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Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Life and Death to Children
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Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Life and Death to Children

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  537 ratings  ·  72 reviews
When the death of a relative, a friend, or a pet happens or is about to happen . . . how can we help a child to understand?
Lifetimes is a moving book for children of all ages, even parents too. It lets us explain life and death in a sensitive, caring, beautiful way. Lifetimes tells us about beginnings. And about endings. And about living in between. With large, wonderful
Paperback, 40 pages
Published October 1st 1983 by Bantam
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Jeremy Hornik
May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids, keepers
A wonderful and important book. In a simple and matter-of-fact way, "Lifetimes" explains death in a way that children can understand. It is not particularly comforting. Its straightforward prose can even be unnerving... but it's not the book, it's the topic.

My daughter Donna was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 20 months. After two years of treatment, we decided to stop. The treatments were too damaging to her, and each one ended in another relapse. She lived on in wonderful shape: went to pre-sc
David Mellonie
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For what it's worth, I'm proud to be able to offer a short review of my late father's book, Lifetimes, which is still selling all around the world, many years after its initial publication. Lifetimes was written by my father to try and explain death and dying to young children in a clear, simple, non-sectarian way that they could understand and relate to. Accompanied by some excellent illustrations of plants, animals and people which also help convey the theme of the book, Lifetimes is a gentle, ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Matter-of-fact, yet gentle. This is an honest and realistic explanation that everything that lives, dies. It is straightforward without forgetting its audience. I also appreciated that this was an entirely secular take on death, focusing only on death and not the questions about what, if anything, happens afterward.
Jean O'Shea
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone grieving or facing an impending change
Shelves: lis565
The concept of death is not generally discussed until there is an event and questions that follow. Once children have moved beyond self to include the awareness of another, they will benefit from the gentle scaffolding of the concept. Whether a ladybug, a ponderosa pine or family member, this book reveals through uncomplicated text and subdued illustrations that “each (living thing) has its own special lifetime.” Lifetimes provides the candid language for a time when words may be difficult to ma ...more
Katie Alexander
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I used this book this week in my Kindergarten classroom to help them understand the loss of their classmate. It's a beautiful book for kids and adults alike! It really helped me explain when words failed. ...more
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When my wife died, this was one of the books that were recommended to me by the social services so I'll be able to explain her death more easily to our kids. It helped tremendously, it's written in a beautiful manner. ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-books
A really beautiful book and soothing way to explain death to a young (toddler aged) child. Highly recommend for the death of a pet or loved one, it's a difficult topic but this book has definitely helped. ...more
When grieving a diagnosis that meant my mom's days were few, this book was a lovely, peaceful, straightforward look at life and death. It was comforting that it does not address theories of afterlife or contain platitudes. It simply talks about lifetimes, their beginnings, middles, and ends.

This was the only book about death I could read to my children without crying. It let us soak in the reality of life and death and find it lovely. Later we could talk about our hopes and fears, but during the
A cancer widow of 2+ years with kids just a few years older than mine recommended the book "Lifetimes: The Beautiful way to explain death to children" by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen.

This uncluttered book explains death in a matter-of-fact tone. This book of few words contains lovely illustrations of dead and living wild animals.

This book does not touch on religion. Within its pages, I found no statements that could be offensive to anyone, regardless of their personal beliefs.

This book is
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kid-lit
A beautiful children's book about the cycle of life for all living things-animals, plants, humans, bugs. The words and illustrations peacefully showed how birth, living, and death are the natural process of life. This book didn't focus on sadness or fear, rather it focused on how normal this process is and how every living thing will experience death at some point. Although death can be a sensitive and sometimes difficult subject to address, this book was very comforting. My 6-year-old daughter ...more
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The book is full of beautiful illustrations and text like this:

"Butterflies live as butterflies for only a few weeks. Once they have dried their wings, they flutter and flit from leaf to flower. At first, they are bright and quick, but as time passes they begin to slow down, until finally they can go no further. They rest for a while, and then they die. That is the way butterflies live, and that is their lifetime."

"Birds grow up quite quickly too. It is often no more than a few months from the t
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
As a public school librarian, I would say that "Lifetimes" is an effective picture book for an adult to share with a child (or children) in dealing with the subject of death. However, as a person of faith, I would add that the scope of this book is limited to earthly life and therefore does not touch on the belief in life after death.

The text states: "Nothing that is alive goes on living for ever." This statement either reflects the authors' intent on only dealing with the concept of physical de
Lifetimes ~ A Beautiful Way to Explain Life and Death to Children is a book I have read and used many times with children. It helps young children to understand that when they step on a bug, they end a lifetime for the bug. Lifetimes is beautifully illustrated, gets the message across that we all have a beginning, middle and end to our life and that is the natural order of our world. The beautiful message in this simple book brings a peaceful feeling to anyone who reads or listens to it being re ...more
B.A. Wilson
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: death, picture-books
This secular picture book explains death in a very straightforward, matter of fact way. It reads more like nonfiction, and it could be a good place to help start explaining death to little ones, especially if the child is very interested in facts or nonfiction.

It has a clear message about life and death, so there is no hidden message, which is helpful as many children won't understand suggestions and implications in the way they will understand straightforward statements.

I don't think it's the
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a simple and straight forward explanation of the biological sequence of birth, life, and death for children with realistic illustrations from the animal and vegetable kingdoms. It explains that while an individual's lifetime may vary,
That is how things are.
For plants.
For people.
For birds.
For fish.
For animals.
Even for the tiniest insects.


While I would personally use the adjective "realistic," rather than "beautiful," to describe this title, it is certainly not morbid or saccha
Clair Simpson
Jul 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
I bought this to read with my 4 year old daughter, as she has started asking questions about death. I haven't actually brought myself to read it to her yet but I suppose that's what this book is trying to overcome, our fear of dying and our subsequent passing on of this fear to our children. It is very matter-of-fact, which I think is the best approach and is accompanied by appealing illustrations. I will be interested to see my daughter's reaction. Maybe she can teach me something about accepti ...more
This Goodreads listing is the one that uses the correct title (Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children). There is another Goodreads listing that uses the WRONG title.

Update: over time, this has become a very important book for my now 5 year old. So much so, that we have purchased the book.

Nice way to explain what a lifetime is. Not religious. I wish it held my 4 year old's interest a little more. He did, however, manage to listen until the end, and I think he absorbed the messa
Arin Brutlag
With simple text and illustrations of nature, this book aims to normalize death by explaining it as a part of a given creature’s lifetime. Examples are given about plants, birds, fish, small mammals, and finally, humans. Throughout the book, the lifetime is explained as a beginning and an end, with living in the middle; it is established several times that this is true of all living things. Relating death as a natural occurrence does well to counteract the fear that is usually associated with dy ...more
May 06, 2016 rated it liked it
It's hard to think of a rating for this book. I think it's good for what it is intended for - it's not too sappy, it's not too blunt (but straightforward enough), it's clear, and it's been recommended by enough professionals that I assume it has worked well for kids in this situation before. Some of the line drawings (a dead bug, for instance) seemed a little strange - I mean, I guess that's the point, here's a bug that's alive, here's one that isn't, but still felt a little weird to me. Maybe i ...more
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book about death and dying for young children (3 and up, approximately.) It shows how all living things have a beginning, an ending, and living in between. The repetitive text helps young children process the complex concept of life and death, and the illustrations are peaceful and interesting but not cutesy. I also love that the book discusses death without any references to religion or afterlife, so it is appropriate for families of any belief system.
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I went searching for a book appropriate for my death-concerned/obsessed, autistic 8-year old, and this one is the best I've found so far. It's simple and elegant, matter-of-fact but gentle. It talks not just about people living and dying, but plants and animals and insects too. The illustrations are gorgeous. I can see how an older child might need something a little more substantial, but for small children (and my extremely-literal son), this is really well done book. ...more
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
The title is pretty self-explanatory.
Using examples from nature (like ants, crabs, trees, butterflies, kookaburras and rabbits) this book explains that all living things are born, live for a lifetime, and die. Dying is as natural as living, but some things live longer than others. Sickness and old age are part of life, too. It is thoughtful and sincere. The language is repetitive and poetic. The illustrations are lovely, like prints that might be framed in a grandmother's kitchen.
Cheryl Meibos
Sep 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2nd-graders
This book explains that every living thing has a lifetime. I'm not sure about some of the facts--some butterflies live longer than what was stated in the book. I was looking for something comforting. People are different from other living things. We can have memories. Even from a secular point of view that is some comfort. We have our memories of people we have loved. I don't know why that wasn't included. ...more
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading-350
This book explained to children what lifetimes are by showing a beginning, middle, and end. It talked about how plants, animals, fish, insects, birds, and humans all have a period of lifetime, then they die. And the amount of time they live differs depending on what they are.

This book was so straight forward and blunt it was funny in a bad way.

I would not keep this in my classroom for anything. I would not show this book to children.
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids
As much as I think the title is a little self-serving, I really do like this book. I first read the book to my son when he was three and he asks for it now at five whenever we hear about death or illness in the news or among our friend. It is simple, but effective at explaining the life cycles, including death.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My parents bought this book for me as a Christmas present in 1995. I had just turned 11 years old. I remember thinking it was a strange gift as nobody in our family was sick or about to die. However I still read and absorbed it's important message. I feel that this book is really the most beautiful and sensitive way to explain life and death to a child. No matter what age. ...more
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Celeste by: a professor in a grief therapy class
Picture books are for everyone, not just kids. This is a thoughtful and accurate way to explain life and death. It uses examples from nature to show different lengths of life and does a good job at normalizing death or the end of life.
May 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book to help small children think about the cycle of life... especially if you have a little one that has already started to think about it (because of a loss of a loved one or a pet).
Ann Henson
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childhood
Even as an adult, reading the book again, I have fond memories of my mom constantly trying to answer the incessant why? If your child wants to know, this book is a great place to start the conversation.
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The title is listed wrong in this Goodreads listing. There is another listing on Goodreads with the correct title (Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children), but for some reason this incorrect listing has more ratings attached to it.
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