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Death by Newbery Medal

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"The dog always dies. Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down."
Wallace Wallace, No More Dead Dogs

There is a Slice of Life story about childhood and coming of age. The main character has a best friend (an animal, another child, or a family member) who is a source of joy, wisdom, and understanding in their life. This friend is often frailer, more unworldly, or otherwise more "special" than The Protagonist. Bonus points if the character is cute or adorable.

At the end of the story, this very special best friend is abruptly killed off, usually in a clear-cut case of Diabolus ex Machina. A favorite trick is to have the death happen entirely off-screen. The more horribly poignant, the better.

All this is generally accompanied by lots of "end of the innocence" angsting from the main character, along the lines of "That was the day my childhood ended..." Really, it's just the author's way of having a child suddenly make the jump to adulthood via a single defining tragedy.note 

The Newbery Medal is a prestigious award given to American novels written for children. Even a nomination without a win (called a Newbery Honor) can net your book a healthy amount of prestige. To win one, it helps a lot to use a story like this. The British equivalent is the Carnegie Medal, which has a similar reputation.

Bridge to Terabithia won a Newbery for its handling of the topics embodied by this trope. Thirteen years later, Shiloh may have won its medal because it didn't go for the easy win by killing off the dog at the end (there were still three sequels to be written, after all).

This trope is so pervasive, some readers expect that the most lovable character won't get to see the end of a critically acclaimed work of fiction. They're Too Good for This Sinful Earth, after all.

Remember, one reader's predictable, Narm-filled Award Bait can be another's Heartwarming Childhood Classic that will always hold a special place on their bookshelf.

Compare Death Is a Sad Thing (where youngsters are taught about death), Oscar Bait (which often employs the same principle), True Art Is Angsty, The Plot Reaper, and Manic Pixie Dream Girl (not a coming of age, but the character of spirit, spunk, and unconventional wisdom is very likely to die by the end). Contrast Dog Got Sent to a Farm, when adults avoid telling children the truth about death. If the inspirational appeal to the heartstrings becomes too overwrought, there's danger of overlapping with Glurge.

This trope is about a character's death as a critical aspect of the storyline they're in. Any instances where a character is killed with an actual Newbery Medal should go to Trophy Violence (or the supertrope Improvised Weapon, or Once Killed a Man with a Noodle Implement if it's not shown). Also, do not confuse with a medal awarded for dying from a newbie ("newb") mistake.

And see these two AV Club lists.

Note: there's only one 'r' in "Newbery".

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Newbery Winners and Honorable Mentions 
  • In Elizabeth George Speare's The Bronze Bow (1962 Medal winner) Samson, a slave freed by Daniel at the beginning dies saving Daniel and his friends from the Romans, during their botched attempt to rescue Joel. Although he dies offscreen, his wounds are undeniably fatal.
  • Elizabeth Coatsworth's The Cat Who Went to Heaven. Yup, Exactly What It Says on the Tin. (Newbery winner, 1931)
  • In Esther Forbes's Johnny Tremain, 1944 Newbery Medal winner and another favorite middle-school reading assignment, Rab dies at the end.
  • E.B. White's Charlotte's Web: Admittedly, it is a pig, not a child, who suffers the loss, but the theme of death and emotional maturity is still present. And it's still quite sad. (Newbery Honor, 1953)
  • Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins (Newbery Medal, 1961) kills off not only the heroine's little brother in the beginning of the novel but her friendly wolf companion toward the end. Given that these were her only companions on a deserted island, it's pretty harsh.
  • Lloyd Alexander's The High King (Newbery Medal, 1969), final book of The Chronicles of Prydain. While the series hadn't exactly shied away from death before, the fifth book kills off Prince Rhun, Annlaw Clay-Shaper, the High King Math, Loino, Coll, and Achren, depicts veritable carnage in what's ostensibly a children's book, and then throws in a rape threat for good measure. The previous book, Taran Wanderer, had been the series's Coming of Age story, and had its own angsty death. Alas, no Newbery for that one.
  • William H. Armstrong's Sounder (Newbery Medal, 1970).
  • Jean Craighead George's Julie of the Wolves is a Newbery Medal winner (1973) that ends with Amaroq, the Alpha wolf of the pack that adopted Julie, getting shot and killed and the heroine turning her back on humanity, in part because it kills animals for sport.
  • A Taste Of Blackberries (Newbery nominee, 1973). A boy and his pal pick blackberries: One will die from bee stings, the other will survive to eat delicious fresh berries and angst about the loss of his friend. Considered by many to be the children's book that firmly cemented the death-of-a-friend trope, it ironically did not receive a Newbery honor but was only nominated, losing to Julie of the Wolves.
  • The 1974 Newbery Medal winner The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox has its protagonist, already forced to perform music to exercise the human cargo of a slave ship, witness the crew tossing most all of the slaves overboard to avoid detection by authorities. While a young slave boy survives and escapes a life of slavery, and the protagonist finally makes it back home, he is so traumatized by what happened that he never enjoys music again. A colossal downer, and cynical to boot.
  • James Lincoln Collier's My Brother Sam Is Dead (Newbery Honor, 1975): Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • In A Gathering Of Days: A New England Girl's Journal 1830-32 by Joan Blos (Newbery Medal, 1980), the main character's best friend dies of an illness.
  • Jane Langton's The Fledgling (Newbery Honor, 1981), in which the young girl (as shown on the cover) learns to fly with a Canada goose; he is shot.
  • Averted by Ramona Quimby: Age 8, the 1982 Newbery Honor winner. The book is full of Age-Appropriate Angst and light-hearted humor, with no one dying. In the following book Ramona Forever, however, the family cat Picky-Picky dies of old age: but even this is a downplayed example, with the loss itself emphasized less than the positive sisterly bonding it leads to between Ramona and Beezus.
  • Cynthia Voigt's Dicey's Song This one would have a greater effect on readers who have read the preceding book, Homecoming. The mother dies but she's been missing/hospitalized for most of the book - her death is only a confirmation of what was coming all along (Newbery Medal, 1983).
  • Marion Dane Bauer's On My Honor (Newbery Honor, 1987) In this one, the friend dies doing something the protagonist had promised not to do, and thus gets inflicted on tweens whose teachers think it's an important lesson.
  • Lois Lowry's Newbery winner, Number the Stars (1990). Involves Nazis, and ends with the leader of La Résistance Peter Nielsen dying, although protagonist's Jewish friend survives, as she is evacuated along with other Danish Jews. Also, the protagonist's elder sister died before the events of the book - but she only discovers the truth about how it happened during the course of the story, as she develops a more adult understanding of the realities of the war and occupation.
  • In 1991's winner, Maniac Magee, the title character befriends an elderly zookeeper, Earl Grayson, who adopts him. They live together for a few months until Earl dies in his sleep.
  • 1993's winner, Missing May: The titular character, the narrator's aunt and adoptive mother, dies very early in the book, the coming of age story focuses on the narrator and her uncle dealing with their grief. Later, the narrator fears her uncle has lost the will to live from the disappointment, only to quickly snap out of it for her sake.
  • In Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons (Newbery Medal, 1995), this trope is played twice. First time it's subverted because the girl's mother has been dead the whole time, she's just in denial about it. Played straight when her Grandma dies though.
  • Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted (1997), Ella's mom dies early in the book as a result of not doing what the fairy godmother told her to. But, hey, it's a take on "Cinderella"; the mom has to die.
  • Taken to soul-crushingly depressing levels in Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust, the 1998 Newbery Medal winner. The main character's mother's body is disfigured in a horrific freak accident, she later dies while giving birth to a baby boy, and, to put the icing on the cake, the whole mess could've been avoided if the protagonist hadn't been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She gets better.
  • Subverted in Sharon Creech's The Wanderer (Newbery Honor, 2000). Sophie and her family are sailing from USA to England to see Sophie's grandfather Bompie, whose health deteriorates as they sail. Seems that they are going to arrive just before or after his death... but ultimately he starts to feel better and they spend time together and go back.
    • Played with in relation to Sophie's biological parents - they were missing from the beginning, but only in the end do we learn how they died, and Sophie finally realises, and accepts, the fact they are dead.
  • In Kevin Henkes' Olives Ocean (Newbery Honor, 2000), the titular character was killed in a hit-and-run prior to the beginning of the story and was never close to the protagonist despite being classmates. The protagonist only ends up thinking about Olive a lot after receiving a page of her journal, which revealed that they were very similar and that Olive always wanted to be friends with her.
  • Joan Bauer's Hope Was Here (Newbery Honor, 2001). The protagonist's father figure is dying of leukemia throughout the book.
  • Averted with Because of Winn-Dixie (Newbery Honor, 2001). The dog goes missing at the end but does come back. The protagonist is on a quest for maturity and a major theme is accepting the sadness in your life and moving on, but nobody dies within the book. Two deaths that would fit the trope happen before the book even begins.
  • Linda Sue Park's A Single Shard (Newbery Medal, 2002) ends with the death of the protagonist's Parental Substitute from a heart attack. "Wherever you are on your journey, Crane-Man, I hope you are walking on two good legs."
  • A Corner of the Universe (Newbery Honor, 2003) by Ann M. Martin, where the heroine meets a long-lost uncle she didn't know she had and they become great friends. Unfortunately, he has a learning disability and is mentally ill, and commits suicide at the end. Wasn't that cheery, boys and girls?
  • Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (2005). Katie and her sister Lynn move to 1950s Georgia. While Katie struggles with being the only Japanese-American in her classes, Lynn seems to be becoming more popular. Eventually, Lynn gets lymphoma and dies, and teaches Katie that one should never lose hope.
  • Savvy (Newbery Honor, 2008). Mibs's father does not die after entering his coma, but he wakes up with amnesia and severe paralysis, making him effectively "dead" despite still technically being alive and still with the family.
  • The Underneath (Newbery Honor, 2008). The calico cat drowns in the river when Gar-Face tosses her into it.
  • Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me (Newbery winner, 2010). Miranda slowly becomes friends with sometime bully Marcus. At the end of the book she discovers that an older version of Marcus has traveled through time to die for another child.
  • In The One and Only Ivan (2013), by K. A. Applegate, the aunt of the elephant on the cover dies.
  • Kwame Alexander's The Crossover: the twin protagonists' father dies of a heart attack. (Newbery winner, 2015)
  • Originally averted in My Side of the Mountain (Newbery Honor, 1960), where Frightful the Falcon survives to have three sequels focusing on her, but played straight in the Film of the Book, where she gets shot at the end.
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon covers Luna's coming of age and developing magic powers at thirteen, but said powers are inversely linked to her adoptive grandmother Xan's life force. When Luna ascends Xan dies (Newbery Award 2017).

    Anime & Manga 
  • Anohana The Flower We Saw That Day: If there was a Newbery medal for anime, this would win one hands down. It's a sort of double-subversion layer cake with played-straight icing in the middle. The doomed character is a Cute Ghost Girl named Meiko "Menma" Honma who died years ago, but she still manages to "die" at the end by going to Heaven after finishing her Ghostly Goals, in the most tragic possible way; and her literal death in the backstory turns out to be a total Newbery Medal death in itself (at what would have been the climax of a Puppy Love-like Love Triangle plot in a Slice of Life series, poor Menma falls into a river and drowns, and her death totally changes her friends and family's dynamics).
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Windmasters is an Adaptation Expansion of a short from the manga, titled Typhoon Fuuko, in which Nobita unexpectedly becomes the master of an adorable, living typhoon named Fuuko whom he bonds with, with Fuuko as a source of joy, courage, and strength for Nobita to develop and get over hardships in life. The story end with Fuuko dying (a Heroic Sacrifice to save Nobita and all her friends from a powerful typhoon), and Nobita, initially sad over her demise, learns to overcome grief, sadness, and become stronger in the weeks to come. The story even ends with Nobita seeing a normal typhoon randomly blow past, and reminds himself even after Fuuko's death, she is everywhere around him and never truly left, before rejoining his friends for a hangout.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure does this to a memetic extent, to the point that viewers seeing a dog for the first time shouldn't bet on if it will die but how.
  • Kill la Kill is ultimately the over-the-top tale of an abandoned, friendless teenage girl growing-up and finding her place in the world with the help of her sentient, vampiric Sailor Fuku who dramatically gives up his life for her with final words that make the coming of age theme of the story more than evident.
  • Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is what happens when Gen Urobuchi et al. try to write something that can be presented to the Newbery committee. This anime is a lot of things, but ultimately it's about a boy growing up and finding a place in the society. Oh, and his Robot Buddy dies in the end.
  • By the end of chapter 14 of the Slice of Life manga solanin, Meiko's boyfriend Taneda has suffered a head injury in a scooter accident. By chapter 16, he has already been buried. The cover of the first volume of the German edition shows a peaceful-looking face. When you look for that image in the manga it turns out to be Taneda while he is dying.
  • This trope takes place in Kujira no Josephina, with a whole episode dedicated to Josephina helping Santi to deal with the death of his beloved grandmother. And by the end of the series, Santi himself is stepping into adolescence, First Love included, and Josephina is the one who must go. Though it's implied that she might stay around as the Imaginary Friend of Santi's little sister.
  • Played with in Daisuki! BuBu ChaCha- the titular Chacha dies while saving his owner's preschooler from an oncoming car. Then gets reincarnated into a toy car. And that was the start of the show.
  • The Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon episode "One Journey Ends, Another Begins", revolves around the dog-like Stoutland dying of old age, and Litten coming to grips with the loss.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City has a story running between #47 and #48, about a man named Andy who finds an amulet that lets him fuse with his pet corgi, Hank, to become a superhero. The story takes place over a fifteen-year timeframe. You can perhaps imagine what happens to Hank in the second issue. Much of the story is a rumination on just how much pets can mean to people, and what it means to care for someone you will undoubtedly outlive.

    Comic Strips 

  • Alpha (2018) looks like it's going to go this way, but instead it subverts it and turns it into a case of Your Tomcat Is Pregnant.
  • A-X-L has the robot dog pull off a Heroic Sacrifice, but the GUI from the dog's point of view says that it's doing a backup. The epilogue has the human protagonist find out about that backup. The credits scene is a montage of the blueprints involved in the robot dog's reconstruction.
  • Marley & Me. Within a week or so of the movie's release, everyone knew the ending was this.
  • Bambi suffered from this after his mother got shot.
  • K-9 subverts the trope: Dooley delivers an emotional soliloquy to what he assumes is Jerry's corpse, only to be told that patients aren't allowed in the recovery room.
  • The French-Canadian film La Guerre des Tuques (of the Tales for All series) took its English title, The Dog who Stopped the War from the ending of the movie. Of course the dog ends the (snowball) war by dying. Poor girl has a snow fort collapse on her. No Newbery (obviously), but several awards and nominations anyway, and an acclaimed and beloved classic to this day in Quebec, to the point where it was remade in 2015 as an animated film under the new English name Snowtime.
  • Little Heroes. Not only does the dog die but it dies in a random way when he eats poisoned bait meant to kill a fox that is a nuisance to the local chicken farmers.
  • What's Eating Gilbert Grape. At the beginning of the film it's established that Gilbert's younger mentally-impaired brother Arnie was expected to die as a young child and still "could go at any time": viewers familiar with the trope would naturally assume that Arnie would die near the end of the movie. It turns out he lives — their morbidly-obese mother is the one who dies.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It revolves around a dog whose death actually kicks off the main plot of the movie.
  • Thomas Sennett (Macaulay Culkin) in My Girl (1991). Which, by the way, has a remarkably similar plot to A Taste Of Blackberries.
  • Trevor getting killed by the bullies at the end of Pay It Forward. He didn't have a mean bone in his body and his titular idea made many people do good deeds, and made his civics professor find a reason to not push other humans away.
  • My Dog Skip looks like it's heading this way (twice, if you also count the initial possibility that Skip will starve to death in the crypt he got trapped in) but subverts it with a Disney Death. Skip does eventually die of old age at the very end of the movie, but it's more of a footnote than anything else; his owner has grown up and moved an entire ocean away by that point.
  • Pretty much everyone who sees Old Yeller these days knows how it's going to end for the title dog.
  • Ring of Bright Water: most of the film about a guy and his adorable pet otter. Then a ditchdigger randomly murders it with a spade. And it's Based on a True Story, too.
  • The film adaptation Paperhouse of Catherine Storr's Marianne Dreams, in which the main character never meets the best friend who dies thanks to the action taking place in DreamLand. (The novel averts the trope: both the main character and her best friend survive.)
  • The Odd Life of Timothy Green, about an infertile couple who write down what they would like their child to be like on little paper slips, lock them in a box and bury it in their backyard. After a thunderstorm, a little boy named Timothy "grows" from the box, and the couple instantly adopts him. They prove to be bad parents, but Timothy gradually teaches them lasting lessons. As each of the requests from the paper slips are fulfilled, the leaves growing on Timothy's legs fall off one by one, and when they're all gone, he "dies" having done what he set out to do, and the couple then finds themselves model parents to a new adopted kid.
  • In A Girl Named Sooner, the titular character - a mountain child - is taken in by a childless couple in town. She has a pet bird who meets its sad demise when Sooner and other neighborhood kids attempt to encourage the bird to fly.
  • In Inside Out, Bing Bong, the imaginary friend of Riley, pulls a Heroic Sacrifice during the climax so Joy can reset Riley's emotions and restore her happiness. This movie was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2015, and won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
  • Big Hero 6 was met with similar acclaim and was another Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature. In it, protagonist Hiro goes through this twice: once near the beginning when his older brother and mentor Tadashi dies in a fire while trying to save Professor Callahan, and again when Baymax, the robot Tadashi left behind, pulls a Heroic Sacrifice while he and Hiro are trying to escape a portal.
  • The Iron Giant is about a young boy befriending the titular giant. It ends with the boy's hometown about to be blown up and the giant sacrificing himself in order to save it. However, the ending implies that the giant may not be truly dead after all.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has two semi-examples that serve as turning points in Miles Morales' life. The first is the Spidey of his universe, who was going to mentor Miles, but is unceremoniously killed by Kingpin before he can do so. Later, Miles' uncle Aaron is also killed by Kingpin, after which the other Spider-People relate loved ones they lost during their journeys.
    Spider-Ham: Miles, the hardest thing about this job is... you can't always save everybody.
  • The classic Spanish film Marcelino, Pan Y Vino revolves around a young orphan being raised by a bunch of Franciscan monks after being left on their doorstop as a baby. He was a breath of fresh air in their lives, and his innocence even caused a miracle to happen when he asked a Jesus statue if he wanted some bread and the statue came to life and ate with him. And then he dies. The town in the film's present treats him as an unofficial saint.
  • In Dominick and Eugene, Fred the dog is hit by a car and killed during a picnic.
  • Surprisingly enough, this trope shows up, of all places, in the Ultra Series film, Ultraman Gaia: The Battle In Hyperspace, a Real-World Episode that takes places in our reality; most of the film focuses on the struggles of Tsutomu Shinsei, a lonely third-grader who's constantly bullied in school, until the arrival of a mysterious girl named Lisa Nanase, which quickly becomes Tsutomu's only friend, turns his life around. But the film's climax reveals Lisa to actually be the human form of a wish-granting alien artifact, who must depart our reality for good (via turning entirely into light) after her identity is revealed; and Tsutomu, after his brief friendship with Lisa, have became stronger and more matured as a person after getting over her loss.
  • In Easy Rider, the protagonists' lovably eccentric friend George is beaten to death by a gang of angry rednecks immediately after giving a melancholy speech about American culture having lost its way. Jack Nicholson got an Oscar nomination for the part, and it became a major Star-Making Role for him.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Discussed. Greg said that his mom was picking out what she called "classics", the criteria of which being, in his opinion, it has to be more than 50 years old, and some person or animal has to die at the end. While most things he says are untrue and biased, this is the (unfortunately brutal) truth. He is later told to read Charlotte's Web, and predicts that either the girl or the pig doesn't make it to the end of the book (he's wrong—it's the spider). He never finds out what happens because he only reads three chapters.
  • Parodied in Harlan Ellison's post-apocalyptic novel A Boy and His Dog (Nebula Award for Best Novella, 1969). The titular boy escapes with his new girlfriend to find that, in his absence, his telepathic, erudite dog has been beaten nearly to death. His girlfriend, who's kind of a jerk, makes clear that he can either save the dog, or save her. Cut to the next scene, with the dog's injuries wrapped in the girl's dress, both of them complaining about how full they are, and... something... roasting over the remains of their fire.
  • Fred Gipson's Old Yeller — but not its sequel Savage Sam, which far fewer people have probably heard of, let alone read. Although it was also filmed by Disney.
  • Spoofed in No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman, which starts out with the main character writing a book report about "Old Shep, My Pal", a fictional medal-winning book. He notes he knew Old Shep was going to die when he saw the award sticker, and then name-checks Old Yeller, Sounder, Bristle Face, and Where the Red Fern Grows.
  • Inverted in Jack London's The Call of the Wild, where the dog is the protagonist, undergoing a transformation through hardship (and sometimes abuse) from dutiful pet to wild wolf, and when a Diabolus ex Machina abruptly kills his loving human master (off-screen), it allows him to make the final jump to fully wild. Not primarily for children.
  • Julia's Kitchen by Brenda A. Ferber is about a 11-year-old Jewish girl coping with the death of her mother, little sister and pet cat who are all killed in a house fire while the main protagonist is away from home with her best friend one day. Most of the story is centered around her and her equally heartbroken but distant father trying to get on better terms with each other while attempting to run her mother's famous cookie business in her legacy.
  • Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru ("Night on the Galactic Railroad") - a novel by Kenji Miyazawa, made into an anime film - although the death doesn't occur at the end of the story, only the reveal of it.
  • The pig named Pinky dies in the climax of Robert Newton Peck's A Day No Pigs Would Die. Not an official Newbery Winner either, but the themes present in the other examples are most definitely there.
  • Wilson Rawls's Where the Red Fern Grows gives us two dogs, both of which are dead by the end of the book. The horrible wounds of the first dog to die and the death of the bully who disembowels himself on his own hatchet are described in graphic detail.
  • Harry Potter has a lot of this, mainly due to the combined theme of death, Growing Up Sucks, and Mentor Occupational Hazard.
  • Most of the latter half of Felix Salten's Bambi, starting when Bambi loses his mother, is one long series of Deaths by Newbery Medal. Particularly Gobo, the deer who was rescued and raised to adulthood by Man; he assumes all humans are his friends and dies horribly for it. Unsurprisingly, the Disney version adapts him out and makes Bambi's mother the only major character who dies.
  • Viciously and repeatedly mocked in Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz Series. Sanderson himself has gone on record as saying that as a kid, he hated reading because of books living up to this trope, until he found fantasy novels.
  • Anthony Simmons's novel The Optimists Of Nine Elms (adapted into a film starring Peter Sellers) is an interesting variation. The old busker Sam's dog, Bella, indeed dies, but it's not a shock to the kids who befriend them or the reader. Sam knows and accepts this will happen sooner or later. The climax of the novel is not Bella's death, but the children managing to bury her in Hyde Park's little dog cemetery to fulfill Sam's wish that she be laid to rest there. The kids accomplishing Bella's burial—and leaving their own dog with Sam—is actually a bittersweet triumph for idealism.
  • Theodore Taylor's The Cay features a Magical Negro who cares for a racist blind boy while they live stranded on a tropical island, then dies in a hurricane. The book has become a classic and received a number of awards, though not an actual Newbery.
  • Bill Wallace's A Dog Called Kitty. The dog actually survives being mauled by wolves and makes a full recovery, only to be crushed under a falling truckload of drill pipe.
  • James Hurst's short story "The Scarlet Ibis", but with a physically disabled little brother.
  • Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles is a slice-of-life story with a dog featured on cover, and an award winner (not Newbery, but an award). The dog is killed off- although the main character does not turn angsty and Jerk Assy over the dog's death- that happened earlier in the novel, but it continued for a while after the dog died.
  • Goodnight Mister Tom won half a dozen awards; the protagonist's baby sister dies of starvation in his arms, and his best friend is killed in an air raid.
  • Stone Fox, a critically acclaimed children's book about a boy and his dog, Searchlight, entering a sled race to save his ailing grandfather's farm. At the end, Searchlight dies during a race when her heart gives out.
  • Roger, the heroine's best friend, dies in the first book of His Dark Materials. It's especially gut-wrenching because Lyra, the heroine, spent most of the novel trying to find a way to save him, and then she ended up causing his death unintentionally (to make things even worse, she leads him right into it, and at the hands of her own father. "Bringing him what he needs", indeed.).
  • David, the heroine's brother, in Cherie Bennett's Searching For Davids Heart. For extra angst points, she blames herself for his death.
  • The Berenstain Bears Lose a Friend deals with the loss of Sister's pet goldfish.
  • Jock Of The Bushveld. Jock winds up getting shot by accident, because people were on the lookout for a chicken-stealing dog. Jock, having killed the actual culprit, returns to the farm and gets shot in a case of mistaken identity.
  • Mick Harte Was Here is a well-done example that shows how the narrator Phoebe and her family deal with the loss of her brother. It won the William Allen White Children's Book Award.
  • The Snowman ends with James running downstairs the morning after his magical adventure with the title character, eager to spend more time with him, only to find that the Snowman has melted. While it isn't spelled out, having no dialogue, it's easy to see this as symbolic of the fleeting nature of childhood and its special joys. Father Christmas and The Snowman and the Snowdog reveal that he can be rebuilt and come back to life, but never permanently.
  • Zilpha Snyder
    • The Green-Sky Trilogy played this one straight by giving Too Good for This Sinful Earth Raamo a Disney Villain Death. Snyder realized (after being swamped with mail) that the Senseless Sacrifice was a bad idea, but couldn't go back and change it...But then she got approached by some video game designers, and made what was probably the first Canon video game sequel to a book, having the player take on the role of one of Raamo's True Companions to save him.
    • Snyder's earlier book The Changeling seems to be heading in this direction, to the point that some readers still think Ivy dies toward the end. note  Snyder settled for sending her to a New York ballet school.
  • The title character in Freak the Mighty has Morquio Syndrome — or, as one character puts it, he died because his heart was too big for his body.
  • E. Veltistov's A Gulp Of Sun pulls this off brilliantly. We do know from the beginning that somebody was killed by the cloud, but we assume this is Singaevski, the other pilot. However in the end he ends up Only Mostly Dead and Ryzh, the younger brother of hero's Love Interest and a very close friend of the protagonist dies instead.
  • Carlos Ruiz Zafón's Marina is one of the most heartwrenching examples on Spanish modern literature. Despite the book is quite dark and depressing, you probably never figure what is going with Marina until the very end, when she is revealed to have the same illness which killed her mother. After the entire adventure, she dies and the protagonist loses the only light in his life.
  • All books by Frances Hardinge are so dark, they are one step from being Black Metal songs. Don't expect any of them to end with just a death.
  • The Yearling - young boy on a farm, emotionally distant parent, adorable pet know where this is going. Pulitzer-prize winner.
  • A Semi Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares is a young-adult novel focusing on the Solar family, who believe they have been cursed to experience great misfortune and bad luck and are accordingly a giant mess of emotional and physical problems. As such the heroine Esther Solar (the most well-adjusted member of the family) is surrounded by people who carry gigantic death flags everywhere they go, and the question isn't so much whether there will be a Death By Newbery Medal, but who will it be? To wit, there's Esther's rapidly-going-senile grandfather, her stroke-addled father who never leaves the basement, her gambling-addict mother whose habits are financially ruining the family, her suicidal brother, her quirky but damaged new boyfriend with a hideously abusive father, and even a disabled cat the family takes in. The book's big death ends up being the grandfather, with a fakeout for the brother as well.
  • In Feed (2002) the main character's girlfriend's death is a long, slow, awful business that is actively tedious to read, but that's the point. The feed-addicted lead character has no attention span, and therefore doesn't stay with her through her illness—and then realizes too late what an immature jerk he's been, after she's gone.
  • Chris Crutcher's Deadline, a book in which the protagonist Ben himself has terminal leukemia, still manages to work it no less than three such deaths - first, an elderly drunkard Ben befriends, who commits suicide, and later on the local Jerk Jock and his girlfriend, whose car crashes into a river. The latter incident in particular is a very striking Newbery Death, as it comes out of absolutely nowhere during the book's final act and leads to Ben meditating on his impending mortality even more than he already was, as he realizes that despite his diagnosis he will still be only the third shortest-lived student at his high school.
  • Another Chris Crutcher book, Running Loose, has the protagonist Louie's girlfriend Becky die, also by a car crash into a river, and in its short story sequel, In the Time I Get from the anthology Athletic Shorts, he befriends a young man dying of AIDS.
  • Subverted in Sam, Bangs & Moonshine: It's an award-winning book about a little girl and her cat and the cat gets washed away by the tide, but he survives.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: In Princesses in the Darkest Depths, a death is called "dropped a Newbery Award on".
  • The Gathering by Isobelle Carmody Towards the end the protagonist's dog is killed in a frankly brutal fashion by being set on fire.
  • Star Wars: Lost Stars has Jude Edivon. Gorgeous, brilliant, always calm and logical, an eternal voice of reason to everyone she meets, and a good candidate for the single most fundamentally decent person in the entire Galactic Empire. She blows up with the Death Star about a third of the way in (and is the only one of the core friend group not to make it to the end of the book, though another one goes insane), and her death drives a fatal wedge into the relationship of the protagonists, Ciena and Thane - Ciena becomes an Imperial zealot in the name of punishing the Rebellion for Jude's fate, while Thane, though still grief-stricken, joins the Rebellion as he can't allow the Empire's destruction of an inhabited planet to go unpunished.
  • Show Us Who You Are by Elle Mc Nicholl: Occurs doubly in this book. First Cora is grappling with the recent death of her beloved grandmother, and in the process of learning about holograms, meets Adrian, the son of her father's associate. She quickly befriends him, only for him to die tragically soon after and the reaminder of the book about her processing this grief.

    Live Action TV 
  • The famous episode of Sesame Street where Big Bird learns that Mr. Hooper has died. The actor had actually died and the writers decided to address the topic directly.
  • Another Jim Henson-related example is the Fraggle Rock episode "Gone But Not Forgotten," in which Wembley meets and befriends a rare "mudbunny," Mudwell, just as the latter reaches the end of his short lifespan. It's since become more depressing to watch due to the death of Mudwell's puppeteer, Richard Hunt, from AIDS-related complications in 1992.
  • In Verano Azul, the death of Cool Old Guy Chanquete happens almost to the end of the series and completely changes the mood of the following episodes. And since the series itself is a Coming of Age Story for the young protagonists, well, here it is.
  • The Mister Rogers' Neighborhood episode "Death of a Goldfish" memorably deals with the death of a pet as one of Mr. Rogers' goldfish is found dead. Mr. Rogers gives it a burial and reflects on his emotions as a child when his pet dog Mitzi died. The episode won multiple awards and acclaim from child development organizations.
  • In the The Big Comfy Couch Season 3 finale "Full of Life", Loonette learns about death from Granny Garbanzo when the caterpillar she had befriended minutes earlier suddenly dies.

  • The video for "Happier" by Bastille chronicles the life of a dog and its owner starting with a birthday party where she gets it as a present to... well, the line "I think that we both know the way that the story ends" plays during that first scene, and could not be more appropriate.
  • The narrator's best friend in Meat Loaf's "Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are," who is killed in a plane crash.
  • The song "Old Shep" by Red Foley (covered by Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and others) features the narrator talking about how his beloved dog had gotten old and blind, so he had to shoot him in the head.

    Video Games 
  • In Rule of Rose, your loyal dog Brown is the object of the Princess of the Red Rose's jealous tyranny.
  • Despite being predicted by several fans and even lampshaded by the developers themselves, Riley, your dog companion in Call of Duty: Ghosts, averts this trope narrowly. Riley is injured by enemy gunfire and evacuated by helicopter, but he ends up just fine by the start of the next mission.
    Hesh: Sorry, boy. Your job's done. You're going with Merrick.
  • Portal riffs on this trope by insinuating that you develop an emotional attachment to a "companion cube" that you need to carry around to solve a level's puzzle. GlaDOS tells you that the companion cube does not actually love you, and ultimately requires you to "euthanize" it at the end of the level. She then chides you for cruelty by being so quick to destroy your only companion. Graffiti from Doug Rattmann includes tearful epitaphs to his own companion cube. This was all added after the designers noticed that testers were reluctant to destroy their cubes. The only reason the cubes were marked as special to begin with was to let players know that they'd need them throughout the level. Ultimately Portal 2 has a callback when at the end of the game, your scorched companion cube is kicked out the test facility door along with you.
  • Fable II has your sister in the beginning of the game and your dog at the end. With the right DLC, you can resurrect your dog. Or you can just choose to resurrect your loved ones (which includes your dog) almost ten minutes after the dog dies. It's not like the other choices do anything important.
  • Haunting Ground: Hewie - a white German Shepherd dog - is introduced early on, immediately comes to Fiona's aid after she frees him, and continues to act as her sole companion and protector for the game. Mid-way through the game, he will run off into the forest to tackle a Stalker, and gets shot. If you didn't treat him well enough, he dies and you get a Bad End.
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is arguably one of these- though the person who dies isn't frail, they are the protagonist's (one of them, anyway) faithful companion, and their death both teaches him a valuable lesson and launches him on the path to adulthood. It feels like it's this trope.
  • Mother 3 has Lucas getting more mature after he recovers from his mom Hinawa's death, and this again happens when his brother, Claus, commits suicide.
  • In Ori and the Blind Forest's prologue, Naru, Ori's adoptive mother, dies of starvation following the blinding and decay of the forest, though she is brought Back from the Dead near the end of the game.
  • In Hiveswap, protagonist Joey Claire's in-game narrative refers to this trope directly when interacting with the books on her shelf in the first room of the game. She uses the medal as a warning for which books to get and not get as she loathes this trope.
  • Not a day after Stray was released, a suggested Google search was "does the cat die?" The answer is no, incidentally, but their robot companion does.

  • Referenced in the Alt Text to this xkcd strip:
    When I was a kid, someone told me the ending of The Giver was ambiguous, which surprised me. I had just assumed Jonah died — because the book had a medal on the cover and I knew grown-ups liked stories where sad stuff happens at the end for no reason.
  • Referenced in I'm My Own Mascot here.
  • Tycho of Penny Arcade, after seeing how beautiful and emotive the trailer for The Last Guardian was, immediately thought that there were only two possible endings for such a game.note 

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied by Bob's Burgers in "The Silence of the Louise". Louise ends her book report on Old Yeller with the observation that all "classic children's literature" ends with a cute animal dying.
  • The Smurfs (1981) episode titled "Squeaky," in which Smurfette finds and befriends a sick mouse. With the help of Papa Smurf, the mouse is nursed back to health, but dies later after being in a house fire.
  • The story arc of King of the Hill when Buckley died was not nearly as touching as the episode in which his angel comes back to help Luanne get over her loss and advise her to go to college. Especially touching is the last scene before the credits when he is shown from behind walking down the street and pulls a halo from his pocket he didn't have before; the music packs an especially powerful punch.
  • The Casper the Friendly Ghost short There's Good Boos Tonight focuses on how Casper befriends a fox named Ferdie. Towards the end of the short, Ferdie is shot by hunters and comes back to Casper as a ghost.
  • The Futurama episode "Jurassic Bark" - Fry finds the fossil of his dog, and the rest of the episode chronicles Fry dealing with the angst from the death of his dog, and his eventually letting it go in the end. The end of the episode makes this tragic by showing the dog spent the rest of its natural life waiting for Fry to come back, but this was retconned even later into showing Seymour did live and die happily with a time-paradox clone of Fry that was accidentally created by an unrelated incident.
  • The Harold and the Purple Crayon Animated Adaptation series episode "I Remember Goldie", which was about Harold's goldfish, Goldie, dying, and Harold coming to terms with her death.
  • The Defenders of the Earth episode "Audie and Tweak" involves the heroes going to a socially isolated supergenius named Audie who has developed organic microchips that he uses in his robot buddy, Tweak - who also happens to be his ONLY friend. By the end of the episode, Tweak is fatally damaged. Due to his unique construction from organic microchips, he cannot be repaired or rebuilt. The death of his robot, however, leads to Audie gaining real live friends.
  • The Rugrats episode, "I Remember Melville". Chuckie has a pillbug named Melville which he takes in as a pet and as a friend. However, after only a few minutes in, he unexpectedly dies and it is here where Chuckie and the rest of the babies go through the process and concept of death.
  • In the 6teen episode "Fish and Make Up", Jude's pet fish (named Fish) dies at the end of the episode due to improper (yet well-meaning) care from his owner. Jude is quite broken up about it, and when Jen arranges a funeral, the main cast comes to term with Fish's death. And this was the episode that got the show its first award nomination.
  • Invoked The Simpsons episode "Thursdays with Abie". Grampa makes friends with an aspiring author, who writes a biography about his life. Later, Homer goes through the author's office and finds a Pulitzer Prize application form and a draft of the book's final chapter saying that Abe died peacefully in his sleep, making him realize that he is plotting to kill Grampa for the sake of getting the award.
  • Subverted in Golden Films' Little Angels: The Brightest Christmas, where a truck bears down on Daniel and his dog Scout on a highway while they are trying to find their way home, and despite the Angels' efforts to steer it out of the way, Scout is struck and killed by the truck, but the Angels resurrect him shortly after.
  • The Hey Arnold! episode "Grandpa's Sister". When Phil and his sister Mitzi were kids, they had a dog named Pooter that got out and was hit by a milk truck, then had to be put down when the vet couldn't do anything to help. Naturally, they blame each other for him getting out.
  • The Il Etait une Foisl'homme episode "Neanderthal Man" ends with Neanderthal!Maestro dying of old age and in his sleep. His friends then bury him with a spear, some fruit, a small sculpture, and a charm necklace.
  • The Alvin and the Chipmunks episode "Cookie Chomper III" revolves around the chipmunks and Dave adopting a kitten. Then one night, the kitten gets out through a window and is killed by a car, leaving the chipmunks to come to terms with his death.
  • Parodied, along with other Oscar Bait-related tropes, with "Oscar Gold" in the American Dad! episode "Tearjerker", where Roger (aka Tearjerker) makes very sad movies in a plot to get audiences to cry to death. The aforementioned movie is about a mentally handicapped Jew with alcoholism with a cancer-ridden puppy during the Holocaust. Eventually, the dog dies.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Brian Wallows and Peter's Swallows", the A-plot involves Brian caring for an agoraphobic old woman whom at first he doesn't get along with, but befriends after seeing a documentary about her. She is run over by the end of the episode and doesn't make it. The episode won an Emmy, but it wasn't for the death, but for its song.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dog Dies At The End, Death By Newberry Medal


"Your friend Leslie is dead."

THAT scene from Bridge to Terabithia.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

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