Picture books often address a particular emotion, explicitly or not, and it’s one of my favorite things about them. They give you a certain reaction, they help you cope with a feeling, or they help you usher one in. So, I give you 30 picture book titles to help assuage, validate, or cultivate what a little one (or you) is going through.
The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes is essentially a hope manisfesto! If you’ve ever had a dream, this one’s for you.
Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley. Hank shows us what it means to have the impulse to do something kind and then to do everything it takes to actually make it happen.
Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. Madame Chapeau may be a fabulous hat maker, but she always eats dinner alone. I love how this book shows us that companionship can come not only from a romantic relationship, but from an unexpected friend.
Grandfather Ghandi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedu, illustrated by Evan Turk. This is the book that sparked the idea for this post. In it Gandhi’s grandson discovers that even the most peaceful people still experience anger.
You’re Finally Here! by Mélanie Watt. This is a classic story of impatience, something any reader who’s ever waited for something can relate to.
Peace is an Offering by Annette Lebox and Stephanie Graegin. This is the kind of book that will make you cry, in a good way. It’s like a little manual for the peaceful life.
Little Elliot Big City by Mike Curato. Besides being an immensely sweet and satisfying book, at its heart is Elliot, who is very small. And when you read it, you find out that an antidote for smallness is to find someone else to share with, regardless of size or being seen.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis. Who can’t relate to this one? Even the main character, an elementary school child, already has something she remembers and wishes she could change.
Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo. Felipe the cactus is different from his spiny relatives all right. We as readers know he truly deserves that hug he wants, even though his family doesn’t see it that way. This one celebrates being different even in its difficulty.
Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison. I love this one because it tells us that being ordinary is pretty super if you’re being yourself.
Marvelous Cornelius by Phil Bidner and John Parra. This picture book is for anyone feeling powerless to realize they’re not. Cornelius shows us what a giant difference one person can make, especially when they inspire others to pitch in.
Stephen and the Beetle by Jorge Luján and Chiara Carrer. This is such a great example of imagining another’s perspective, even if that other is an insect.
Red by Jan De Kinder. At its heart, this book shows the kind of compassion that rouses us to stand up for someone else, no matter how hard it is to do so.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt. A perfect primer on wanting to be something you’re not and then recognizing the upside of your own state.
Jane, the Fox, & Me by Isabelle Arsenault and Fanny Brit. Aside from being one of the most gorgeous books ever, this story is for anyone who hangs her head because of what someone else has said or because of the thoughts swimming in her own mind. Fear not, it is not as it seems in the moment!
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson. An admonition to notice things, to log them away, and to stand tall no matter how small you are.
Hooray For Hat! by Brian Won. This is a book to turn that frown upside down for sure. Just the design and color do that for me, but it’s the sweet story of friends helping friends that seals the deal.
Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina and Claudio Muñoz. The niece who is the narrator in this story has so much devotion to her aunt and to their dreams—devotion she’s willing to work very hard for.
Night Driving by John Coy and Peter McCarty. A slow and quiet father/son nighttime drive with all the details of remembering.
Beautiful Griselda by ISOL. A cautionary fairy tale for anyone too concerned with their own beauty.
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea. This is an archetypal jealousy book and has big-time humor to boot! Goat’s jealousy, as all jealousy, comes from only valuing what that shiny unicorn has instead of valuing your own good stuff.
Beegu by Alexis Deacon. One of my favorite picture books ever and perfect for times when you feel super out of place. But don’t worry, there are small people on earth who will accept you—children.
One by Kathryn Otoshi. A book that inspires on many levels—in the ingenuity of its execution as well as its message.
Nasreddine by Odile Weulersse and Rebecca Dautremer. A beautifully illustrated parable about not caring what others think of you.
How To by Julie Morstad. Like a how to manual for joy, Morstad’s admonitions, if followed, would lead to the best day ever. A book you’ll want to live in.
Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith and Marla Frazee. I love this character with a terrible case of the doldrums until she whips them into cake! Cake to cure any foul mood!
Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon. Ralph shows us what it’s like to think we don’t have a story and then discover we do. (He also has great writing advice like eating lots of chocolate.)
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger and Dan Santat. This will give you the giggles to cure that crankiness right up.
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan. This is the most special picture book ever to me. It will go there with you into hopelessness, but then right at the very last moment, it will show you possibility.
The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc. This tender, true book! One helps the other and in turn the other has something to offer the first. Isn’t that what companionship is?
I hope this list comes in handy for you now or in the future. And if you have any other picture book titles that you associate strongly with an emotion, do let me know in the comments!