My son, like most kids, will go through a phase of wanting the same bedtime story every night for a week or two until you manage to distract him with a new favourite. I was trying to distract him after only a few nights with this one because every time the sad little koala goes back to her mummy and gets that hug, I have to blink and swallow. Motherhood. It screws up your hormones.
Ok, I'll be honest. This didn't make me cry. But I have friends who bawled their way through it, so I'm including it on the list because again, it speaks a truth about parenthood that resonates with people. Children come to us with no expectations about their own lives, but we have all these dreams for their future that are ultimately tied up in one: we want them to experience life.
This is the one that made everyone cry at Emma's first birthday party on Friends. Happy tears, of course. Because there's something about unconditional love that is so beautiful we can't help but feel overwhelmed by it. When you're holding your own tiny, trusting little person that brings you joy and pain and hope all in one, books like this only repeat a truth that you - and every generation before you - already knew.
The good thing about children's books that deal with loss is that it's pretty obvious as soon as you pick the book up what's going to happen. There's no being shocked by a horrible death halfway through, because that's just cruel to do to a small child. That said, you can still get a lump in your throat from reading them. This one is about a little boy who is remembering the good times he had with his rabbit. Most of us who have had a pet will also have lost a pet (assuming you're a grown-up reading this) and its hard not to read a story like this without thinking of that special buddy. *sniff*
Ok, this was written for a pretty specific purpose and I'm not recommending you read it to your child unless they're actually going through something very similar. But as an adult, skimming through books in the library, I was silly enough to open this and read through the pages. Then I was that weirdo in the children's section of the library quietly sobbing to herself. Mostly because the thought of my children having to grow up missing me and putting flowers on my grave is just too much. That said, if your child has lost their other parent and you just want to be able to cry together, go for it. Or if you're wanting to use this in a classroom with high school kids to talk about Point of View and how books are used to relate human emotions, have fun trying not to tear up in front of your class.
We're out of the "make you bawl" territory and into the "give you a warm fuzzy feeling" zone now. This is a sweet little story about two brothers who are very different but who love each other as family all the same. It's really about finding your place in the world, and learning that there are people who will accept you and celebrate you for who you are.
Much like Here in the Garden, I think this is a story for animal lovers more than anyone else. It's bittersweet, and probably hit me extra hard because we had to rehome one of our two dogs and it feels like we split up best friends. Even sad kids' books have a happy ending or moral to the story, and this is certainly no exception, but it's exactly that happy ending that gives the preceding story more of a sad feel.
I moved to a different continent when I was five, so I was never as close to my grandparents as some. It's only much more recently that I've come to appreciate the elderly and begun to take the time to listen to all they have to say about life. I'm a sucker for stories about cross-generational friendships like this one (and mine). There needs to be more kids in the world like Wilfrid.
The rest of the books on this list were published before I was born, but they've had a big enough impact on the world that people are reading them generations later. This one is beautiful. It's a story for adults more than children, reminding us that we are the ones that make happiness more complicated than it needs to be, and perhaps destroy good things in the process. It's a lesson in gratitude; one I think we could all stand to learn again and again.
This always used to be a fun rhyme to me and nothing more. Nice lessons, sure, but emotional? Nah. Then I had a little person to read it to, and suddenly it was giving me shivers. "Be sure where you step, step with great care & great tact and remember that life's a great balancing act."
I toyed with putting this in "friendship" but what gets me about this story isn't Dave and his toy dog. That's a beautiful attachment, of course, but everything about this book is predictable. Oh, it's a story about a kid and his favourite toy? I bet he loses the toy. Oh, his family are off to the fair? I bet they'll find it there. Oh, he's gone to find more money? I bet some other kid will buy it before he gets back. Nothing new. Maybe it was new to its very first audience. Anyway, I count it as "bringing the feels" because of the big sister. There's nothing more special than watching someone you birthed and raised show genuine compassion and love for another person. This is a book that any kid with a favourite toy, any adult who once had a favourite toy, or any parent of a kid with a favourite toy can relate to. But if you're a parent of two or more, it might make you extra misty-eyed.
Do you have a favourite children's book that makes you cry, or shiver, or leaves you feeling warm and happy? Share it in the comments below!