15 Picture Books to Discuss Mental Health and Self Care

PING by Ani Castillo

Themes: gratitude, kindness, balance

In the era of social media, communication feels both more anxiety-producing, and more inescapable, than ever before. This clever, comforting picture book debut explores the challenges and joys of self-expression and social connection.

Using an imaginative visual metaphor to bring to life how we send out (ping!) and receive (pong!) communications, Ani Castillo’s words and pictures will empower and inspire anyone who has experienced the fear of sharing themselves with the world.

With an artful, accessible package, an eloquent message, and a lot of heart, here is a new classic to bring courage and comfort to humans of all ages.

small things by Mel Tregonning

Themes: worry, anxiety, self advocacy

In this wordless graphic picture book, a young boy feels alone with his worries. He isn’t fitting in well at school. His grades are slipping. He’s even lashing out at those who love him.

Talented Australian artist Mel Tregonning created Small Things in the final year of her life. In her emotionally rich illustrations, the boy’s worries manifest as tiny beings that crowd around him constantly, overwhelming him and even gnawing away at his very self. The striking imagery is all the more powerful when, overcoming his isolation at last, the boy discovers that the tiny demons of worry surround everyone, even those who seem to have it all together.

This short but hard-hitting wordless graphic picture book gets to the heart of childhood anxiety and opens the way for dialogue about acceptance, vulnerability, and the universal experience of worry.

Once Upon a Time by Guridi

Themes: silence, overwhelm, self care

Ever since he was a little boy, Bard had a unique ability to turn words and sentences into amazing stories. These stories captivated everyone in his village. But one day, Bard suddenly stops speaking . . . Will the villagers be able to solve the problem? Will Bard ever tell his wonderful stories again? Find out in this beautiful story of friendship that reveals the magic of storytelling.

Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival

Theme: self image, self confidence, managing feelings

Meet Norman.
Norman is normal–perfectly normal.
That’s until he grows a pair of wings!

Norman loves his new wings, but he’s worried about everyone will think. After all, they’re definitely NOT normal. Norman decides to cover them with a big coat, but hiding such a big part of his life makes him feel miserable. Can Norman find the courage to be himself?

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

Themes: worry, self care

Meet Ruby–a happy, curious, imaginative girl. But one day, she finds something unexpected: a Worry.

It’s not such a big Worry, at first. But every day, it grows a little bigger . . . And a little bigger . . . Until eventually, the Worry is ENORMOUS and is all she can think about.

But when Ruby befriends a young boy, she discovers that everyone has worries, and not only that, there’s a great way to get rid of them too . . .

Me and My Fear by Francesca

Themes: fear, loneliness, self care

When a young immigrant girl has to travel to a new country and start at a new school, she is accompanied by her Fear who tells her to be alone and afraid, growing bigger and bigger every day with questions like “how can you hope to make new friends if you don’t understand their language?” But this little girl is stronger than her Fear. A heart-warming and timely tale from the bestselling author and illustrator of The Journey, this book shows us the importance of sharing your Fear with others–after all, everyone carries a Fear with them, even if it’s small enough to fit into their pocket!

Sidewalk Flowers by Lawson and Smith

Themes: mindfulness and presence, gifts, gratitude,

In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter.

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies

Themes: friendship, loss, grief and healing

Evan and his dog do everything together, from eating ice cream to caring for their prize-winning garden, which grows big and beautiful. One day the unthinkable happens: Evan’s dog dies. Heartbroken, Evan destroys the garden and everything in it. The ground becomes overgrown with prickly weeds and thorns, and Evan embraces the chaos.

But beauty grows in the darkest of places, and when a twisting vine turns into an immense pumpkin, Evan is drawn out of his isolation and back to the county fair, where friendships—old and new—await.

Willy and The Cloud by Anthony Browne

Themes: worry, anxiety

One warm, sunny day, Willy the Chimp decides to go to the park. There’s not a cloud in the sky — well, except for just a little tiny one. It doesn’t bother Willy too much at first. But as the cloud follows him, it grows bigger and bigger and becomes harder and harder to ignore. Pretty soon the cloud is all Willy can think about, and he has no idea how to make it go away.

Tek: The Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell

Themes: technology, balance, “unplugging”

A hilarious (and heartfelt) reminder of how technology can take us backward…all the way to the times of prehistoric man! Tek is a cave boy in love with tech: his tablet, video games, phone, and TV keep him deep in his cave, glued to his devices, day in and day out. He never sees his friends or family anymore–and his ability to communicate has devolved to just one word: “UGH!” Can anyone in the village convince Tek to unplug and come outside into the big, beautiful world?

Hope by Corrine Averiss

Themes: friendship, loneliness, fear, hope

Comet is Finn’s dog, and his very best friend. They do everything together. But one day Comet won’t get out of his basket – not even for his very favorite things! The vet tells Finn that Comet needs to stay in overnight for an operation. That evening, Finn sits in his den feeling very alone. Dad tells him to keep on hoping. That night, as Finn sleeps, thousand of little lights appear in the sky, each one a hope from a different person in the world.

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Themes: frustration, perseverance, asking for help

Getting dressed and undressed can be difficult, especially for little ones. While getting ready for a bath one evening, a little boy gets stuck in his clothes. He panics and starts to fear what life would be like if he never got unstuck. How will he play outside? How will he stop the cat from tickling his tummy? It’s good thing that Mom is around to help. But when it’s time to put on his pajamas, the boy finds himself with a whole new problem . . .

The Good Egg by Jory and Oswald

Themes: balance, self care

Meet the good egg. He’s a verrrrrry good egg indeed.

But trying to be so good is hard when everyone else is plain ol’ rotten.

As the other eggs in the dozen behave badly, the good egg starts to crack from all the pressure of feeling like he has to be perfect.

So, he decides enough is enough! It’s time for him to make a change…

I Am Love by Verde and Reynolds

Themes: gratitude, kindness, self care

A celebration of love in all its forms, I Am Love asks readers to look inward when they feel afraid. Love allows us to act with compassion and kindness, to live with gratitude, and to take care of ourselves by practicing self-love.

Most People by Leannah and Morris

Themes: fear, anxiety, kindness

The world can be a scary place. Anxious adults want children to be aware of dangers, but shouldn’t kids be aware of kindness too? Michael Leannah wrote Most People as an antidote to the scary words and images kids hear and see every day.
Jennifer Morris’s emotive, diverting characters provide the perfect complement to Leannah’s words, leading us through the crowded streets of an urban day in the company of two pairs of siblings (one of color). We see what they see: the hulking dude with tattoos and chains assisting an elderly lady onto the bus; the goth teenager with piercings and purple Mohawk returning a lost wallet to its owner; and the myriad interactions of daily existence, most of them well intended.

 

 

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