Episode 4: Death in Children’s Literature

In this episode we discuss the omnipresence of death in children’s books… trying to keep it merry and cheerful!

You can download the episode (30 mins) by clicking

1. HERE     
, or by subscribing to our iTunes feed, or you can listen to it online by playing it in the sidebar. So many options!

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • The books that claim to ‘teach’ children about death
  • The books that claim that death is somehow restorative… for the living!
  • The books that are just completely obsessed with death and therefore meant for teenagers.
  • The books that present death in such an emotional way that Lauren cries even though they’re bad.
  • The books about suicide that Clementine doesn’t approve of.
  • The funny books about death.
  • The truth about life, death and the mysteries of the afterlife inside and outside children’s literature. Maybe.

Thank you so much for listening and let us know what you think, or any comments or suggestions, either here in the comments or at kidyounotpodcast@gmail.com

To assist you in your long and strenuous journey in the land of the dead, here are the covers of some of the books discussed! You can always find all of them on the Page Of All Books.

7 thoughts on “Episode 4: Death in Children’s Literature

  1. About the difference between children’s and adults’ literature – “meaningful death” -, I have some examples which were actually quite traumatic for me when I was young, because the books dealt with the lack of meaning of death.

    The first is The Scar, by Bruce Lowery, where the hero is a lonely child which ends up accidentally killing his brother who was the only person truly loving him ; he’s not discovered, and ends up living an awful guilty life.
    The other one is in the Tales by Oscar Wilde, which are full of meaningless deaths : the nightingale, who sacrificies himself in order to create a beautiful rose for a young philosopher to offer the girl he loves, who ends up throwing it on the road with disdain. There is also the tale about young Hans (“The faithul friend”, I think), whose death has no transformative value at all. It is just a very cruel and ironic way to show the hypocrisy and shallowness of humans.

    And although I read a lot of books about death when I was a child, these stories are the ones that stuck with me, because I felt death was actually dealt with as it is : a meaningless accident, which is sometimes very idiotic, and which offers no comfort whatsoever.

    • Oh wow The Scar is one of the most traumatic books ever!! that’s true, it’s a pretty meaningless death. As for Wilde, I’m more ambiguous as to the audience, but it’s debatable.

      A few Robert Cormier novels have fairly meaningless deaths too. Definitely not mainstream! beautiful books.

      • Yes, it is true that Wilde’s Tales have content which is very obviously directed at adults – or children’s who are knowledgeable on Plato, classical philosophy and theology… But, they were written for children, were they not? Especially Wilde’s own kids.

  2. I enjoyed listening to the discussion. It provoked many thoughts as I lost my baby boy last year. I have 2 older children who had to go through grief. I read some books to help them to talk about their brother, but it’s still very hard. I think it’s important to reflect feelings in a realistic way in literature. I started writing a blog (billybuuz.blogspot.com) after my baby passed away and now writing a non-fiction book hoping to help people in a similar situation. Anyone is welcome to use my blog in their writing or work. I’m glad you started this discussion as there is definitely a gap in literature for kids talking about death especially for younger kids. Good luck with your podcasting. It’s a great idea.

  3. Thank you very much for your comment. I am very sorry to hear about your loss, and humbled that our episode was helpful to you. You are right, younger readers get less material of this kind than older ones, and literature, as we discussed at the end of the episode, can be of great help to children in these circumstances.

    Good luck with your own blog and thanks again for your feedback

  4. I’m currently studying childrens literature, and your podcast was very helpful!
    You mentioned two ‘supernatural’ books, Harry Potter and Twilight. As a HP fan and a Twilight hater, i might be a bit biased, but here’s my opinion anyway.
    I think the fundamental difference between HP and Twilight in regards to death is that in Harry Potter, death is not seen as something to be avoided and feared. Voldemort strives for immortality, and that is really what makes him weak, that he cannot accept death, and he’s actually frightened of it. Whereas Harry wasn’t overly afraid to die. he didn’t know he was going to come back, but he went. Death is something to accept, when the time comes, like the third brother in the tale who ‘greeted death like an old friend’.
    This is the opposite of Twilight, in which death can be ‘avoided’, by becoming ‘immortal’ as a vampire. I personally think this is very unhelpful for teenagers to read, as it is totally unrealistic.
    However, it’s good to compare books like these, and as they are for older readers, by these point readers will have the congitive ability to look at and question these thoughts on death.

  5. Thank you for your comment Lydia! As a fellow HP fan and a fellow disliker of Twilight (let’s say it this way ;)) I couldn’t agree more. Twilight, as we said in the episode, is an ode to living forever. Harry Potter, on the contrary, always deals with the eventuality of death. Lauren’s remark that Harry Potter’s relationship to death is very Christian is important, though, I think – once again, death is infused with spiritual meaning.

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