Validating Big Feelings Through Picture Books
Shared reading experiences give kids and grown-ups the opportunity to develop language and vocabulary around feelings, and to develop coping skills related to expressing feelings. Reading books that validate big feelings help children name and talk about their own emotions, and help them feel more seen and understood.
Feelings and emotions are never right or wrong, and the best thing grown-ups can do for kids is validate their feelings and help them develop skills to cope and navigate difficult situations.
This book list features 30 of the best books for helping kids navigate through big feelings. We have included a snapshot of more than 10 of our favorite books below. You can view the entire list on our Bookshop page.
You may also like our post 20+ Books to Encourage Mindfulness and Calm.
Sometimes All I Need is Me
Author/Illustrator: Juliana Perdomo | Publisher: Candlewick
This is a really special book that reassures children that sometimes, everything they need is already inside of them. The young girl in this story finds comfort, peace, joy and love when she is surrounded by people she cares about and doing things she loves and also when she’s enjoying quiet moments alone. She discovers that while familiar people and places have the power to build her up, she also has the strength to navigate emotions and experiences on her own. This is a powerful lesson for children to learn about themselves and others.
Way Past Worried (Great Big Feelings Series)
Author: Hallee Adelman | Illustrator: Sandra de la Prada | Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
The Great Big Feelings series is the perfect collection of books to help children navigate a variety of feelings and emotions. We especially like how every book in the series showcases a diverse cast of characters that truly represent the world we live in. They discuss feelings of anxiousness, loneliness, fear, sadness, and anger.
In Way Past Worried, Brock is nervous to attend a friend’s superhero party. Everyone has to wear a costume - will people like his? Will anyone play with him? What if he’s too worried to have any fun at all? Brock ultimately feels much better once he talks about how he’s feeling, and discovers that one of his friends often feels the same way as him.
The Boy with Big, Big Feelings (The Big, Big Series)
Author: Britney Winn Lee | Illustrator: Jacob Souva | Publisher: beaming books
This book will help any child with extreme emotions, and BIG, BIG feelings feel more understood. The boy in this book struggles with managing his own range of emotions, including anxiety, anger, elation and sadness. Yet, he has such a big, beautiful heart that he also feels when people he cares about are upset or having a hard time. Sometimes, he’s afraid people will be scared of just how much he feels and not want to be around him.
Eventually, though, he befriends someone with just as big of a heart as him - someone with BIG, BIG, feelings who he can be himself around. The weight of the world feels a lot lighter with this special friend by his side and together, they discover that big emotions affect everyone!
I am Quiet: A Story for the Introvert in All of Us
Author: Andie Powers | Illustrator: Betsy Peterson | Publisher: Bala Kids
Children are often labeled as shy, when really, they are quiet and have lively inner worlds that people may not see or understand. In this story, we learn that Emile may not raise his hand in class or talk to neighbors and passersby, but that he has a wonderful imagination and reverence for the natural world. He listens and notices things around him, and though he is quiet, he is a bold and vibrant child who deserves to be seen and adored just as he is.
The Boy and the Gorilla
Author: Jackie Azua Kramer | Illustrator: Cindy Derby | Publisher: Candlewick Press
The Boy and the Gorilla focuses on grief and parental loss. In this story, on the day of his mother’s funeral, a boy creates an imaginary gorilla friend who answers the difficult questions he’s too anxious to ask his dad about his mother and loss. The gorilla helps him see the power of talking about his feelings and emotions with the people he loves. Told entirely through dialogue, The Boy and the Gorilla, quietly captures the weight of grief and helps children navigate how to move forward.
A Blue Kind of Day
Author: Rachel Tomlinson | Illustrator: Tori-Jay Mordey | Publisher: Kokila
A Blue Kind of Day was written by a psychologist who tells the story of Coen and one particularly difficult day - it’s the kind of day that nobody can help turn around. His loved ones try everything to lift his spirits until they realize that what he really needs is their patience, empathy and understanding, to simply sit in sadness with him and wait it out.
The author includes important information about helping caregivers identify depression in children, and a number of prompts and activities that may support and offer care to children who are experiencing symptoms of depression or emotional distress.
Author: Ann Bonwell | Illustrator: Kayla Harren | Publisher: Two Lions
Thursday is an excellent book for helping children navigate divorce. In this book, a young girl learns about her parents’ divorce on a Thursday - what used to be her favorite day of the week, quickly turns into one that engulfs her in sadness. Her stuffed animal friend hopes to comfort her so she takes her on adventures and stays with her until Thursdays feel a little more normal again.
This book helps children see how big feelings can change and evolve, and how important it is to surround yourself with people who love and care for you.
Author: Mamta Nainy | Illustrator: Jo Loring-Fisher | Publisher: Lantana
This book is so incredibly special! Rainbow Hands tells the story of a young boy and his favorite time of day - painting-your-nails-time. He loves it because Ma has a color for every mood and feeling - white for possibilities, yellow for sunshiny days, and red when he feels misunderstood.
Some of his family members do not approve or appreciate his colorful nails, but those that do make him feel seen and adored. They build him up, and help him truly shine! This book is wonderful for so many reasons, but especially because it validates big feelings and celebrates embracing exactly who you are.
Ice Cream Face
Author/Illustrator: Heidi Woodward Sheffield | Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
We cannot help but relate to the main character in this story - he loves ice cream so much, he thinks it should be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner! There is only one thing worse than not having it every meal, though, and that’s waiting in line for it. He hates having to watch others enjoy it when he cannot. This is a fun book that can be used to discuss emotions, coping strategies and of course, ice cream!
Author: Tanu Shree Singh | Illustrator: Sandhya Prabhat | Publisher: Magination Press
This book helps children navigate the challenging feelings that come with witnessing a loved one undergo medical treatment. When Ani’s mother is away being treated, his sadness feels insurmountable. His days finally feel brighter when his mother returns - but this time, she has lost all her hair, and neither of them know if she will be home for a short time, or forever.
This book includes important resources for caregivers who are helping children explore feelings of sadness relating to family crises.
Tomorrow is a Brand New Day
Author: Davina Bell | Illustrator: Allison Colpoys | Publisher: Scribble US
"Good or bad, the things you do are all a part of being you ― of learning how to take your boat on stormy seas and stay afloat. From the creators of All the Ways To Be Smart comes a message of hope: hard days come and go, but love is with us always. A healing and uplifting tribute to learning and growing ― to making mistakes and making amends.
The perfect gift for children embarking on new challenges
A wonderful educational tool for teachers and librarians helping children process big changes and big emotions
Just right for fans of I am Human by Susan Verde & Peter H. Reynolds and The Bad Seed by Jory John and Pete Oswald."
Author/Illustrator: Harry Woodgate | Publisher: little bee books
"Timmy is struggling with their inner cowardly lion in this picture book about friendship and overcoming anxiety.
Timmy loves nothing more than performing, that is, until they have an audience. They live in the shadow of their inner cowardly lion who loves to come out and ROAR all their confidence away. As Timmy dreads the upcoming school play, they form a powerful friendship with their classmate Nia. Together, they work to overcome their shyness and tame the lion. But when it's time to take the stage, Timmy feels the familiar swoosh of the lion's tail.
Will Timmy be able to calm their anxiety and put on a show-stopping performance?"
Author: Debra Kempf Shumaker | Illustrator: Tristan Yuvienco | Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
"Whether you’re sad or angry, happy or proud, there’s one thing you can do: tell someone. Just talking about your problems can help make them better, and the person you’re talking to may have ways to help. When children feel nervous on the first day of school, or experience that scary feeling of having a secret that doesn’t feel right, this book empowers kids to find someone they trust―and tell them."
The Rhino Suit
Author/Illustrator: Colter Jackson | Publisher: Sounds True
"When one little girl sees litter in the streets, an animal without shelter, and the pain of a parent, the weight of the world feels like too much to bear. She feels everything so deeply, it makes her want to hide.
One day, when the tenderness and pain of the world feel like they are more than she can handle, she has a grand idea. She decides to build a rhino suit to keep herself safe.
Inside the rhino’s armor, the pain of the world is easy for the girl to ignore―but the beauty and joy that the world has to offer are hidden from her, too. And soon, she finds that the rhino suit blocks off her ability to help. Maybe living without thick skin is worth the risk …
With soft and emotive illustrations and a story that will open hearts, The Rhino Suit is about moving from fear to courageousness, from brokenness to wholeness, and from feeling shut down to letting all of life in."