Monthly Book Club: Dinosaurs Discuss Death

It’s time for another book feature! This month I’m sharing with you one of my favorite books on death and dying. Now, you may be thinking, “whoa there, who wants to read about dying”? I think that’s a great question and my answer is that everyone should read about it at least one, if not more.

The reality is that at some point, everyone is going to experience losing someone they love and care about. The feeling of loss is not something that you can not fully plan for or automatically fix. What’s even harder is when you have a child who is experiencing loss, for many people have said to me, “How do I support this child?”

As always, I am a huge fan of using play to dialogue, but there are also a great many books that are able to help begin a conversation at the child’s level. One of these books is called When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown. (Brownie points if you recognize the second author’s name. If not, you might notice the illustrations in the book look very similar to children’s character named Arthur). You should be able to find this book at your local library or book store.

I really like this book because it discusses many different aspects of death and dying. A word of caution though, I highly recommend that you read through the book at least once before you read it with a child. The book not only talks about general ideas of death, but it also highlights the different ways people die, including drug overdose and suicide. The book also notes different ways that cultures and religions remember those who have died, which I really like because it creates a chance to dialogue about different beliefs.

You can also use this book in many different ways. If the child is older, you can read the whole book with them, stopping at times during the story to ask questions if you wish. If the child is younger, you don’t have to read all the words, just pull out the sentences you want them to hear and focus on the pictures, asking the child what they think is happening and the characters are feeling. You can also skip pages if you feel a certain topic doesn’t need to be focused on at that moment.

Finally, I really like that there is a glossary in the back. There are quite a few words that are in the book or that a child may hear during the grieving process. Having the glossary helps adults explain those words in an age-appropriate way.

One last note from a developmental perspective. When discussing with a child that a person has died, it’s very important to say the word “die”, “dead” or “death” instead of others words we often use to soften the situation such as “passed on”, “passed away”, “gone”, etc. The reason is because children are often very literal and if you say something like someone is “gone” the child might think that the individual in question is going to come back.

Book Snapshot

Title: When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death

Author: Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown

Subjects: Death, Dying, Patients, Feelings, Loss, Grief

Ages: 5-15

Therapeutic Value:
Emotional Development

Questions to ask while reading:
How do you think people feel when someone they loves dies?
What does it mean to be alive?
What does it mean to be dead?
What happens after you die?
What are things you can do when you feel sad or miss someone who has died?

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