In daunting times, many adults find themselves feeling anxious or scared about the future of the world around them. It’s important to remember that young children may be feeling the same way about their experiences or situations. Hearing something scary on the news, encountering a bully, dealing with a death in the family, or learning their parents are divorcing are all tough topics. Reading a book with a worried child may help. This can give the child and caregiver a time to connect and find comfort with each other. It can also give the child an opportunity to ask questions and start a conversation about their concerns.
Below, are a selection of picture books for tough topics …
Death, Dying, Grief
Ida, Always by Caron Levis; illustrations by Charles Santoso
When his best friend and fellow polar bear, Ida, becomes terminally ill, a sad Gus spends their final days together whispering, sniffling, cuddling, and laughing with Ida in their home at the Central Park Zoo.
This heartwarming classic picture book by beloved children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown is beautifully reillustrated for a contemporary audience by the critically acclaimed, award-winning illustrator Christian Robinson.
One day, the children find a bird lying on its side with its eyes closed and no heartbeat. They are very sorry, so they decide to say good-bye. In the park, they dig a hole for the bird and cover it with warm sweet-ferns and flowers. Finally, they sing sweet songs to send the little bird on its way.
Through the lens of a pet fish who has lost his companion, Todd Parr tells a moving and wholly accessible story about saying goodbye. Touching upon the host of emotions children experience, Todd reminds readers that it’s okay not to know all the answers, and that someone will always be there to support them. An invaluable resource for life’s toughest moments.
Henry Cooper and his dog Pomegranate have two houses. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other weekend, they live with Mama in her new apartment, but on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other weekend, they live with Papa in his new house.
Henry and Pomegranate are happy as they dance with Mama and sing with Papa, but Henry knows that sometimes Pomegranate gets confused and just wants to go . . . home.
This gentle and accessible story about dealing with the many changes that come with divorce is beautifully brought to life by author Karen Stanton’s vivid and memorable illustrations.
Two Homes by Claire Masurel ; illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
At Mommy’s house, Alex has a soft chair. At Daddy’s house, Alex has a rocking chair. In each home, Alex also has a special bedroom and lots of friends to play with. But whether Alex is with Mommy or with Daddy, one thing always stays the same — Alex is loved. Claire Masurel’s gently reassuring text focuses on what is gained instead of what is lost when parents divorce. Kady MacDonald Denton has sensitively created all the small details of two distinctly different homes, while firmly establishing Alex’s place in both of them. Two Homes will help children — and parents — embrace even the most difficult of changes with an open and optimistic heart.
Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee; illustrated by Pascal Lemaître
When the news reports are flooded with tales of hatred and fear, a girl asks her papa what she can do to make the world a better place. “Come with me,” he says. Hand-in-hand, they walk to the subway, tipping their hats to those they meet. The next day, the girl asks her mama what she can do—her mama says, “Come with me,” and together they set out for the grocery, because one person doesn’t represent an entire race or the people of a land. After dinner that night, the little girl asks if she can do something of her own—walk the dog . . . and her parents let her go. “Come with me,” the girl tells the boy across the hall. Walking together, one step at a time, the girl and the boy begin to see that as small and insignificant as their part may seem, it matters to the world. In this lyrical and timely story, author Holly M. McGhee and illustrator Pascal Lemaître champion the power of kindness, bravery, and friendship in the face of uncertainty.
No Bad News by Kenneth Cole; photographs by John Ruebartsch
On his way to get a haircut, Marcus is dismayed by the bad things he sees in his urban neighborhood but, after hearing his friends in the barbershop talk about the many good things in their African-American community, he finds that on the way home he sees nothing but good news. On his way to get a haircut, Marcus is dismayed by the bad things he sees in his urban neighborhood but, after hearing his friends in the barbershop talk about the many good things in their African-American community, he finds that on the way home he sees nothing but good news.
Llama Llama is learning lots of new things at school and making many friends. But when Gilroy Goat starts teasing him and some of their classmates, Llama Llama isn’t sure what to do. And then he remembers what his teacher told him—walk away and tell someone. It works! But then Llama Llama feels badly. Can he and Gilroy try to be friends again?
Taking on a difficult but important part of children’s lives, Anna Dewdney gives readers a way to experience and discuss bullying in a safe and comforting way.
Ben rides his new bicycle the very, very long way to school but Adrian Underbite, perhaps the world’s largest third-grader, takes the bike anyway and later, when Ben finds Adrian in trouble, he must decide whether or not to help the larcenous bully.
Lion bullies all the other animals until finally they can’t take it anymore. They post an ad, asking for help. One animal after another tries and fails to defeat Lion. Can no one stop him? Finally, a rabbit arrives. No one thinks that such a small animal will be brave enough or strong enough to defeat Lion. But perhaps this rabbit is smart enough?