The Tunnel

After something bad happens, a boy feels sad and gray. Mom and Aunt Cheryl try to talk about it, but he feels like running away. So he picks up a shovel and starts digging a tunnel from his room, deep down and into the backyard. Out there, far from the lights of the house, it’s dark enough that he could disappear. But the quiet distance also gives him the space he needs to see his family’s love and start returning home. As he heads back, the journey upward is different. He notices familiar details and tunes into his senses. The tunnel isn’t so scary this time. The boy emerges into his room just as Mom peeks in. When she notices a twig in his hair, he is ready to talk about the tunnel and finds warmth in her gentle acknowledgment: “You came back.”s, love, connection, and slow healing, and are full of details that offer a glimpse into the lives of substantial and relatable characters”–

Soul Lanterns

Twelve-year-old Nozomi lives in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. She wasn’t even born when the bombing of Hiroshima took place. Every year Nozomi joins her family at the lantern-floating ceremony to honor those lost in the bombing. People write the names of their deceased loved ones along with messages of peace, on paper lanterns and set them afloat on the river. This year Nozomi realizes that her mother always releases one lantern with no name. She begins to ask questions, and when complicated stories of loss and loneliness unfold, Nozomi and her friends come up with a creative way to share their loved ones’ experiences. By opening people’s eyes to the struggles they all keep hidden, the project teaches the entire community new ways to show compassion.

Almond: A Novel

Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother provide him with a safe and content life. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful Post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say “thank you,” and when to laugh.

Vicious Spirits

After the events of Wicked Fox, Somin is ready to help her friends pick up the pieces of their broken lives and heal. But Jihoon is still grieving the loss of his grandmother, and Miyoung is distant as she grieves over her mother’s death and learns to live without her fox bead. The only one who seems ready to move forward is their not-so-favorite dokkaebi, Junu.

A Stopwatch From Grampa

Loretta Garbutt uses subtlety and sensitivity to explore the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in this moving picture book story of loss. It features a gender-neutral main character (no first name or pronouns are given) making the story universally relatable. This is a perfect choice for fostering discussions with children about their emotions, particularly the feeling of loss. It also offers a poignant representation of an intergenerational relationship between a grandfather and grandchild. Carmen Mok’s expressive and thoughtful illustrations employ a limited color palette to convey the character’s emotional trajectory. There are curriculum applications here in social-emotional development as well as character education lessons in caring and resilience.

With A Star In My Hand: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero

A novel in verse about the life and work of Ruben Dario, a Nicaraguan poet who started life as an abandoned child and grew to become the father of a new literary movement. Includes historical notes.

The Color Of The Sun

One hot summer morning, only weeks after his father’s death, Davie steps out his front door into the familiar streets of the Tyneside town that has always been his home. But this seemingly ordinary day takes on an air of mystery and tragedy as the residents learn that a boy has been killed. Despite the threat of a murderer on the loose, Davie turns away from the gossip and sets off toward the sunlit hill above town, where the real and imaginary worlds begin to blur around him. As he winds his way up the hillside, Davie sees things that seem impossible but feel utterly right, that renew his wonder and instill him with hope. Full of the intense excitement of growing up, David Almond’s tale leaves both the reader and Davie astonished at the world and eager to explore it. Award-winning author David Almond pens the dreamlike tale of a boy rediscovering joy and beauty within and around him, even amid sorrow.

Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist

A dark, powerful and moving short story from the internationally acclaimed author of Skellig. Joe Quinn tells everyone about the poltergeist in his house, but no one believes him. No one that is, except for Davey. He’s felt the inexplicable presence in the rooms, he’s seen random objects fly through the air. And there’s something else, a memory of his beloved sister, and a feeling deep down that somehow it might be possible for ghosts to exist.