Top 10 Children’s Books About Feelings and Emotions
Help your child talk about their feelings and emotions with our 'Book Lists to Read' series.
From the elation of feelings such as joy, excitement, anticipation, to the lows of frustration, anxiety and anger, many children’s books that help kids to understand their feelings emphasise that emotions in themselves are not ‘bad’ or shameful, but as changeable as the weather, and as human as it is to love. And it seems only natural that the way that children’s feelings and emotions are addressed in books can be as variable and beautiful as those emotions themselves explored. We have compiled a list of some of the best picture books to celebrate children’s books on feelings and emotions, and as you’ll see, they take some lovely different approaches to an intriguingly complex topic.
Beautifully illustrated in a modern, design-type style, Today I Feel… An Alphabet of Emotions has a double spread to each letter, delving into the varies emotions children can feel, including Relaxed, Daring, and Brilliant, as well as of course, Yucky. Each emotion is accompanied by a sweet and simple illustration, allowing children to delve into a world that is both familiar and shared. What is great about this book is that there is a strong presence of positive emotions amongst the negative, allowing children to understand the nuances of feelings they can identify with, and naming those feelings in a beautiful, universal way.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a children’s classic, and for good reason. The charming story of a little boy and all his daily troubles and woes, from waking up with gum in his hair, to dropping his sweater in water, to schoolyard arguments, being forced to eat food he hates, and even seeing kissing on TV (yerck!) helps children to understand that our feelings are not always rational, and sometimes everything just feels bad. Eventually Alexander’s belief that everything would be better in Australia is gently rebuked by his mother that night, who notes that even people in Australia can have bad days. With its unique illustrations communicating the thundering emotions of Alexander as he negotiates his Very Bad day, the book will appeal to children and adults alike for its gentle humour and empathy.
Wilma Jean the Worry Machine is a story about a little girl, Wilma Jean, who just can’t stop worrying. What if she is asked to answer a question at the blackboard today? What if she gets it wrong? What if she doesn’t like her lunch? What if she is invited to her friend’s birthday party and there are no roller skates for her and she has to sit apart from the other kids? There are so many things for a school-aged kid to worry about! The wonderful thing about this book is that the solution proposed to Wilma Jean by her teacher is a great strategy that kids at home can also use if they’re starting to worry too much. Wilma Jean’s teacher suggests that she itemise her worries into the worries she can control, and those she can’t. Then, for those she can’t, she has a special hat where she can put the thoughts back in her head. Wilma Jean the Worry Machine is a lovely, gently humorous story about the way that worries can build up inside, and how others around us can be helpful in easing those worries. It’s also a great reminder that children can sometimes worry about things that parents don’t even imagine, and of the value of communication and reassurance in managing those worries.
The Colour Monster Pop Up is a fantastic, interactive book with bright pop-ups that associates familiar emotions with coloured monsters that leap from each page. There’s nothing complicated here – emotions include anger (red), happiness (yellow), fear (black), calm (green) and sadness (blue). What is lovely about this book is that the monster starts off being a mix of colours, and children help sort his mixed emotions into their primary jars. This is a wonderful way of helping children separate their feelings during times of confusion, and gives them easy labels to help understand the array of emotions that can often erupt at once.
How do YOU Feel? has been a favourite in our house for a long time. It goes through a number of feelings that children will easily identify with, and illustrates them with the humour that Anthony Browne is well known for. Children will identify with the feelings described as they are brilliantly illustrated by the monkey’s clear facial expressions, while the text, with its emphasis on how the monkey feels ‘sometimes’ (i.e. not always) helps children to understand that feelings are often temporary, and can change very quickly from one to another. The little monkey is very comfortable with his changeable emotions, and kids can see that they too can be comfortable with their myriad of feelings.
Felix is mean to his little sister one morning, and his grandfather explains about buckets. What are buckets? They’re the invisible stores of energy, enthusiasm or optimism that make it easier to cope with life. When bad things happen, it’s easy to lose little drops from the bucket, until sometimes, we can be running on empty. How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids is an entertaining story that sees Felix losing and gaining drops from his bucket during a typical day at school. After a day of noticing how his own bucket fills and empties, Felix is better able to relate to others too, each with their own bucket, as they attempt to respect one another and to keep it as full as possible. It’s a great book for teaching children not only how to understand their own sudden frustrations and feelings of moroseness, but also emphasises how showing kindness and respect for the moods of others can have a flow-on effect for the buckets of those around us, and our own buckets too.
In Today I Feel Silly, And Other Moods That Make My Day, a little girl shows the variety of moods she can feel in any one day, in humorous rhymes relating to her daily life. Children will enjoy the fun nature of this book, which along with the lively illustrations show that its okay to feel silly and to act upon it! The concluding pages of this book see the little girl telling readers that moods are just something that happens each day and its okay to feel them all. It’s a great feel-good book embracing self-acceptance in our diversity of emotions that come and go.
Grumpy Bird is a funny story about a little bird who just wants to be left alone to walk… but his friends can’t resist walking beside him! The story is a great illustration of how sometimes, just a little company and some sharing of our troubles can make a grumpy person feel better. Grumpy bird will especially appeal to little readers, who may laugh at the surprising ending, as well as of course the very grumpy expression of the story’s protagonist.
Sometimes I’m Bombaloo is one of those beautiful books that is pitched perfectly to the interior life and creativity of kids. Katie is a good little girl – but sometimes, when a little thing or a collection of little things happen, she turns into BOMBALOO! Bombaloo is a monster who wants to hit people, make angry noises and is never sorry. Bombaloo comes with a bang, and when he goes, Katie’s mother understands and helps her to make amends to her little brother. Sometimes I’m Bombaloo is a warm and non-judgemental story about the tempers that can sometimes overcome a child, and provides a helpful framework for helping children to see their occasional surrender to the monster within as something they can address with time, a freeing from excessive guilt, and the support of the adults around them.
What To Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide To Overcoming Anxiety is a helpful book for middle-grade readers to recognise and understand feelings of anxiety in themselves, and manage how much energy they give to ‘growing’ their feelings of anxiety. Told in the easy and approachable style of a self-help manual for school-aged children, the book is an engaging and useful look at how anxiety manifests in all of us. This practical book allows children to identify and visualise their anxieties, and to start thinking about strategies to help them overcome anxiety at the seed, before they become an overgrown garden.
My Inside Weather is a story about how we can sometimes find it difficult to talk about or describe our emotions, and offers emotions a new vocabulary by matching complex feelings with the weather.
The Happy Hat is a simple tale for very young children about feeling unhappy, and how we can self-regulate to feel happier once more. In this short, bright story, a little boy who feels sad decorates a hat with things he likes, until he rediscovers his happiness.
Hippo is so happy when she dances! But her dancing bothers the people around her. How can Hippo keep being happy, when being happy means making others sad? Hippo Wants to Dance is a sweet story for young children about finding one’s own happiness, and better still, sharing it with others.
Luca lives in a lighthouse, and only owns four books. One day he meets Lily, who has a very special book he wants to read. But when Lily forgets her book, and Luca doesn’t tell her, he must grapple with the strange feelings that come from his ‘little lie’… The Little Lie is a story about feelings of friendship and empathy, and how children can sometimes feel in the aftermath of a lie. It concludes with positive reinforcement of truth-telling, which experts suggest encourages truthfulness more than reading stories about punishment does.