Kids can have questions after something horrible or tragic happens. And those answers don’t always come easily.

Our staff have compiled a list of books that may help provide answers and even comfort after tragedy. They include titles designed for kids, teens, and even adults. That having been said, a book – no matter how good – is no substitute for professional help. If you or a loved one is searching for help with their mental health after a traumatic event, reach out to a healthcare provider.

Picture Books 

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld 

When something sad happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to act, and one by one they fail to offer comfort. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen . . . which is just what Taylor needs.

After the Fall by Dan Santat 

Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after? Will he summon the courage to face his fear? Carrying on after a scary event can be difficult. A lesson in resiliency.

A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret Holmes 

Sherman Smith saw the most terrible thing happen. At first he tried to forget about it, but soon something inside him started to bother him. He felt nervous for no reason. Sometimes his stomach hurt. He had bad dreams. And he started to feel angry and do mean things, which got him in trouble. Then he met Ms. Maple, who helped him talk about the terrible thing that he had tried to forget. Now Sherman is feeling much better.

Staying Safe at School by Thomas Troupe

How do I stay safe at school? Fire drills, tornado drills, lockdowns … School bus safety, playground rules, lunchroom do’s and don’ts … Staying Safe at School defines the many ways school communities keep their members safe.

There Was a Hole by Adam Lehrhaupt 

Lily has a hole. It eats her joy, makes her angry, and–no matter what Daddy does to try to help–it just keeps growing. So Lily retreats. But a friend lets her in on a secret (he has a hole too!) and shows her the best way to repair holes: spend time on friends, family, the things you love, yourself, and kindness. Those patches don’t make the hole go away, but they help.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers 

While not specifically about violence, this book examines the difficulties we face after losing an adult who is important to us. We can close ourselves off, act out, and push others away. And it can be hard to open yourself back up.

I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared by Julia Cook 

For those who are familiar with ALICE training, the active shooter preparedness educational program, this book takes the concepts of the program and makes them applicable to children.

Middle Grade (Grades 3 – 6)

The Lost Things Club by J. S. Puller 

In the aftermath of a school shooting that killed an elementary student, TJ, a kindergarten survivor with post-traumatic stress disorder, seeks out companionship and finds support in an unlikely place. TJ’s 12-year-old cousin Leah comes to stay with his family for the summer and discovers firsthand how a community heals. TJ has gone mute and sneaks out of the house to meet a friend named Michelle at a laundromat, where they sort through lost items. When Leah discovers TJ’s whereabouts, she joins in on the imaginary world by creating a puppet show called the Land of Lost Things, which she films and posts on YouTube. In the process, Leah unknowingly helps herself heal from her parents’ divorce years ago.

This is Not a Drill by K. H. Holt 

Ava is having a really bad day. Her parents are getting divorced. She just had a big argument with her two best friends. And she forgot to charge her phone… again. To top it all off, while she is hiding out in the bathroom over lunch, the alarm goes off for a lockdown drill. Ava knows the rules. She has to get herself into a classroom, turn the ringer off on her phone, lock the door, and cover the windows. But all of the rooms have already been locked from the inside and there is no one in the halls.

Pretty soon she realizes there is an intruder in the building. This isn’t a drill.

The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga 

Cora hasn’t spoken to her best friend, Quinn, in a year. Despite living next door to each other, they exist in separate worlds of grief. Cora is still grappling with the death of her beloved sister in a school shooting, and Quinn is carrying the guilt of what her brother did. On the day of Cora’s twelfth birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her doorstep with a note. She has decided that the only way to fix things is to go back in time to the moment before her brother changed all their lives forever–and stop him.

In spite of herself, Cora wants to believe. And so the two former friends begin working together to open a wormhole in the fabric of the universe. But as they attempt to unravel the mysteries of time travel to save their siblings, they learn that the magic of their friendship may actually be the key to saving themselves.

When the World Feels like a Scary Place: Essential Conversations for Anxious Parents & Worried Kids by Abigail Gewirtz

In our complicated world, big issues make both parents and children anxious. So how should parents talk to their kids about the things that make both parent and child on edge – from family financial issues to school shootings to global warming? An expert child psychologist offers parents scripts for conversations that will help us raise kids who are informed, engaged, and confident

Books for Teens & Adults 

School Shooting: What Every Parent & Educator Needs to Know to Protect our Children by Joseph A. Lieberman

In this insightful look at the danger that threatens students and families today, investigative journalist and longtime educator Joseph A. Lieberman takes us inside the minds and hearts of everyone affected by school shootings–and the kids who commit the shocking crimes.

Defeating School Violence by Kathy Furgang 

Schools-frequently believed to be safe havens for students-are instead often the sites of violence. From mass school shootings to hazing to fist fights and everything in between, violent acts are tragically far too common on too many school campuses. This volume dispenses essential guidance to those who may be witnesses to or victims of school violence. Readers will learn how to find resources that can help them cope with the lasting emotional consequences of their experiences. They will also learn about conflict resolution and identifying warning signs and how these can help prevent the recurrence of such events.

Dealing with School Shootings by Kate Shoup

In recent years, school shootings have become all too common in America; it’s time to discuss this growing epidemic. In addition to listing possible root causes and warning signs of school shootings, this book cites strategies for preventing, preparing for, and protecting oneself during a school shooting. It also discusses common effects of such a traumatic event and steps survivors can take to recover.