenes look at a farmers market. The story follows vegetable farmers, a cheese maker and a mushroom grower and explains the work they do to prepare for a day at the market. The second half of the book showcases a day at a fun farmers market, where vendors set up booths to sell their products. At the market are exciting things, such as a live fiddling band, hot chocolate, pie and ice cream.

Karas, whose friendly illustrations always incite smiles, ends the book with a note about how hard farmers work and how they take great care to offer the freshest food. He also offers this invaluable tip: "Anyone who thinks farming is a simple job should talk to a farmer — and then say, 'thank you!'"

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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