The Kleenex Awards

Do you ever just need a good cry?

You watch the ASPCA commercial (curse you Sarah McLachlan). You click on the video of the soldier returning home to surprise their family. You listen to the band play as the Titanic sinks. You binge-watch Hallmark movies all winter long.

You know my favorite way to get out a good cry? Picture books! The author and illustrator only have about 30 pages to draw you in and then break your heart. No visual effects, animations or sad music. The books need a universal theme that kids can understand and also an extra layer that is deep enough to destroy us adults. 

The youth services staff here at the library have spent the past month sharing picture books to make us cry, and we’ve voted on our favorites. Here, for your boo-hooing pleasure, we present: 

The Kleenex Awards!


#1, with a rating of 7 tissues is…

Ida, Always” by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso

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Based on a true story, two polar bears, Ida and Gus, spend their lives together at the New York Zoo. They eat, sleep, play and cuddle together for many years. One day, Ida gets sick and doesn’t get better. Told from the perspective of Gus, “Ida, Always” is about learning to love people to the end and beyond. 


#2, with a rating of 6 tissues is…

Stormy” by Guojing

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“Stormy,” a wordless picture book about a stray dog finding a forever home, is the original inspiration for this post. The use of light and color in this story says more than words ever could, and I promise, your tears will be happy tears.

#3, with a rating of 4 tissues is…

Blue” by Laura Seeger

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Old Blue. True Blue. So Blue. Oh, I’m tearing up, just writing this! A simple story about a boy growing up with his dog. This book reminds me of the quote: “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”― Roger Caras


#4 with a rating of 4 tissues is…

The Scar” written by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec

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This one takes after Disney’s “UP” and rips off the bandaid before you even know you’ve started reading. A child’s mother dies overnight, after a long struggle with illness. The young boy is angry, sad and afraid that he will forget how his mother sounds and smells. Finally, grandma helps explain that his mother will always be with him, in his heart.


#5 with a rating of 3 tissues is…

Love You Forever” written by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw

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A popular gift for new parents, “Love You Forever” has been making us cry since 1986. It’s a timeless classic about loving children over the course of their lives and then passing that love down the generations to come. 


#6 with a rating of 2 tissues is…

Tell Me A Tattoo Story” written by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

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A little boy asks his dad about each of the tattoos he has, and his dad tells him the story behind them. The tattoos tell of his mother’s love of stories, his father’s kindness, and when his dad was a soldier far away from home. The child’s favorite tattoo though, is the small heart with his birthday.

If you loved these books, and are looking for more, our runner-ups were: