I don’t usually cry to books, and I don’t actually throw them against the wall, no matter how much I may rave about wanting to do so. But I have read many, many books that have woven an excellent tale; enchanted me with the stories, the worldbuilding, and the characters; then broke my heart with a shattering ending. Children’s books are no exception. In fact, they can be some of the most brutal.
Caution: Because of the nature of this post, it contains spoilers for each of the following stories. Each book has its own section, so you may skip over certain books if you wish to avoid reading spoilers.
Children’s books may not contain intense action scenes, but that does mean they’re any less profound. In fact, they can be some of the most heart-wrenching stories because they include and are geared towards children. They may be read by kids and parents, teachers and college students. They all travel along a journey where they fall in love with the characters only to have a dashing truth break their hearts.
Listed in alphabetical order, here are just a few of the kid’s books that broke my heart. How do I have any feelings left? I have no idea. And don’t even get me started on YA books…
Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia
This book is beautiful and brutal and oh, my goodness, WHYYYY?
“When my husband died, people kept telling me not to cry. People kept trying to help me to forget. But I didn't want to forget… So I realize, that if it's hard for me, how much harder it must be for you.”
Like many kids, this book was required reading for me in elementary school. Filled with imaginative lands and storytelling, insightful tidbits, and realistic relationships, after all these years the story has stuck with me. I don’t remember ever crying to the book, but I’ve cried to the 2007 adaptation at least once.
C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle
I thoroughly enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia, but this one has got to be my least favorite. This book is basically Lewis meets Shakespeare. Narnia is overrun, there are a false Aslan and a false god, Tash, running amuck, and the king becomes a murderer. Oh, yeah, and did I mention all the friends of Narnia die in a train wreck? Everybody dies.
This is not the Narnia I know and love.
Then there’s Susan, who’s turned her back on believing in Narnia. So she’s not with her family and friends when they all die. It breaks my heart.
I know the book is supposed to have some parallels with Revelation, but I still don’t care for it. And all the characters end up in Aslan’s country, so I suppose it has a happy ending and all, but doesn’t this mean I can never go to Narnia now? No wonder our wardrobe never worked…
Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird
No tears were shed in the reading of this book, but it is was the one, for me, that showed that there actually are fictional stories out there that address disabilities. Ten-year-old Caitlin has Aspberger’s, but she’s also struggling with the death of her older brother in her own, unique way. This book was very real, insightful, and enlightening for me.
Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls
A mixture between a children’s book and a graphic novel, this story’s combination of the sketches and the intense subject-matter made for a gut-wrenching book. I read this book when I was already having a bad day. Don’t do it. Just don’t. By the time I reached the end, I was bawling.
And now they just released a movie?! I’m bringing a box of tissues.
J. K. Rowling’s The Order of the Phoenix
Is this technically a YA book? Maybe. Who cares, I’m writing about it anyway. I ended up reading all the Harry Potter books after the movies were several years old. By that point, all the spoilers had been circling around Pinterest and other social media sites for quite a while, so for the most part, I knew which characters lived and which ones died. I just didn’t know when.
When reading this book, I allowed myself to relax and enjoy reading about the characters knowing they all had until the last book. Until they didn’t. I didn’t cry during this book or anything, but I made sure to text my friend to rant about how shocked I was before I even reached the end of the book.
Not to mention the way I related with the stress of schoolwork so much that I found it hard to enjoy the book. So relatability plus character deaths made this a difficult book for me to read, not that I had any difficulty reading it. I finished it in two days; yes, I’m crazy.
Let’s chat! Have you read any of the above books? What was your response? Are there any other children’s books you enjoyed that are heartbreaking?