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Children's Books about Cancer to Help Them Cope and Understand the Disease

Updated: Oct 11, 2023


Cancer is a tough subject to talk about with children. Books like the ones listed here can help explain the illness, the treatment, and offer ideas for coping with the disease. Sharing age-appropriate facts can help reduce anxiety and fear in children.


For your convenience, we've included publisher's descriptions.

Childrens Books about Cancer Hair for Mama

Hair For Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham

Illustrated by Amy June Bates

It's family picture time for the Carters, but Mama does not want to be in the photo this year. All of her beautiful hair is gone because of chemotherapy treatments for her cancer, and she doesn't want to be remembered without hair.

Eight-year-old Marcus knows that the picture won't be the same without Mama, so he comes up with a plan to find her some hair and make her better. Even though the plan doesn't work in quite the way Marcus expects, he comes to understand that "hair is nice to have, but not as nice as me having Mama and Mama having me."

This is a story for every family dealing with a serious illness. It is told with a touch of gentle humor in a style that children will readily understand, and the warm and inviting illustrations will bring comfort and hope to young and old alike. Learn more here.

The Great Katie Kate

The Great Katie Kate by M. Maitland Deland

Illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

The great Katie Kate takes on the Worry Wombat as she teaches a young girl about treating cancer.

When Dr. Demarco explains to Suzy that she might have cancer, the young girl begins to worry. Just then, the Great Katie Kate zooms in to ease Suzy's mind and help her stare down the Worry Wombat.

She takes Suzy on a magical tour through the hospital and explains what cancer isall about and, more important, how it is treated. As Suzy learns more about her condition, she learns to ask questions and even to smile, which makes the Worry Wombat disappear.

This superhero saga provides an entertaining and indispensable tool for parents and medical professionals who are seeking a positive way to set young cancer patients on the road to recovery by helping them deal with their fears. With Katie Kate coming to the rescue, children with cancer have a friend they can trust. Learn more here.


Childrens Books about Cancer

The Goodbye Cancer Garden by Janna Matthies

Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

After Mom and Dad tell Janie and Jeffrey that Mom has Cancer, the whole family goes to the doctor to ask questions.

"Is Mom better yet?" Jeffrey asked. "Not yet," she said. "But we're working very hard to make her better-probably by pumpkin time." That gave Janie an idea...the family plants a vegetable garden.

As the garden grows, Mom's treatment progresses...surgery, chemo, head-shaving and other side effects, radiation...and when it's all done, there are healthy pumpkins and a healthy Mom! Learn more here.


Cancer Hates Kisses Chidrens Books about Cancer Awareness

Cancer Hates Kisses by Jessica Reid Sliwerksi

Illustrated by Mika Song

Mothers are superheroes when they're battling cancer, and this empowering picture book gives them an honest yet spirited way to share the difficult experience with their kids.


Author Jessica Reid Sliwerski was diagnosed with breast cancer four months after giving birth to her daughter. And through all the stages of treatment--surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, losing her hair--she thought about how hard it would be to talk to your child about cancer while coping with it. She wrote this picture book to give other parents and their children an encouraging tool for having those conversations--a lovingly upbeat book that is also refreshingly authentic and straightforward. With its simple text and heartwarming illustrations, Cancer Hates Kisses is relatable to any type of cancer. Learn more here.

Making Happy by Sheetal Sheth

Illustrated by Khoa Le

When Leila's mother gets sick, lots of things change for her family.


But one important thing stays the same: they still have each other, and they know how to find joy and laughter when they need it most!


The poetic, uplifting story and hopeful ending are based on the author's own experience battling cancer as the parent of young children. Learn more here.


What Happens When Someone I Love Has Cancer by Sara Olsher

When Sara Olsher was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 34, her first thought was how to tell her six-year-old daughter without scaring her. As it turned out, explaining cancer was only the beginning. Treatment is long and causes a lot of ongoing changes in the family-all of which can be confusing, scary, and isolating for kids.


Join Mia and her stuffed giraffe Stuart as they explain the science of cancer and how a loved one's diagnosis and treatment affects a kid's day-to-day life. What Happens When Someone I Love Has Cancer? uses bright and fun illustrations to show how cells can turn into cancer, and helps reduce confusion about how cancer treatment affects a person and the kids in their lives.


"Most of the time we do the same things in the mornings. We wake up. We eat breakfast. (I like apples. Stuart only eats bugs.) ... when something big changes, what we do each day can change too. Stuart wants to know what happens to our days when someone we love has cancer."


Aimed at families with kids ages 4 to 10, this method of teaching is based on decades of solid science about how kids learn and cope with the major day-to-day changes that result from issues like cancer. What Happens When Someone I Love Has Cancer? is the perfect book for families that want to explain what cancer actually is and how it affects a kid's life, and applies to mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, and many types of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, blood cancers such as leukemia, and bone cancers.


By creating a routine that kids can see and understand, parents can restore a sense of safety and predictability in their kids' lives, helping them to be more resilient in the face of life's inevitable challenges. What Happens When Someone I Love Has Cancer? helps families that want to reduce their kids' anxiety surrounding a scary diagnosis. It aims to empower kids with knowledge, which is proven to help kids through traumatic situations.


Meet Mia and Stuart

With her messy pigtails and sunny personality, Mia brings a bit of fun to books about hard topics. Explaining life's toughest stuff to her toy giraffe Stuart, Mia is the star of the What About Me? book series, where she's able to help kids feel safe by explaining exactly what they can expect when faced with big changes. Learn more here.


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