I’m a big believer in bibliotherapy. Why? Because books can show kids possibilities. They show characters facing fears. Picture books give young readers a glimpse into how others feel, react, and behave. These life lessons can be translated to our kids’ lives. This includes facing fears and having courage even though you feel afraid…
As you read aloud the stories, discuss what you and your children notice. Reflection and discussion promote deeper learning and understanding.
It’s my sincere wish that these books comfort, inspire, and entertain. Perhaps some will become touchstones for the future; wisdom to help them move through whatever it is they are facing or metaphors that you can use with them in challenging situations.
Picture Books About Fears & Courage
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is ready to jump off the diving board. Mostly. His dad tells Jabari that he feels scared too, and sometimes after a deep breath and telling himself he is ready, the thing stops feeling scary and feels like a surprise instead. I like this advice, don’t you? And it works for Jabari, too. Beautiful illustrations, perfect text to picture ratio, and a helpful, relatable story make this a best picture book of 2017.
After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat
After his fall of the wall, Humpty Dumpty isn’t quite all together again because now he’s afraid of heights. Humpty decides to make a paper airplane that can fly high since he is too afraid to go high anymore. But the airplane he spends so much time crafting flies over the high wall. Even though he’s terrified, Humpty wants his airplane back. So he musters up his courage and climbs the wall. One step at a time. Until he’s not scared anymore. This beautifully illustrated and conceived picture book that shows kids fear is normal and courage is doing something even when you’re scared.
When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
What is being brave? “Brave is a bird that steps from its nest hoping to soar through the sky.” As the author shares what brave looks and feels like, a little girl and her family leave their house with boxes and suitcases and travel in the car through the city and country to a new home. “Because once you find your courage, it’s easy to use again and again. The next time life seems scary or you start something new, you can remember when you were brave.”
What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
You’ll love this abstract story about a very familiar and real situation — fear of failure. The author personifies the concept of a chance as a yellow origami butterfly. When the boy gets a chance, he feels unsure so the chance left. The next time the chance comes, he tries to grab it but misses. So, in his feelings of failure, he starts ignoring the chances that come his way. And the chances stop coming around anymore. The boy regrets his decision and hopes to find a chance again and prepares to be brave, even just for a moment. In fact, the boy is so brave, he goes looking for a chance. It’s a big one but he’s ready to grab hold!
“I now see that when I hold back, I miss out. And I don’t want to miss out. There’s just so much I want to see and do an discover. // So what do you do with a chance? You take it . . . because it just might be the start of something incredible.“
Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Birgitta Sif
Cat lovers will appreciate Miss Hazeltine’s love for these special cats who are afraid of everything. Miss Hazeltine opens her house to all shy cats and gently helps them learn about birds, climbing, noises, new friends, pouncing, and brooms. The illustrations are whimsical and charming; the story is wonderful — the cats face their fears in order to rescue their beloved Miss Hazeltine.
Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
The boy doesn’t like the city where Nana lives, it’s loud and scary. Until Nana gives him a fancy red cape that makes him feel very brave. And he and Nana walk through the city, discovering all that is wonderful about it. I loved the cape! I loved how it helped the boy be brave. Wonderful!
NOPE! A Tale of First Flight by Drew Sheneman
For any kid who has been afraid to try something, this book shows in hilarious and sweet illustrations (with almost no text) the bird’s fear of flying out of the nest. Finally, his mama gives him a swift kick out much to his joyful exuberance.
Go to Sleep, Monster by Kevin Cornell
George can’t sleep because he’s scared of the monster under his bed. His sister, Anna, gives the monster a stern talking to and learns that gasp! the under-the-bed-monster is scared of the monster who lives under the floor who, in turn, is scared of the monster under the room who is scared of . . . well, you get the idea. The monsters and human kids learn that they can all be friends which helps everyone sleep.
Necks Out for Adventure! by Timothy Basil Ering
Edwin wonders about his life staying hidden inside his shell. His mom tells him, “Necks out for adventure,” and before he knows it, he’s forced on an adventure that will show him the world and save his kidnapped family. I love the illustrations and the courage of the main character.
I Will Fight Monsters for You by Santi Balmes, illustrates by Lyona
This clever parallel story of a young girl and a young monster who are both frightened to sleep because of the upside down world of monsters and humans beneath and above their beds. Luckily, dads will fight monsters for their kids and they give good advice: “the size of the monsters depends on how scared you are. If you feel very brave, the monster will shrink and run away” and “fear is elastic, like bubble gum. As you grow braver, fear shrinks smaller and smaller until it disappears.” Creative, reassuring, and heart-warming.
The Almost Fearless Hamilton SquidLegger by Timothy Basil Ering
If you like quirky and clever stories with lots of imaginary words, then this is the book for you. It’s by the same author/illustrator that wrote Frog Belly Rat Bone. Hamilton Squidlegger is fearless in all things except bedtime. It will take some bravery and new monster friends and soon Hamilton will become totally fearless.
Archie the Daredevil Penguin by Andy Rash
Archie uses his daredevil tricks to hide that he is terrified of the water and all the creatures lurking in the water. After being eaten by one of those scary creatures and spit up, Archie learns that most of the sea creatures are quite friendly and that swimming is really fun. I’m loving the illustrations– especially the color choices. Plus, it’s a nice lesson in how our fears can shift when we learn more about something.
I’m a Duck by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
After a bumpy start when his egg fell into the pond, this duck fears the water. His brothers and friends tell him not to worry, that ducks float. Little duck takes Owl’s advice to use common sense and starts small — with a simple puddle which helps him to overcome his fear of water. While it’s not my favorite of Eve Bunting’s picture books, it’s still a solid read.