by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (author) and Teagan White (illustrator)
A soft breeze, a clap of thunder, a rainbow…these are the ways a child will feel his mother’s love when she’s not there to hug. This book would’ve been sweet enough if it weren’t published months shy of the author’s untimely death. I double-dog-dare any parent to read this with a kid in your lap without a box of tissues in arm’s reach.
by Robert Munsch (author) and Sheila McGraw (illustrator)
A roundup of books that make parents bawl would be incomplete without this story of the enduring bond between parent and child. This book is so sweet that readers young and old overlook the creepiness of the mom sneaking into her grown son’s room to sing him the lullaby she’s sang him since he was born.
If reading this story doesn’t completely destroy you now, it probably will once you know its genesis: Munsch was inspired to write it after he and his wife had two stillborn babies.
by Mark Gonzales (author) and Mehrdokht Amini (illustrator)
This is a father’s letter to his daughter, but it’s also a tale of identity, strength, love, and hope. With stunning illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini, this book is a pep talk, a love note, and a family history rolled into one.
“And there will come a day when some people in the world will not smile at you… No matter what they say, know you are wondrous. A child of crescent moons, a builder of mosques, a descendant of brilliance, an ancestor in training. Say it with me: Our prayers were here before any borders were.”
by JK Rowling
Reading this with my daughter – the first time for both of us – we were both captivated by the story. It has richly drawn characters, villains, heroes, magic, and suspense for days. It also has a scene where Harry discovers the Mirror of Erised, which completely slayed me. I’m talking full-on ugly-crying. If you’ve read it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’ve been warned.
by Margery Williams (author) and William Nicholson (illustrator)
This book is the definition of a classic: a story of friendship and love that never gets old. While the Boy’s love for the Rabbit breathes life into the Rabbit’s stuffed body, it also finds him with patches of fur worn thin and countless other “age spots.” This story offers a powerful lesson on the beauty that exists inside us when we are real – not in spite of, but because of our imperfections.
by R.J. Palacio
“Wonder” is the heartwarming story of Auggie in his quest to belong. He’s a typical 10-year-old boy – except he’s been homeschooled his whole life and is entering public school for the first time as he starts the fifth grade. And he has a significant facial deformity.
As parents, we’d take our kids’ pain a thousand times if it meant they didn’t have to suffer. Auggie’s loving parents watch him take on more than his fair share of heartache as he navigates the unfamiliar and often unkind social dynamics of his new school – which is why it’s pretty much impossible to read this book without tearing up.
by Patricia MacLachlan (author) and Mike Wimmer (illustrator)
A family welcomes a baby boy, and later, his little sister. Woven into the fabric of the family’s life are the beautiful places they love. Together in these places they play, explore, and make memories. The only thing more touching (read: tear-jerking) than the big brother showing his little sister his favorite place is the fact that the grandfather cries when each child is born.
by Shel Silverstein
This is the story of a boy and his tree, but it’s also a story of generosity, kindness, selflessness, and love. A beautiful, heart-wrenching story, it can also spark a conversation about boundaries and friendship.
by Nancy Tillman
This tender story uses rhyme and humor to show the deep ocean of love a mother feels for her child. No matter where he goes or what form he takes, be it a snowy owl or a grinning camel, his mom promises she’ll recognize him.
“I know you by heart, so my heart never misses.”
by Tommie dePaola
This is for anyone who has ever felt the love of a grandparent. Four-year-old Tommy has a special bond with his great-grandmother. Basing the story on events from his own life, dePaola uses vivid language and pictures to illustrate Tommy’s joy in his connection to his beloved “Nana Upstairs” as well as the pain he feels when she passes away.
by Will Smith (author) and Floyd Cooper, Jon J. Muth, and Kadir Nelson (illustrators)
You probably know he was born and raised in West Philadelphia and spent most of his days on the playground before he became the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but did you know Will Smith is also a children’s author?
I’ve bopped my head while listening to the lyrics of his remake “Just the Two of Us” many a time, but there’s something special about seeing those words in print alongside Kadir Nelson’s touching and colorful illustrations. All parents will relate to Smith’s love for his child, his desire to keep his son safe, and his hope that his son grows up to make him proud.
by E.B. White (author) and Garth Williams (illustrator)
This story of love, friendship, life, and death is one that will captivate you and leave you with your heart cracked wide open. I read this one when I was younger, so I knew what I was in for the first time I read it with my daughter. While she was surprisingly stoic, I cried enough for both of us.
Do you have any favorite tear-jerkers on your book shelves? Recommend them in the comments section below!
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