Stories to Make a Kid Cry

I finished three books in the past week that made me cry.

I pride myself on not being a crier over fictional stories–at least I don’t cry because I stay the hell away from stories that might leave me sobbing. Films are often the worst culprits. Sometimes I get trapped into watching tragic films with other people–films that I would never choose to watch on my own–and I have to pretend I’m having a coughing fit and leave the room.  It all started with Dumbo. I was mostly terrified of Dumbo when I was a child because it was creepy and surreal. Seriously. This?


Then when I watched it with my daughter decades later, it made me cry. Probably something about the whole Disney Parents Die Leaving Their Kids Alone thing.

King Kong films are right up there on the list. I approach every King Kong film as a DOG MOVIE. DOG MOVIES are to be avoided at all cost, because, unless it’s a comedy, some dog is going to die. (I’m counting 101 Dalmatians as a comedy. The dying puppy is revived by loving hands–yay!) King Kong is a proverbial giant dog who must die for his goodness and the love of a beautiful girl. (All bets are off on this latest, because there’s a new series coming. Sorry. Spoiler.) So don’t ever try to get me to watch a dog movie. Ever.

The first book that made me sad enough to cry was The Secret Garden. They were mostly tears of happiness, yes. But tears all the same. (I was worried that Colin and Mary wouldn’t become true friends, too.)  Then came Black Beauty. Ugh. Nothing stings a preteen girl’s heart like horse abuse. Later, the  dog books came in quick succession: Old Yeller, Sounder, Where the Red Fern Grows. If you didn’t read these books as a child, for goodness sake, don’t do it. Spoiler alert: They dogs all die!

Interesting that the five books above are children’s or YA books. As a child, I was curious about death, as most kids are. Teens are also very fond of drama, imagining themselves as the stars. And, writers, being former kids, draw on their own early fears and tragic stories. As I read to my children, and helped them select books, I never steered any of those truly sad books their way. Why would I? They’re incredibly painful to read–at least they were for me. Wait–I did share Black Beauty with my daughter during her horsey period. She found it just as dark and sad as I did.

But I think one of the reasons the YA market is so strong is that adolescents are brimming with emotion 24/7. Most want to try out those emotions–give them deep, thoughtful test runs. (For me, I was a sucker for music. Music is one thing I’ll still allow to batter my emotions without end.) There are lists and lists out there of YA books that make people cry. Most include The Fault in Our Stars, Eleanor and Park, Everything, Everything, To Kill a Mockingbird, several of the Harry Potter books, and lots, lots more.



I’ve read the Harry Potter books, and much of To Kill a Mockingbird, but now I couldn’t bear to pick up The Fault in Our Stars, or Everything, Everything.

It’s been a long day on the road for me, so I’ll continue this tomorrow and start telling you about the grown-up books that left me in sniffles this past week.

What were the books that you read as a child or teenager that made you sad? Do tell…

11 thoughts on “Stories to Make a Kid Cry”

  1. Priscilla says:

    Of Mice and Men, goodness, I got all teary-eyed just typing the title. Sometimes a Great Notion, still mad at my high school English teacher for giving us such a gut-wrenching read. And Where the Red Fern Grows which I didn’t understand as a child but bawled my head off when I read it again as an adult.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      Powerful books, Priscilla. I don’t know Sometimes a Great Notion. Should I look it up? Or maybe not!

      1. Priscilla says:

        Sometimes a Great Notion is by the same guy who wrote A Clockwork Orange. It tears at your gut but without the weirdness and soulless violence of Clockwork. It’s a really good book. But no, don’t read it if you value your gut.:-)

  2. skyecaitlin says:

    The Yearling and The Velveteen Rabbit.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      OH. Two real tearjerkers, Skye. I think I had put The Yearling in my Do Not Open memory closet. I don’t remember reading The Velveteen Rabbit as a child, but I did read it to my kids. It was so hard to get through. 💜

      1. skyecaitlin says:

        Laura, I’m not getting any notifications that you replied. I cried my eyes out over the story and The Yearling, and also the movie Old Yeller. SOB.

        1. Laura Benedict says:

          I don’t know what’s up with the notifications, Skye. It may be that I didn’t reply while I was logged into the account, but checking while I was on the road. It’s all SCIENCE to me. 🤓

      2. skyecaitlin says:

        The Thorn Birds mini series on PBS with Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward was the most wonderful series I ever saw, and then I read the book, too.

  3. JT Ellison says:

    Walt Disney was a genius, but cruel, too. Thorn Birds made my cry, I remember, though the heartbreak wasn’t quite to my understanding at the time.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      Absolutely a cruel genius. He had a very dark vision. I wonder if the darkness doesn’t seem darker to us because he was born at a time when children’s lives weren’t very childlike. People died at hight rates, and younger. Women died more often in childbirth. It was perhaps what he remembered: a mix of tragedy and pain.

      I remember loving the Thorn Birds, and also not really understanding it. I wonder when someone will do a new film?!

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