Many topics have been covered in children’s books. Sometimes, fiction is the best way to understand something – it can help both children and adults come to terms with difficult situations. Of course, this doesn’t preclude non-fiction; sometimes a clear explanation is all that is required.
I think that the really ‘heavy’ topics are very difficult to address for very young children. Of course, many would argue that the very young do not need to understand this sort of thing, but there are circumstances that seem to require accelerated understanding. Small children can, also, be surprisingly open to understanding. In many cases, the difficulty lies in finding an appropriate way to introduce such a topic, and this is where parents and carers may find a book useful as a prop.
One of the most dramatic topics that a young child may need to understand is that of death.
My son was just three when one of his young cousins died. I discovered then that the available books for his age dealt largely with the deaths of older relatives or of pets. It isn’t surprising; these are probably the most likely losses that a child will have to deal with, and, to be honest, a book about the death of a young child could be disturbing to the writer, the reader and the listener.
We settled on a book called Badger’s Parting Gifts, by Susan Varley. It’s a gentle, secular exploration of what the loss of a valued member of a community means to those left behind. Another book that was recommended to us at the time was Goodbye Mog, by Judith Kerr, the last in the series of Mog the Cat books.