Inside: The Best Children’s Books About Feelings to help you raise emotionally intelligent kids! If you are looking for books to help you talk with your kids about sadness, jealousy, fear, curiosity and more, this is the post for you!
Children’s Books About Feelings Should Be a Staple on Every Family Bookshelf!
“Mommy, why are you crying?”
He put down his pencil, his golden eyes studying mine. He’d just written his name, my big boy, for the first time.
They were happy tears — such happy, happy tears — because this boy of mine was healthy and growing and smart. They were tears of joy because I was so proud of all he had accomplished, and because my heart was full to bursting with love.
But he was only four, and just barely.
He wasn’t at an age where he was capable of understanding that crying was not always synonymous with sadness, that sometimes love can be so powerful and so overwhelming that its only release is through your eyes- through a glance that shines like sunbeams or tears that fall feather light down your cheeks.
I took it upon myself, at that moment in time, to start trying to explain these big emotions to both of my boys. I didn’t want them to fear my tears, or, perhaps more importantly, to ever try to hide theirs.
For Help, I Sought Out Children’s Books About Feelings
My hope is to raise boys who are not just in touch with the emotions they feel, but to honor them as well — and yes, even those tough feelings I know they hate and wish would go away. So, I turned to books, of course, and I have never stopped using stories to help my children navigate those big, big emotions of theirs.
Identifying emotions — and having the ability to recognize what actions and experiences cause particular feelings — is vital, with some even considering this to be an essential skill for life success. Not only will cultivating this skill improve behavior because your child will eventually have the ability to vocalize why they are feeling a particular way, but it also will also build self awareness as kids begin to recognize how their feelings affect those around them.
Even better? Understanding our own emotions also helps foster empathy.
Emotional intelligence helps children look kindly upon others, giving them a keen understanding of what their peers may be feeling at a given time. It enables them to slip on someone else’s shoes and identify what it may be like to experience life from a different vantage point. If we can gently foster this awareness and understanding, our children are more likely to treat others with kindness, tenderness and respect. Could we ask for anything more?
Without further ado, here are our favorite children’s books about feelings that will help you on your quest to raise emotionally intelligent kids. We hope they have as much of an impact on your family as they have on ours!
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Children’s Books About Feelings: General Emotions
In My Heart: A Book of Feelings, by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey: We just adore this sweet book for the way it tackles big emotions – including happiness, sadness, anger and bravery. In a pure, childlike way, this story utilizes direct language and simple images to help kids understand what they are physically feeling as they tackle their own evolving emotional development. This book provides a perfect overview of feelings to help little ones develop emotional literacy and begin to articulate what is going on inside their heads and hearts. For our full review of In My Heart: A Book of Feelings, click here!
Tiger Days, by M.H. Clark and illustrated by Anna Hurley: In this fabulous book, kids are introduced to an array of common feelings they may have on any given day. Each emotion is embodied by a different animal and described through actions taken by that animal, thus brilliantly explaining how a child may feel and act when experiencing a particular feeling. By labeling emotions with animals and their particular behaviors, Tiger Days provides children with an accessible way to begin giving their feelings the appropriate names, together with vocabulary they can use to express themselves to others. For our full review of Tiger Days, click here!
My Heart, by Corinna Luyken: Each page in this stunning story is a metaphor for the heart’s various manifestations. As a diverse group of kids journey through the heart’s numerous emotions, they learn the heart can be a puddle or a slide or a window opened wide. The children are happy at times and scared at others, remorseful on some pages and joyful on others. When faced with a tough emotion, they find companionship in family and friends to help them through. And overall, they learn one very important notion: whether their hearts are open or closed, tiny or large, each and every child has the freedom to decide how he or she feels at a particular time. For our full review of My Heart, click here!
The Color Monster: A Pop Up Book of Feelings, by Anna Llenas: This is a fabulous book to use with your youngest children who need a straightforward explanation of common feelings and how they often manifest in kids. It is a perfect read for those looking for a gentle way to help kids identify their feelings, and we love how it explores a range of emotions kids may experience at any given moment. The pop-up pages create excitement and help to reinforce the book’s language. Terrific!
Children’s Books About Feelings: Sadness and Grief
Maybe Tomorrow?, by Charlotte Agell and illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzalez: Elba, a pink hippo, drags around a great big block, greatly limiting her potential. Norris happily dances wherever he goes, surrounded by a cloud of butterflies. Norris tries to convince Elba to join him on his adventures, but the block often gets in Elba’s way. Norris never gives up though, patiently and compassionately cajoling Elba to join him, all the while following her lead and helping her manage her block. Little by little, Elba’s block becomes smaller and her burden is lifted. This is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful books about grief I have ever read, For our full review of Maybe Tomorrow?, click here!
Virginia Wolf, by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault: This magnificent, exquisitely illustrated book, loosely based on the relationship between Virginia Woolf and her sister, masterfully describes a child struggling with depression and the manner in which art helps to bring about her transformation from wolf back to girl. It depicts the ways in which one dealing with depression may behave, as well as the ways in which loved ones can try to help. Tender, honest, and oh so poignant, this is a treasure to have in your home and to read to any little one struggling with darkness — or any child who is coping with a loved one similarly struggling. This book takes my breath away every single time and, quite simply, is remarkable.
I’m Sad, by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi: I can’t tell you how many times I have recommended this book to friends and students, for the way it so gently touches on sadness. Sadness is universal — everyone feels unhappy at times — and this story (with the help of a girl, a flamingo, and a potato!) conveys that sometimes our sadness is so big that even our best friends can’t cheer us up — but this is ok. That sadness won’t stick around forever, but our friends will stick by us no matter what. This one speaks to children so perfectly, and my family turned to I’m Sad a lot when we were in the thick of challenges at home.
When Sadness is at Your Door, by Eva Eland: In this fabulous book, sadness is personified as a visitor, one who must be given a name and a face to make it less mystifying for kids. The beauty of this story is that the child must invite the visitor in, with the author even suggesting activities you can do with sadness, such as going for a walk or sitting quietly together. The author doesn’t suggest that you must try to shut the visitor out or force it to go away. To the contrary, she respects sadness and attempts to make this daunting feeling less frightening for kids. This is a unique, fresh approach to the notion of sadness, and I love how the idea of sadness arriving as a visitor reminds children (and even adults too!) that this feeling is not permanent, but temporary instead.
Rabbit and the Motorbike, by Kate Hoefler and illustrated by Sarah Jacoby: Ohhhhh man, did this one kick me in my gut! If you are looking for a book about taking risks after loss, living your own story, and finding acceptance after grief, this book about a rabbit who is not sure he will ever be brave enough for his own adventures after losing a friend will speak to you deeply. It’s tender, emotional, and so authentic, speaking directly to grief and the fear of living our own lives after standing in the shadows of someone else’s for so long. Simply put: stunning.
Children’s Books About Feelings: Anger
The Snurtch, by Sean Ferrell and illustrated by Charles Santoso: Anger is an emotion that can seriously overwhelm a child, as it is one of those big feelings kids aren’t quite sure how to control. Impulsive behaviors are common, and even more common are the questions and regrets that overwhelm little ones after their anger takes hold of them and causes them to act in problematic ways. Here, Ruthie’s challenges with controlling her behavior will help kids realize we all have our own snurtches to battle with, but these snurtches do not control us. This is a wonderful story to help us help kids understand that we can all find ways to tame our inner beasts. For our full review of The Snurtch, click here!
Anh’s Anger, by Gail Silver and illustrated by Christianne Kromer: This is a powerful book about a young boy who blows up after his grandfather tells him to stop playing because it is dinner time. When Anh is sent to his room to sit with his anger, the reader is taken on Anh’s journey as he grapples with this big emotion and eventually learns how mindful breathing can help transform and control his feelings. This is such a good read for those of us parents and teachers dealing with tantrums on the regular!
Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, by Edward Hemingway: This hilarious book helps guide children through their grumpiest moments, and the manner in which the Grumpasaurus is described makes this more of a playful read than a didactic one. Instead of feeling like a threatening lesson on behavior, the narrative, which is primarily written in captions and side notes, provides a unique and engaging exploration of anger that children can readily understand. What more do you need to be sold than the cover page, which states: "The observations that follow in this field guide tell you everything you need to know about the Badmoodicus grumpasauricus, more commonly known as the North American Grumpasaurus." We love it!
Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz: Alexander woke up on the wrong side of the bed. He has gum in his hair, his best friend left him, he had no dessert at lunch, he didn’t get the shoes he wanted, and there were lima beans for dinner. Alexander’s day is pretty terrible, and definitely horrible. How do you handle days like that? And do other people have bad days too? This classic is so great for discussing anger and frustration, and it is definitely one of our forever favorites!
Children’s Books About Feelings: Loneliness
Life Without Nico, by Andrea Maturana and ilustrated by Francisco Javier Olea: When Maia’s best friend suddenly moves away, Maia is crippled by sadness. How on earth will she get through her days without her closest confidante by her side? Ever so slowly, Maia’s pain eases as she breaks out of her comfort zone and takes chances on new experiences, including new friends and even hobbies. This is a tender exploration of loss and recovery, and it so beautifully tackles the notion that embracing new people or passions in your life in no way means you have to let go of the old. For our full review of Life Without Nico, click here!
The Invisible Boy, by Trudi Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton: Brian is never seen or noticed by his classmates. He has no friends, and thus appears in the story devoid of color, making him invisible at school. Eventually a new child winds up in Brian's class and Brian is the first to reach out to him. When a bond forms between the two boys and they are teamed up to work on a class project, Brian finds a way to step out of the shadows and flourish. Not only does he make a new friend, but Barton's illustrations show how small acts of kindness fill Brian up with color until he is, quite literally, a vibrant force in his classroom. For our full review of The Invisible Boy, click here!
Nobody Hugs a Cactus, by Carter Goodrich: In this adorable read, a spiky cactus named Hank is prickly to everyone around him. Why? Hank staunchly believes he likes to be alone and doesn’t — absolutely does not — want a hug. But is this truly what he wants for himself? When Hank suddenly realizes that no one is even offering to give him a hug, he begins to discover that maybe he is a little lonely after all… and maybe life sweeter— and a little less painful— when we let others in for just a moment. But who wants to hug a cactus? For our full review of Nobody Hugs a Cactus, click here!
Children’s Books About Feelings: Joy
My Heart Fills With Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Julie Flett: Without explicitly stating it, this gorgeous book celebrates and supports the wellness of indigenous children. It honors those special moments that fill our hearts with joy and encourages children to always remember those things that make them happy, whether its the feeling of sun on your face, a warm hug, or the smell of something special baking in the oven.
Pass it On, by Sophy Henn: There is something magical about sharing happiness with others, and this precious book showcases the joy that is found when you pass along some brightness to those around you. Children will love reading this one with someone special, and, once the final page is turned, they will undoubtedly want to spread happiness to their friends and neighbors through gestures big and small. It’s impossible to read this feel-good story without feeling happy yourself!
Augustus and His Smile, by Catherine Rayner: Poor Augustus the tiger. He lost his smile and doesn’t know how to get it back! Augustus sets off on a journey to find it, only to discover that when he engages in the world around him and partakes in activities that make him happy — things like dancing in the rain and splashing in puddles — his smile can always be found. Gorgeous illustrations make this one a winner!
Children’s Books About Feelings: Worry
I’m Worried, by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi: Poor Potato, he is worried about everything! How do you possibly prepare for the future when something bad might happen? Potato thinks his friends will make him feel better, but his pals can’t promise that nothing bad will ever happen. They do, however, remind Potato that even when they have experienced tough things, they always make it through to the other side — and have some fun along the way. This book — and the entire I AM series, is a total gem! For our full review of I’m Worried, click here!
Ruby Finds a Worry, by Tom Percival: Poor Ruby has a worry. It came out of nowhere, and though it was small at first, it eventually took up so much space, she couldn’t stop thinking about it… and worrying about her worry! Ruby begins to fear she will never get back to feeling happy again, until she discovers one little boy sitting on a bench — and he has a worry of his own. Ruby begins to tell the boy about her worry, and she suddenly realizes that talking about her worry is just the thing to make it get smaller. We love the way this book conveys that it helps to talk about the things that scare us.
Scaredy Squirrel, by Melanie Watt: Scaredy Squirrel is so scared of his surroundings, he won’t ever leave his tree! He has back up plans and contingency plans and a whole system set up to deal with anything that goes amiss. But what happens when his worst fears actually come to be, and he finds himself plummeting from his tree to the ground below? This is such a fabulous book to help kids recognize that they will never be able to control the world all around them, but if they learn to let go a little bit, they may find a whole lot of fun in their surroundings. Even though a new experience is daunting at first, it will usually create a lot more joy than fear!
Jack’s Worry, by Sam Zuppardi: This is a simple story about Jack, a young boy who loves to play the trumpet and can’t wait to play for his mom in his first ever concert. But when he wakes up on the big day, he discovers, much to his dismay, that he has a Worry. I love the way in which this sweet story personifies worry as a nagging creature that just won’t leave Jack alone, giving little ones a tangible image with which to begin making sense of their own anxieties. Even better is the way Jack eventually explodes — but is then able to communicate his worry to his mom. Her response is perfect, and this little story is a great example of how talking about our fears is not only safe, but healing.
Children’s Books About Feelings: Jealousy
Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Jones: Jeremy wants nothing more than the same pair of shoes that the rest of the kids at school wear. But, according to his grandma, Jeremy’s “wants” are not nearly as important as his “needs.” This is such a special story, one that masterfully sparks a discussion about wants and needs. More importantly, it shows with such a light touch how putting a friend's needs above your own wants is a magical, fulfilling action. For our full review of Those Shoes, click here!
The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and the Fiddle. by David Litchfield: A dog and his human have a mutual adoration — the fiddle! When Hector decides to retire from playing the instrument, Hugo the dog secretly teaches himself to play. And guess what? Hugo has skills. So much so, that the famous piano playing Bear invites Hugo to play in his traveling animal band on stages all over the world. Hugo is thrilled. Hector? Not so much. After all, Hugo is going to live the dream that Hector always had for himself — but Hector’s dream never came to fruition. Will Hector be able to sideline his envy and cheer on Hugo’s success? Or is the friendship between Hector and his beloved Hugo doomed for good? For our full review of The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle, click here!
Stardust, by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Briony May Smith: This is the story of one little girl who has big dreams of being a star — but she constantly feels overshadowed by her big sister, who she thinks always shines brighter. One day Grandpa helps the child understand that everyone is made of stardust, and we all shine in our own ways. This sweet story helps kids see that we all have brilliant light within us and we all shine brightly, even if we sometimes fail to see our own sparkle. For our full review of Stardust, click here!
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, by Bob Shea: When Unicorn arrives in town, Goat gets himself in a tizzy. Goat’s bike is no longer cool because Unicorn can actually fly to school. Goat’s marshmallow treats were almost really good, but Unicorn made it rain cupcakes. Unicorn can even makes things turn to gold! Will Goat ever measure up to this magical new creature? Or will he discover that being a unicorn may have some very real — and very challenging — drawbacks? Such a fun book to explore envy and jealousy!
Children’s Books About Feelings: Fear
Little Tree, by Loren Long: My heart explodes a little every time I read this book. Little Tree tackles a topic that so many of us parents and educators see in their little ones: fear of change and transition. The story focuses on a little tree who clings tightly to his leaves, too scared to shed them and transition into the new season. It doesn’t matter that all the trees around him are happy to grow and flourish as each new season arrives. Little Tree simply thinks life is perfect just the way it is and sees no reason to change his ways. One fateful day though, Little Tree realizes he has been left behind by all the trees who have grown tall around him, and he knows he a critical decision is on the horizon. To shed, or not to shed? This is a masterpiece – a perfect tale to help children recognize that fear of change is natural and daunting, but the reward is ultimately in the journey that helps us find our way.
Good People Everywhere, by Lynea Gillen and illustrated by Kristina Swarner: When the news is tough or a troubling situation occurs in your town, this is a powerful book to remind children that good people truly are everywhere. There are always people helping others during troubled times, there are always people willing to extend a hand, and there are always people who are kind and good. Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle story to remind children of this important message, and this book does just that!
I Need my Monster, by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam: Have a child that is asking you to check just one more time to make absolutely certain there is nothing in his closet or under his bed before you leave his room at bedtime? Then you need this book, a witty, imaginative story that will undoubtedly turn the tables on your kids’ fear of monsters with a story that will make them laugh and breathe a sigh of relief. When Ethan looks under his bed to check on his monster, Gabe, Ethan finds a note from Gabe instead. What does it say? Gabe has gone fishing and will be back in a week! How on earth will Ethan get to bed without his monster’s heavy breathing lulling him to sleep? This book is guaranteed to get your kids laughing about ogres and beasts, rather than fearing them.
Me and My Fear, by Francesca Sanna: A young girl immigrates to a new country and must begin a new school. The child is scared, and she is accompanied by a fear who is with her every day. Fear used to be small, and it kept her safe, but now its gotten bigger and bigger, and it continually reminds her that no one wants to be her friend because she is so different from the other students. When a young boy befriends her, though, her fear begins to diminish in size — and she learns that she isn’t the only one who gets scared. Gorgeous!
Children’s Books About Feelings: Insecurity
Spoon, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Scott Magoon: Children are constantly comparing themselves to those around them, and naturally, when such comparisons are made, insecurity and even jealousy arrive. It is hard for kids to recognize their own incredible attributes when they are so focused on the unique qualities of others. This special story perfectly helps little ones learn to celebrate differences instead of being jealous of them — and to be grateful for everything that makes us special as individuals. A forever favorite.
Remarkably You, by Pat Zeitlow Miller and illustrated by Patrice Barton: Looking for an ode to children that details all of the ways in which each of us is remarkable? If your answer was yes, this is the book for you! In rhyming, pitch perfect verses, it conveys to kids that each of us walks to the beat of our own drum - we are all wondrous, we each have special talents and we are all so perfectly unique! This is a beautiful reminder that these unique attributes are ones to celebrate, and no matter who we are or what we do, each of us has the ability to make a difference in our world! For our full review of Remarkably You, click here!
I Am Enough, by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo: This is a stunning poem, a lyrical ode to loving exactly who you are! It’s one of those beautiful picture books you can’t put down without feeling an instant sense of serenity, a feel good book that empowers all readers to love themselves- and all of their unique abilities and attributes- unconditionally.
Where Oliver Fits, by Cale Atkinson: Oliver is a puzzle piece, and he always wonders where exactly he will fit in. He spends his days dreaming of the possibilities — the mane of a unicorn? An astronaut’s helmet? — and he constantly changes himself to try out different scenarios. Feeling like you don’t belong is pretty universal for young kids, and this wonderful self esteem book for kids shows that always trying to fit in is challenging. Yet, as is the case with any puzzle, a bit of trial and error helps Oliver figure out exactly where he belongs — at which time he discovers that being himself is the most fitting place of all.
Children’s Books About Feelings: Love
Love, by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Loren Long: This stunningly illustrated book is a testament to the many ways in which love permeates our lives – from the lull of parents’ voices as they look over their sleeping child to something as simple as burned toast. It is a poetic, lyrical mediation on love, replete with beautiful metaphors that will help little ones recognize how love appears in our everyday lives, shaping who we are and where we come from. I dare you to read this without crying. For our full review of Love, click here!
Love, Z, by Jessie Sima: We adore this new release about a robot who is trying to understand a message he finds in a bottle. “Love, Beatrice,” the message says. But what is love? And who is Beatrice? As the robot journeys to find the answers to his questions, he discovers that love actually surrounds him all the time — he just never knew the right word to explain how he felt. Children will simply adore the idea that sometimes love is hard to explain, but we know it when we feel it. So in LOVE with this one!
Love Is, by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane: A little girl learns what it means to love as she cares for her new pet. Her duckling requires a lot as he grows, needing constant attention from the girl. She hugs him closely and cares for him with everything she has… but eventually, it is time to let go. This is a tender beauty for any child caring for a pet - and for those who need a gentle reminder that sometimes, when we love something, we have to set it free.
Children’s Books About Feelings: Curiosity
Why? by Adam Rex: Children are constantly questioning things — their surroundings, what a word means, what a parent is saying. You name it, you better believe they will be asking “but why?!” One day, Dr. X-Ray the Supervillain bursts into the mall, threatening to take over the innocent crowd. Only one little girl is brave enough to stand up to the evil doer, asking one simple question: why? Dr. X-Ray is surprised — but for some reason, he answers. And he keeps on answering the little girl’s questions until a surprising truth is discovered — and the Supervillain loses his villainous ways.
Why? Laura Vaccaro Seeger: In another twist on a child continuously asking “why,” one curious rabbit won’t stop asking a very patient bear this simple question. Why? Why is bear watering his flowers? Why is bear excited to gaze at the stars? As the seasons change, some of rabbit’s questions have answers — but, alas, sometimes there are no answers for bear to give. And when that happens? Well, lets just say that’s where love and trust save the day. Such a beauty!
Carl and the Meaning of Life, by Deborah Freedman: This is the story of Carl, an earthworm, who spends his life — day in and day out — tunneling in the soil. One day, a field mouse stops Carl in his tracks with one simple, innocent question. “Why?” This question sets Carl off on a journey to discover who he is and what his purpose is here on earth. Why does he do what he does? Carl struggles as he tries to figure out what he is meant to do in this world, but as the earth around him begins to change, Carl realizes that as small as he is, he has a very important role in the environment. We love the way this beautiful story effortlessly conveys that each of us, no matter who we are or what we look like, were brought to earth to do something special.