Ten children’s books that are too sad to read out loud (properly)

Here’s a list of books we think are a real challenge to get all the way through in one piece, especially with an audience. We dare you to read them out loud. Bonus points if you read them to a child all the way through without getting the puzzled “what’s up with the adult?” stare.

(helpfully supplied by some central library storytime readers and other picture book enthusiasts)

  1. The Big Ugly Monster and The Little Stone Rabbit, Chris Wormell – a story of feeling lonely, the need for friendship, and death (in general, rather than “the need for”). The monster is so ugly that nothing can stand him; ponds evaporate, and the stone statues he creates to keep him company shatter… except for the little stone rabbit.
  2. The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein – the tree gives, well, basically everything. Incidentally, don’t be put off by the author photo (he looks like Mr T).
  3. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, Michael Rosen with illustrations by Quentin Blake – yes it is very sad. The product description says: “What makes Michael Rosen most sad is thinking about his son, Eddie, who died.”
  4. Always and Forever, Alan Durant – on the subject of grief, Fox dies very early in the piece, leaving his friends bereft until they rally and find ways to honour his memory.
  5. Badger’s Parting Gifts, Susan Varley – similar to Always and Forever. “So cute it makes your teeth ache” says one library staff member.
  6. Duck, Death and The Tulip, Wulf Erlbruch – first published in German. Duck befriends Death, but is this a good idea really? Vielleicht nicht.
  7. Love You Forever, Robert Munsch – as time passes family roles are reversed.
  8. Goodbye Mog, Judith Kerr – sad perhaps because people have invested a lot of time in the Mog stories. It’s like losing a pet. The forgetfulness is maybe a forewarning.
  9. The Selfish Giant, Oscar Wilde (in Fairy tales of Oscar Wilde) – as far as children’s stories go, Oscar Wilde knew how to make em wistful. Here the titular giant learns a lesson the Giving Tree could have taught him – selflessness is what makes the flowers grow.
  10. The Happy Prince, Oscar Wilde (here illustrated by Jane Ray) – one of the biggest tearjerkers like ever. The Giving Tree’s big brother, this one might well be.

3 thoughts on “Ten children’s books that are too sad to read out loud (properly)”

  1. Fly away home by Eve Bunting. About a boy and his dad, who are homeless and live in an airport, moving from terminal to terminal.

  2. @PrissieW said “Thinking @wcl_library could add ‘Dogger’ by Shirley Hughes to the ‘too sad’ list #tearsatbedtime” via Twitter

    We have this picture book available in our libraries too, check out http://bit.ly/aldiqo

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