Children’s Books Whose Characters Have a Mental Illness

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Affiliate Links If you’re facing mental health illness in your family or you know someone who is, help your children understand by reading children’s picture and chapter books whose characters who have depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses.

Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are just some of the mental health conditions (illnesses) that face our children and loved ones.

Reading books, bibliotherapy, can build both understanding and empathy for yourself and others.

And yes, I probably hate the word mental health illness just as much as you do. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety myself since my kids were born. Not to mention, my daughter has several diagnoses. Since illness is still the most commonly used term presently, that’s why I’m using it here.

Wishing you love, lots of hugs, and hope! Invisible diseases and conditions are not easy.

I hope these books remind you that you are not alone. And show you what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes.


Depression / Bipolar Disorder in Children’s Books

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness (depression)
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear
DEPRESSION
picture book
Narrated by Virginia’s sister, we see Virginia’s depression in the metaphor of a wolf with hope and recovery starting with her painting. Ultimately, I like the metaphor and think it’s relatable for kids.

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness (depression)
Blueloon by Julia Cook
DEPRESSION / BIPOLAR
picture book
This balloon has depression and sometimes mania and describes what it feels like to experience both.

princess fog Mental Health Issues in Children's Books
The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones
DEPRESSION
picture book
Once upon a time, there lived a princess. When a fog descends on her, she feels different than she used to — she feels sad and doesn’t want to do what she used to do or see her friends. Honestly, this is true for me — depression does feel like a fog.

Rhino Swallowed a Storm Mental Health Issues in Children's Books
The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm by LeVar Burton
SAD FEELINGS
picture book
This book shows how Rhino swallows his feelings instead of feeling them or talking about them and as a result feels very sad. His friends help him learn to feel his feelings and see the happy in the world again. While not specifically about mental illness, it could be used to relate to the sadness of depression.

When Monkey Lost His Smile Mental Health Issues in Children's Books
When Monkey Lost His Smile by Stephanie Margolese
SAD FEELINGS
picture book
Monkey is so sad that his special tree is gone which makes his smile go away, too. With help from friends and family, Monkey discovers how he can feel better again. Again, this book is more about feeling sad but could be used to address some kinds of depression.


Up and Down Mom
by Summer Macon
BIPOLAR DISORDER
picture book
The is the BEST book on bipolar disorder for children that I’ve read.
This little girl lovingly discusses her mom’s days in bed contrasted with her mom’s days of excitement. She shares that she feels many different feelings — and how she stays with her granddad or friends when her mom has to go to the hospital. I’m impressed with how much about this disorder the story covers in kid-friendly, relatable language.


Bipolar Bear
by Victoria M. Remmel
BIPOLAR DISORDER
picture book
This book provides a generalized explanation of bipolar disorder that emphasizes turning to family for support. When Polar Bear is at the North Pole, he feels on top of the world with everything intense and bright. But the South Pole makes him feel big, tired, and heavy.

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness (depression)
The Color Thief: a Family’s Story of Depression
DEPRESSION
picture book
A son describes what happens when his dad suffers from depression.

Mental Health Issues in Children's Books
Some Kind of Happiness
by Claire Legrand
DEPRESSION
chapter book, ages 8 – 12
This is an amazing, beautiful chapter book about facing your feelings, even big, huge depression sadness. It’s also a story that mixes the allegory of an imaginary kingdom named Everwood, a place Finley has written about forever but now finds in the back of her grandparent’s house, with the hope and healing that only pretend play can offer children. This is also a mystery story — what happened to make Finley’s father leave and never return? and why does Finley’s grandma hate the neighbors so much? Some Kind of Happiness is multi-layered, thought-provoking, and exquisite that addresses the big topics of divorce, secrets, and depression.


All the Greys on Greene Street
by Laura Tucker, illustrations by Kelly Murphy
DEPRESSION
chapter book, ages 8 – 12
Art and color are fundamental to this story about a young artist named Olympia, daughter of two artists. After her dad mysteriously disappears and her mom’s depression confines her to bed, Olympia bravely tries to hide her home situation from adults while investigating her father’s location. Fortunately, her friends love Olympia so much that they are willing to make her mad and tell adults so that Olympia’s mom can get help. It’s a portrait of friends who are family and the different growing up challenges that come when you have a parent who is depressed.

Mental Health Issues in Children's Books
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
BIPOLAR
chapter book, ages 8 – 12
This is a story that is packed with issues about growing up differently. Dunkin has bipolar disorder and feels better when he’s off his meds which leads to a spiral into mania. His sort-of friend, Lily, is born with boy parts but feels like a girl and while her mother and sister have accepted her as Lily, her dad still calls her Tim and wants him to be a boy. This is their story as these two individuals struggle to find themselves amidst big challenges, including one with a mental illness.

chapter books about depression and suicide
Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss
DEPRESSION / SUICIDE
chapter book, ages 10+
Jessica is a ghost who only Francis can see until two other outcast kids can see Jessica. The four friends spend happy times together until they decide to figure out how Jessica died. When they discover it was a suicide, the friends each reveal their own struggles with suicidal thoughts. The conclusion is very heart-warming with the message that we often all feel alone but we really aren’t if so many others feel the same way, too.

 

For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington
BIPOLAR DISORDER
chapter books, ages 9 – 12
Just like the author’s own experience as an adoptee (#ownvoices), it’s hard for Makeda being a black adopted girl in a white family that she loves but doesn’t feel like she fits– or is even seen. But there are even more challenges for Makeda these days, starting with being the little sister to a newly distant teenager, moving to a new town away from her BFF, having parents who constantly fight, and watching her mom’s mental health deteriorate and blaming herself. (Adults will recognize the signs of bipolar disorder.) After her mom’s mania takes them on a trip to Colorado which abruptly nose dives into severe depression and a suicide attempt, Makeda reaches out for help. Don’t miss this insightful, honest story — it makes you think deeply and will stay with you long after the last page.
 

Sara and the Search for Normal
by Wesley King
BIPOLAR, OCD, DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, AND SCHIZOPHRENIA
chapter books, ages 9 – 12
Sara wants to be cured of her mental illnesses and be “normal” like other kids so she makes rules for herself.
Among other diagnoses, Sara is bipolar for which she blames herself. She hates her out of control brain and feels like nobody can help. Meanwhile she begins group therapy where she makes a friend; a friend who is covered in hidden bruises. Sara and Erin think of themselves as Star Children, kids alien DNA. It’s profoundly sad to witness Sara’s self loathing yet her still hoping for a better tomorrow. Sara begins to realize she wants to change her inner dialogue and accept herself. For readers, it’s a valuable opportunity to peek inside Sara’s mind and see how painful it is to have an invisible disease. It won’t make you think like her but will give you compassion.
 

children's books about mental illness
Science of Breakable Things
by Tae Keller
DEPRESSION
chapter book, ages 8 – 12
Whoa. This children’s middle-grade book touched my heart so deeply. Natalie wants to figure out how to help her mother, who we gather is depressed (in her bed all day long, no longer working, clues like that, …). As Natalie prepares for an egg drop contest with two other kids, she looks at her mother’s situation with the same scientific process zeal. Her ultimate plan is to win the contest then use the money to whisk her mother away on a special trip to see the amazing Cobalt Blue Orchids. Throughout the story, we see her friendships develop as well as her understanding of life as not an exact science. It’s a well-done, compassionate look at depression.


Home Home
by Lisa Allen-Agostini 
DEPRESSION
YA ages 13+
Kayla’s moved from Trinidad to Canada with her aunt after a depressive episode and suicide attempt. She’s experiencing debilitating anxiety and self loathing, making trips to the mall or a restaurant almost impossible. Her aunt and her aunt’s girlfriend are very understanding and patient which makes a huge difference in Kayla’s recovery. In therapy and her journal, she writes about the difficult relationship she has with mother who wants her to be smart and pretty, not sick. It also helps when she befriends a good-natured boy named Josh who understands depression. His understanding, along with her aunts’ loving acceptance, helps Kayla come to terms with her illness. Her story feels honest, relatable, and important.

Get Well Soon Mental Health Issues in Children's Books
Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern
DEPRESSION
chapter book, ages 13+ Anna’s living in a mental hospital after her parents have her committed. There she meets and makes friends before eventually getting better.

Suicide Notes Mental Health Issues in Children's Books
Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford
DEPRESSION
chapter book, ages 13+
Jeff’s in a psychiatric ward after a suicide attempt and is in big time denial — about his suicide and his sexuality.

Saving Francesca Mental Health Issues in Children's Books
Saving Francesca by Marlina Marchetta
DEPRESSION
chapter book, ages 13+ Francesca’s mom is suffering from acute depression and Francesca feels lost without her mom especially as she struggles with a new school, friendship challenges, and facing her big feelings.

Dr Bird's Advice Mental Health Issues in Children's Books
Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
DEPRESSION & ANXIETY
chapter book, ages 13+ Depressed and anxious 16-year old James loves poet Walt Whitman, speaks frequently to his inner therapist (a pigeon called Dr. Bird), and misses his sister who his father kicked out.

 

ALL the Bright Places Mental Health Issues (Illneesses) in Children's Books
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
DEPRESSION
chapter book, ages 13+
Teens Theodore and Violet meet on the edge of the school’s bell tower. Neither jump. Afterward, the two slowly become friends. Reviewers say this book contains heartache, grief, love, and hope.

I Was Here Mental Health Issues (Illneesses) in Children's Books
I Was Here by Gayle Forman
DEPRESSION / SUICIDE
chapter book, ages 13+
Cody is devastated after her best friend commits suicide. She learns that Meg hadn’t told her a lot about her new college life. After Cody joins a suicide support group, she discovers she needs to forgive both Meg and herself.

Mental Health Issues (Illneesses) in Children's Books
Impulse
by Ellen Hopkins
BIPOLAR / DEPRESSION / SUICIDE
chapter book, ages 13+
Hopkins writes gritty, honest novels in verse. This is the story of three teens at Aspen Springs, a mental hospital for kids who have attempted suicide and is the first of two books.

Mental Health Issues (Illneesses) in Children's Books
Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
SUICIDE
chapter book, ages 13+
I HATE this book! I really do. But I’ll tell you about it anyway… Hannah wants Clay to feel guilty for her suicide so she leaves him audio tapes about her pain, blaming everyone for her actions. Having had a suicide in my own family, I believe that we all are responsible for our decisions, including suicide. This book focused more on blaming others and therefore wasn’t for me. (Also would add that his book wasn’t about depression or mental illness as much as trauma.) I’m including it simply because you might have heard of it and I wanted to share my opinion.

Anxiety in Children’s Books

There are not a lot of really good children’s books that talk about anxiety — the diagnosed, severe mental health kind of anxiety. However, there are books about worries so that’s a decent place to start I suppose. Below you’ll find picture books and middle-grade books that talk about worries but it’s not really until middle grade and young adult that books more accurately deal with debilitating anxiety and OCD.

Wemberly Worried Mental Health Issues in Children's Books (anxiety)
Wemberly Worried
by Kevin Henkes
WORRY
picture book
Wemberly worries about many things, especially starting school. While this only touches on anxiety, it’s a reassuring story that sometimes things we worry about things that turn out just fine.


Pilar’s Worries
by Victoria M. Sanchez, illustrated by Jess Golden
ANXIETY
picture book
This story about a girl named Pilar shows a child experiencing anxiety — and what she does about it. She notices the sensations in her body like her heart beating fast and her legs prickling. She has strategies that help — breathing and saying, “I can do it.” It’s not overly complex but may show kids that they’re not alone and anxiety can get better.


Ruby Finds a Worry
by Tom Percival
WORRY
picture book
Ruby loves swinging and exploring. One day, she discovers a yellow blob Worry who grows and grows and won’t leave her alone even brushing her teeth and at school. The Worry stopped Ruby from doing things she loved, becoming enormous and all-consuming. When she sees a boy with his own blue Worry, she realizes that other people have Worries, too and that when they talk about them, they become smaller, even going away. Add this to your emotional bookshelf to support kids with sharing their own worries.

Invisible String Mental Health Issues (anxiety) in Children's Books
The Invisible String
by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Geoff Stevenson
SEPARATION WORRIES
picture book
The Invisible String is a string that extends from your heart to the heart of people who love you so we are never alone. This children’s book is meant to be a warm hug for young kids who are worried about being away from parents or caregivers.

Alvin Ho Mental Health Issues (anxiety) in Children's Books
Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things
by Lenore Look
FEAR / ANXIETY
chapter book, ages 7 – 10
Second-grader, Alvin Ho, is afraid of everything, especially school. At school he’s quiet but at home, he’s Firecracker Man, superhero. A decent read about dealing with fears.


Guts
by Raina Telgemeier
ANXIETY
chapter book, ages 8 – 12 
Raina shares her own life story, how in elementary school, her fears and anxieties led to terrible stomach aches, days of missed school, and time in therapy. Guts sensitively delves into the mind-body connection, showing therapy in a positive light. I wholeheartedly appreciate that the story shows a kind counselor who gives Raina helpful strategies. My daughter and I both love when Raina bravely presents to her class a strategy she learned in therapy — deep breathing.
 
Crenshaw review
Crenshaw
by Katherine Applegate
ANXIETY
chapter book, ages 8 – 12
After losing their home and living in their van for 3 months, the family is now about to lose their apartment. Although Jackson’s parents don’t tell him this, he knows the signs. He knows why they’re having a yard sale. He knows it’s not his dad’s fault for having MS but he’s mad and worried and alone. It isn’t until Crenshaw shows up and pushes Jackson to speak the truth to his parents that Jackson learns that he’s not facing this big fear and situation alone. Oh, and who is Crenshaw? He’s Jackson’s large, imaginary cat friend from when he was little returned to help Jackson in his time of need. I felt like it was a God metaphor. I wonder what you’ll think?
 

Sara and the Search for Normal
by Wesley King
BIPOLAR, OCD, DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, AND SCHIZOPHRENIA
chapter books, ages 9 – 12
Sara wants to be cured of her mental illnesses and be “normal” like other kids so she makes rules for herself.
Among other diagnoses, Sara is bipolar for which she blames herself. She hates her out of control brain and feels like nobody can help. Meanwhile she begins group therapy where she makes a friend; a friend who is covered in hidden bruises. Sara and Erin think of themselves as Star Children, kids alien DNA. It’s profoundly sad to witness Sara’s self loathing yet her still hoping for a better tomorrow. Sara begins to realize she wants to change her inner dialogue and accept herself. For readers, it’s a valuable opportunity to peek inside Sara’s mind and see how painful it is to have an invisible disease. It won’t make you think like her but will give you compassion.

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
The 10 PM Question by Kate De Gold
ANXIETY
chapter book, ages 13+
Frankie worries about everything. His new friendship with a care-free girl starts to make him wonder if things could be different.

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington
AGORAPHOBIA
chapter book, ages 13+
Mysti’s mom is too scared to leave the house (agoraphobia) and her dad is in the hospital. How will they get any food? Not to mention, Mysti’s only friend pressures her not to talk to him at school. 

 

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff
ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
chapter book, ages 13+
Annie is worried about everything and gives up some of her activities just to be sure things will be okay. With help from friends, Annie finds her way out of anxiety and sadness.

 


Home Home
by Lisa Allen-Agostini 
YA ages 13+
ANXIETY
Kayla’s moved from Trinidad to Canada with her aunt after a depressive episode and suicide attempt. She’s experiencing debilitating anxiety and self loathing, making trips to the mall or a restaurant almost impossible. Her aunt and her aunt’s girlfriend are very understanding and patient which makes a huge difference in Kayla’s recovery. In therapy and her journal, she writes about the difficult relationship she has with mother who wants her to be smart and pretty, not sick. It also helps when she befriends a good-natured boy named Josh who understands depression. His understanding, along with her aunts’ loving acceptance, helps Kayla come to terms with her illness. Her story feels honest, relatable, and important.

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in Children’s Books

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
OCDaniel by Wesley King
OCD c
hapter book, ages 8 – 12
13-year old Daniel is dealing with growing up, OCD, and a possible murder mystery in this new coming-of-age adventure.


The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
by Stacy McAnulty
OCD
chapter book, ages 8 – 12
Wow, do I love this book! The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is a thoughtful coming-of-age story about a girl genius with OCD whose grandma wants her to go to public middle school to make one friend, read one non-math book, and join one school activity. Surprisingly, Lucy does find friends and more than that, too. I love this well-written, heart-warming story!
 

Trowbridge Road
by Marcella Pixley
OCD / GERMOPHOBIA
chapter book, ages 9 – 12
Heartbreakingly sad, this is a beautiful story of misfit friends set in the 1980s. Both are lost and emotionally abandoned children who become friends when Ziggy’s abandoned at his grandmother’s house the neighborhood. June Bug’s mom suffers from a severe mental disorders including fear of germs ever since June Bug’s dad died of AIDS. She doesn’t get out of bed, she doesn’t cook, and she’s obsessive about cleanliness. June Bug is starving because there’s no food in the house but she doesn’t want to tell anyone, even her uncle. Luckily, Ziggy’s Nana Jean notices and offers June Bug love, food, and safety. deeply connected to these survivor kids. The friends’s imaginary world helps them deal with the neighborhood bullies and family troubles. It’s a complex story with friendship, love, and redemption despite the pain of abandonment and the effects of mental illness.
 
young adult book about living with OCD
Turtles All the Way Down
by John Green
OCD
chapter book, ages 13+
Absolutely the best book I’ve ever read to understand what it’s like to live with OCD! It feels real because the author, John Green, deals with OCD in his own life. Not only is Aza dealing with the challenges of her brain’s loud and intrusive thoughts but she also is a teenager who is just figuring out her life while following her best friend on a missing person’s investigation.

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Kissing Doorknobs
by Terry Spencer Hesser
OCD
chapter book, ages 13+
Tara is so worried about everything that her fears turn into obsessive rituals — counting cracks on the sidewalk, prayer, touching doorknobs, and more. She doesn’t want to keep doing her rituals but can’t stop. 

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
OCD, the Dude, and Me
by Lauren Roedy Vaughn
OCD
chapter book, ages 13+ Danielle’s forced into a social-skills class at her alternative high school after her sometimes inappropriate writing for English class alarms her teachers.

PTSD in Children’s Books

Awareness of PTSD is growing. These children’s chapter books give us some idea of what it might be like for children of adults suffering from PTSD.
 
Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness PTSD
Eleven and Holding
by Mary Penney
PTSD
chapter book, ages 8 – 12 This coming-of-age journey has 11-year old Macy longing for her father who is reportedly on a secret project for the government. She’s determined to find him and get him to return home. During this time, she and her best friend, Twee help an older woman who has a missing dog. As both plotlines progress, we learn the truth about the dog and her dad who has PTSD and a drinking problem. This is a sad but powerful story about grief, grace, and life.
 
ptsd in middle grade books
Each Tiny Spark
by Pablo Cartaya
PTSD
chapter book, ages 8 – 12
Each Tiny Spark is one of the best books about learning differences that I’ve ever read that also tackles PTSD and prejudice in a beautiful, important story. Emilia is a Cuban-America girl whose ADHD makes focusing on school and school work a challenge. Her mom helps her stay on top of her assignments but her mom leaves for a work trip, leaving Emilia on her own. During this time, the community proposes to redraw the school district’s boundary lines, exposing prejudice and ongoing injustice. Emilia initially doesn’t want to see her friend Clarissa’s racism but her best friend Gus helps her see the truth about what’s going on. She becomes a passionate activist against injustice. Meanwhile, Emilia’s father’s return from the Marine’s is different than before; he’s quiet and distant this time. When he invites Emilia to work on a vintage car, teaching Emilia to weld, it helps rebuild their relationship, too.
 
Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness PTSD
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson 
PTSD
chapter book, ages 13+
Hayley’s dad was a truck driver but now that they’ve settled in one place, his PTSD nightmares and drinking are getting worse. She’s worried and doesn’t know what to do. I found this to be a well-written glimpse into the unpredictability of PTSD.
 
Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Stay Where You Are and Then Leave
by John Boyne
PTSD c
hapter book, ages 13+
This is a historical fiction book about a boy who discovers his soldier father is in the hospital for shell shock. And decides to “rescue” him.

Schizophrenia in Children’s Books

children's books about schizophrenia and mental illness
Where the Watermelons Grow
by Cindy Baldwin
SCHIZOPHRENIA
chapter book, ages 9 – 12
12-year-old Della’s mom is getting sick again– acting like she used to before she went into the mental hospital. Her dad is stressed about their farm, and Della wants to fix everything. She believes that maybe the local honey which is reported to have healing powers will cure her mom of everything. Eventually, she comes to a painful acceptance of her mom and her mom’s disease of schizophrenia.

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Fig
by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
SCHIZOPHRENIA / OCD
chapter book, ages 13+
Her mother has schizophrenia and Fig has her own issues with anxiety and OCD that makes it hard for to tell what’s real and what’s not. But Fig is sure that she can save her mother. If she just does the right things . . .

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
I Will Save You by Matt de la Pena
SCHIZOPHRENIA
chapter book, ages 13+
Kidd, a runaway, lives on the beach with other teens including a pretty girl named Olivia. Life isn’t great but it’s going okay until former BFF Devon shows up and threatens both Olivia and Kidd.

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Calvin by Martine Leavitt
SCHIZOPHRENIA
chapter book, ages 13+
Calvin’s a teenager with schizophrenia –including the delusion of an out-of-control Hobbes (from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes). Now Calvin is positive that if he can just get cartoon creator to draw one last comic strip, he will be cured of his mental illness.

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Challenger Deep
by Neil Schusterman
SCHIZOPHRENIA
chapter book, ages 13+
Bizarre. I got about a third of the way through and wanted to abandon this book. . . until I reread the blurb that it was a journey of schizoaffective disorder. That explained why none of it made much sense! It’s a very sad glimpse into the mind of what Shusterman’s own son experienced.

 

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Made You Up
by Francesca Zappia
SCHIZOPHRENIA
chapter book, ages 13+
Alex has schizophrenia and is used to not knowing what’s real and what’s a delusion but she’s determined to stay sane enough to get into college. Then she sees Miles at her school and remembers him from a delusion she had 10 years before.

ALSO: Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King (review above)

Other Mental Illness in Children’s Books Including Hoarding

Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Small as an Elephant
by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
MENTAL ILLNESS (not specified)
chapter book, ages 8 – 12
Jack’s mom isn’t like other moms — she sometimes is wild and energetic and sometimes she forgets him. Like when she leaves him at Acadia National Park. He starts walking to Boston with hopes that he can figure things out on his own before social services do. This powerful chapter book shows Jack’s resilience and love for his mother, no matter what.
 
children's books about hoarding Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
The Battle of Junk Mountain
by Lauren Abbey Greenberg
HOARDING
chapter book, ages 8 – 12
The summer is different than Shayne expected. Her BFF is acting weird. Her grandma, Bea, is supposed to be cleaning out her junk piles but she refuses to part with anything. And there’s an unusual, visiting neighbor kid who always wears a Civil War uniform that Shayne’s spending time with. The author does a respectful job of addressing the mental illness of hoarding as well as the challenges of growing up. Enjoyable and enlightening.
 
The First Time She Drowned Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
The First Time She Drowned
by Kelly Kletter
MENTAL ILLNESS / TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS
chapter book, ages 13+
Now that she’s 18, Cassie can leave the mental health institution where she’s been for over 2 years. She starts college but just as she’s beginning a new, healthy life, her toxic mother starts destroying her mental health again.
 
Mosquitoland Children's Books with Characters Who Have a Mental Health Issue / Illness
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
MENTAL ILLNESS
chapter book, ages 13+
I couldn’t put this chapter book down — it’s got everything: a great plot, excellent writing, and memorable characters. Of course, we aren’t sure our narrator, Mim, is reliable. We’re with her on a journey to help her mom who has been out of touch and has a disease. During her trip, we learn she’s supposed to be taking pills for psychosis and start to wonder what’s real and what’s not. Then we start to suspect that her mom might not have a physical disease . . . It’s a skillfully done young adult book that explores the disorientation when you have a mental illness.
 
children's books about mental illness
 

 

23 Responses

  1. Hi Melissa, Excellent site! Incredibly helpful. Thanks for all the effort you have put into it.
    I was wondering if you would consider adding my books. I have written extensively on Asperger Syndrome and Autism, ADHD and more recently, Anxiety. My books are available world wide and have won many awards. I have translations into 16 languages. You can read about them at http://www.kathyhoopmann.com

    My most popular books are:

    Non Fiction for kids:
    All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
    All Dogs Have ASDHD
    Inside Asperger’s Looking Out
    All Birds Have Anxiety

    Fiction: (Chapter Books)
    Blue Bottle Mystery (Asperger Syndrome) (also as a graphic novel)
    Lisa and the Lacemaker (Asperger Syndrome) (also as a graphic novel)
    Of Mice and Aliens (Asperger Syndrome)
    Haze (Asperger Syndrome)
    Elemental Island (Asperger Syndrome)
    The Secret Science Society’s Spectacular Experiemtn (ADHD, ASD, Anxiety)

    With warm wishes,

    Kathy

    1. Oh, my goodness — you’re amazing! And have given me a huge pile of books to read. Thank you. I will get started ASAP!

  2. Another great resource to add to your list, is the award winning Picture Book, My Happy Sad Mummy by Michelle Vasiliu.

  3. A book I had as a kid about anger and rage that was really good is Sometimes I Feel Hullabaloo. Also, John Green’s new YA book Turtles All the Way Down does an AMAZING job depicting OCD (this is coming from an 18-year-old with OCD). The protagonist is so relatable. I know American Girl does nonfiction books for preteen girls and they have a few about worry and emotional wellness.

    1. I also completely forgot about School of Fear! There were two when I was reading them 5-ish years ago, but there may be more at this point. These books about kids with really severe phobias who are sent to this fantastically bizarre “summer camp” really helped middle-school me recognize and come to terms with my own anxiety.

  4. My award winning picture book My Happy Sad Mummy is about a mother who has bipolar written from the point of view of a her young daughter.

    Michelle Vasiliu

  5. Don’t Feed the Worry Bug by Andi Green is a great book about anxiety for kids. The WorryWoo books are awesome for talking to kids about feelings.

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