5 Tearjerker Children’s Books

Sometimes, I think my three-year-old daughter is plotting to come up with every possible way to make me cry. One of the easiest ways to do this, as it turns out, involves simply picking the right bedtime story. I have always been a highly emotional person and will cry at the drop of a hat, but some children’s books seem to be engineered to jerk tears from exhausted and emotional moms.
Here are a few of the children’s books that absolutely never fail to make me cry.

Love You Forever

What parent can read this one without choking up? This book chronicles the ever-fleeting childhood of a boy whose mother is clingy and quite possibly mentally ill– showing her rocking him and singing to him from his infancy well into his adulthood. Then, on a page that makes even the most stone-hearted parents cry, it reveals a grown man rocking his ailing, elderly mother to sleep. My brain says it’s saccharine and silly, but my heart says it’s the most heart-rending, touching story in the literary history.

The Velveteen Rabbit

It’s funny– this book never made me cry when I was a kid, but it makes me bawl like a cranky toddler every time I read it now. It’s not the story itself that makes me cry, but the touching reminder of my own childhood– when I thought I could make toys “real” by loving them enough, until adolescence came and robbed the world of its animism and magic. I don’t cry over The Velveteen Rabbit because of the scarlet fever or the bunny’s steadfast love for his owner. I cry because I miss the innocent days of my childhood.

The Giving Tree

Shel Silverstein’s classic absolutely rips my heart out every time I read it. The story depicts a selfless tree who sacrifices everything she has out of love for a little boy– who grows up to be tragically cold, cruel, and selfish toward the tree that loves him so completely and unconditionally. I think it’s impossible to read this story without seeing the metaphor: a parent who gives everything, gets nothing in return, and is still happy to sacrifice because of love for her children. The moral it gives to children is terrible, but it succeeds in making me sob.

Love is a Family

I got this book for my daughter a week after I became a single mom. It tells the story of a little girl and her single mother. She initially thinks she has a dysfunctional family, but realizes– upon seeing all the different kinds of families among her classmates– that all families are special and that it’s love that holds them together. It’s the last few pages that kill me– when the mother and daughter look at the stars together, and the girl tells her mother that she looks forward to taking care of her in her old age, because “We’ll always be a family, and we’ll always have each other.” Excuse me while I dry my eyes.

Blueberry Girl

This tearjerker children’s book comes to us through my favorite grown-up author, Neil Gaiman. In a prayer-poem written to honor a newborn baby girl, Gaiman invokes the blessings of “ladies of light and ladies of darkness and ladies of never-you-mind,” asking them to protect, love, and nurture the child. The little lessons and hopes for the girl’s future are touching and sweet– and I can’t read them to my own blueberry girl without sniffling.

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