Date of Award
Dr. Byron Eubanks
Dr. Amy Sonheim
Dr. Jeff Pounders
My love for children's books led me to begin exploring the subject of death within the literature. While searching for children's books that dealt with death as a primary of secondary theme, I realized how useful a guide to these books would be to parents, physicians, teachers and anyone working with a child facing some kind of death. It is hard for us to explain to children about death because it is hard to understand and accept, and we do not want to upset the children. Children's books that deal with death provide a means for opening the lines of communication between an adult and child about the subject. They also provide a useful tool for educating children about death before it confronts them. Therefore, a guide to children's literature on death would be very helpful to parents, teachers, physicians, chaplains and people who work with children.
Many of the books presented in this guide deal with a specific culture or ethnic group. I found this very interesting. Different cultures and ethnic groups have different attitudes about death. I grew up in Brazil, in a culture not so different from the American culture, but with very different attitudes about death. In Brazil, death is more accepted as part of the way of life. It is not hidden and separated from day-to-day life. It is my opinion that the American culture, in general, attempts to protect itself from the realities of death. So many people die in hospitals, surrounded by machines that attempt to defy death. When death comes it seems too artificial. We do everything we can to postpone death, which is not bad in and of itself, but there comes a point when death cannot be avoided. We have done away with the dignity of death. It is this attempt to protect ourselves from death that has caused so many children to not have the opportunity to be educated about death in a healthy way.
When I decided to create this guide, I did not want it to be merely a listing of all of the books I had found and read. I wanted it to provide useful information that would help whoever was using it to find the appropriate book for their particular situation. In order to do this, I created six broad categories by which to classify the books. Some of these categories are further broken down into sub-categories because of the breadth. I also decided to indicate the specific type of death that is discussed in each book. I decided to pinpoint the view of death that each book presents because there are so many religious beliefs and views on death in our society today. I wanted my guide to be applicable to a wide range of people and not limited to those of a certain persuasion. The way in which each book presents the subject of death is also provided, so that whoever is using the guide will have an idea of the book's content. The final aspect which I felt needed to be in the guide was the book's targeted ages of audience. All of these aspects were put into this guide of children's literature on death so users can carefully select books to fit their specific needs.
Collier, Jennifer M., "Death in Children's Literature: A User's Guide" (1999). Honors Theses. 101.