10 BOOKS TO HELP CHILDREN UNDERSTAND THEIR EMOTIONS
Note : there are no affiliated links in this article and I strongly encourage you to source those books second hand where possible :D
There are so many books lying around the house. We love books and I think we have passed this on to our children. I have always loved children books and illustrated books and I’m happy to be able to share with you some books about emotions we have at home.
I think this is the perfect time to talk about mental health and help our kids better understand their emotions and encourage them to talk about their feelings. 2020 has been tough for all of us. Although they can be quite resilient, children haven’t had as much peer interaction as they usually have or should have, and less opportunities to share with their friends. Since the beginning of the new year, we’ve been stuck at home again, working, homeschooling, cooking… and reading.
Reading books and spending time with our little ones is essential, even more so in these crazy times. I hope you like this selection.
10 BOOKS TO HELP CHILDREN UNDERSTAND THEIR EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS
1 / The little Girl who was afraid of Everything
by Aurora Cacciapuoti / 2020
We only got this one for Christmas and it has already been read a few times! Young Ami is afraid of everything. She doesn't let herself do things because “anything could happen”. Until she meets a little creature sitting next to her. Ami will soon be taking care of this creature and do her best to make it happy. A beautiful story, ideal for children anxious at the thought of trying new things.
2 / The Colour Monster
by Anna Llenas (pop-up book) / 2012 (UK, 2015)
This is definitely my go-to book when I want a quick read and a conversation at bedtime. It was a gift from my cousin and is one of our most read books. It gathers five feelings : happy, sad, angry, afraid, calm. It explains, in a simple way, what those feelings are and how they can make you feel. Each day can be a mix of emotions and this monster can help make sense of it. The pop-up format is very interactive and kids love it (a little fragile for younger ones). It is illustrated very creatively with collages, splashes of paint, coloured cardboard shapes… We love it!
3 / Me and my Fear
by Francesca Sanna / 2018
Me and my Fear is one of the three books I bought when I visited the House of Illustration in London. It was my first visit and I saw the exhibition Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis, which I still remember quite vividly. It was a very powerful exhibit.
Me and my Fear tells the story of a little girl who has a friend called Fear. Fear goes everywhere with her and starts getting bigger once she moves to a new country (it also touches the refugee / immigration topic a little ; if you wish to talk about this topic further with your children, I invite you to read The Journey by Francesca Sanna). It is written in first person and children can easily relate to this little girl’s experience. It is beautifully written and illustrated by the talented Francesca Sanna. An absolute delight for little ones as well as for grown ups (plus I love the feeling of the nice paper on which it is printed). One of my favourite books and perfect for anxious children.
4 / My Heart fills with Happiness
by Monique Gray Smith, illustrations by Julie Flett,
Plains Cree translation by Mary Cardinal Collins / 2018
What fills your heart with happiness? A short little book which illustrates simple delights of everyday life for which we can be grateful. It is a bilingual book, English and Plains Cree (“dialect of the Algonquian language, Cree, which is the most populous Canadian indigenous language”, Wikipedia - I had to look it up). I like it because it gives a glimpse of another culture, one which I’m not familiar with and can open children to other languages.
5 / The Day the Crayons quit
by Drew Daywalt, illustrations by Oliver Jeffers / 2013
Well, this one is not the typical ‘talk about your feelings’ book. It is a quite famous book actually and you probably know it already. I didn’t know about it until last year when one of my son’s friends came to school in a Red Crayon costume for World Book Day. I was intrigued. Humans have feelings, but let me tell you, crayons have too! And they are not happy. Each crayon writes a letter of complaints to Duncan, their owner. And it is funny. Absolutely love this little gem. And I just found out there’s a sequel! (The Day the Crayons came Home, 2015) Can’t wait to read it!
6 / The Book of Mistakes
by Corinna Luyken / 2017
The dedication just reads : “For Quinn and for everyone who has ever made a mistake”. With stunning illustrations, The Book of Mistakes demonstrates that whenever you make a mistake (here, a drawing mistake), you can learn from it, build from it and create something new. It is very poetic. Perfect for little perfectionists!
7 / The Boy with big big Feelings
by Britney Winn Lee, illustrations by Jacob Souva
This is the story of a boy who feels a lot and he keeps those strong emotions to himself. Particularly for sensitive children with big hearts but less sensitive children will enjoy it too and identify with the character to some degree. I like the way the feelings are illustrated (colourful bubbly clouds) and can personally relate.
8 / Who’s there? Beware!
by Patricia Hegarty, illustrations by Caterpillar Books / 2015
Another interactive book, this one for children who are afraid of the dark. Not quite like a pop-up book so it is easy to handle for smaller children. Some pages have large flaps on the side that, when lifted, change the first scary picture (shadow) in a more reassuring image (what it is in reality). A cute quick read for younger little ones at bedtime.
9 / The huge Bag of Worries
by Virginia Ironside, illustrations by Frank Rodgers / 1996
Recommended to me by a counsellor, The huge Bag of Worries tells Jenny’s story, a little girl who goes through her day with a bag of worries that keeps on getting bigger. When Jenny shares her worries, her bag gets lighter and lighter. This book invites children to share their feelings and worries.
10 / Emotionary, say what you feel
by Cristina Núñez Pereira and Rafael R. Valcárcel,
illustrations by various artists / 2013 (English translation 2016)
I bought this dictionary of emotions when our son was about two. I had read some good reviews about it at the time and I wanted to talk more about feelings with him (he was barely speaking at the time!). The Emotionary gathers an extensive range of feelings : compassion, delight, serenity, discouragement, embarrassment, insecurity, shyness, to name a few. Each emotion has a double page and is illustrated by a different artist. The text gives a description of the emotion and what you feel when it happens. A great reference book!
I hope you have found my selection of 10 books to help children understand their emotions useful. If I (really) had to pick a couple, I would pick Me and my Fear and The Colour Monster.
All photos by SengFlo / illustrators named on the photos