Many kids struggle with anxiety. School performance, family life, questions over emerging identities, separations and divorce, body-image: these and many other issues can create a pervasive and overwhelming sense of insecurity and helplessness, and kids (and adults) can find it difficult to find outlets which will help relieve and/or treat these feelings. The following items address anxiety with honesty and compassion, and it’s our hope that you might use these tools to begin conversations with your family about handling anxiety in a healthy, productive way that values treatment over stigma, affirmation over isolation.

Picture Books

Daisy is moving. A new school, a new home, a new life. Her parents are excited, but all she feels is worry: will she make new friends? Will her cat run away? What if the new neighbors are mean? Feeling overwhelmed, she confides in her grandfather, who listens and provides alternative, positive pathways for change. In the end, Daisy feels more confident, reassured that change also brings the possibility of happiness and that her family will always be there for support.

This picture book provides an excellent opportunity to address your child’s worries about big life changes, and presents a model of an affirmative approach that both attends to a child’s fears but also redirects their worries into more positive spaces. The book also features a discussion guide at the end, with guiding questions for talking to your child about their worries.

Marilyn lives in a world where everyone has a monster that chooses a human as a lifelong companion. Except hers hasn’t found her. Marilyn watches as all her friends play with their monsters, while hers remains mysteriously absent. Determined, she sets off on her own to find the monster, something that has never been done before. But Marilyn doesn’t have time for conventions; she has a monster to find.

In Michelle Knudsen’s Show-Me Readers Award-nominee, readers are presented with a powerful metaphor for change in the form of monsters. It can be tough and worrying to watch one’s peers experience different stages of life and develop a little quicker, and this book presents an opportunity to start a dialogue about confronting those concerns. Knudsen imagines an empowered young girl in Marilyn, representing her as a character who feels ownership over her life, an important lesson for children struggling with feeling helpless or worried.

A young child has a problem in their life, and they’re unsure how to deal with it. The problem follows them around and only seems to grow, despite any attempts to hide or ignore it. Worries flood the child’s mind. Eventually it becomes all-consuming, and the child is faced with a choice: do I keep running away from the problem, or do I face it?

From the creators of What Do You Do With an Idea? comes a lesson told with the same poignancy and beautiful illustrations. Yamada and Besom understand how powerful a child’s worries can become, treating them respect while also offering the potential for redirection. Use this book to talk with your child about how their worries — a new home or school, making new friends — can also be exciting new opportunities.

It’s Jim’s first day, and he has one thought on his mind: will I have a friend? Jim watches on his first day as the other children play and laugh together, while he stands off alone with no one to play with. But his worries are put to rest when another boy approaches him, and the two begin to talk and play, eventually joining the other children. Picked up from school by his father, Jim is happy to boast of his new friend.

Making new friends (and going to a new school) often produce a lot of anxiety for children. It can be hard to imagine that anyone will like you, that other kids will want to play with you, that you’ll fit in, etc. Cohen’s book affirms these worries while demonstrating that they are vanquished as easily as they arrive, pointing out along the way that children share many commonalities and can form strong attachments with each other in a short span of time.

In addition to the featured texts above, try these other picture books that deal with childhood anxiety. Just click the picture to follow the link!

General Fiction

From the Publishers Weekly review:

“This clever story about friendship, loss, and bowling shoes by Gephart (Lily and Dunkin) traces how two miserable middle schoolers strike up an unexpected friendship. Still grieving over her mother’s recent death, Amy Silverman is not happy about moving from Chicago to Buckington (“Borington”), Pa., to live with her uncle above his funeral home. Meanwhile, Miles Spagoski, whose family owns Buckington Bowl, the local bowling alley, is also feeling sorrow, as well as anxiety. He misses his grandmother, who died a year ago, and is worried about his ailing grandfather. The tweens meet under unfortunate circumstances on Amy’s first day of school: before Amy even enters the building, Miles’s lucky bowling shoe gets tossed in the air and clonks her on the head. Though tossed-shoe victim and crackerjack bowler are destined to become close, the build to this inevitability is entertaining, as Miles awkwardly attempts to make amends, and Amy, when she’s feeling blue, composes an ongoing story about a peasant girl who also gets hit in the head. Told from the alternating perspectives of the endearing protagonists, the novel humorously verifies that loss can lead to surprising beginnings.”

In this transitional reader, Bobby enters his beagle puppy Lucy in a local pet contest. Bobby knows Lucy is the best, but if she wins he might have to appear in a local commercial. And Bobby is afraid of public speaking. Featuring illustrations by David Merrell, Look at Lucy! is a great read for that dog-loving child in your life, while also serving as a vehicle to address anxiety over public performance.

From a blog post by Erik Missio:

“In this illustrated chapter book, Steve is worried about his sick newborn baby brother, worried about how his parents are coping and worried about the wasp’s nest hanging from his house. But when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve hopes his days of worrying are over. But agreeing to the wasp queen’s terms seems dangerous. This is a creepy, gothic story that children truly enjoy without necessarily even noticing its anxiety-related plotline. Perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

Series

“My name is Alvin Ho. I was born scared, and I am still scared.” In this delightful and funny series, readers are introduced to Alvin Ho, a second-grader who is scared of many things. Each book in the series deals with different fears — camping, new babies, school, etc. — and how Alvin ultimately comes to face those fears and overcome them. Told in an infectious first-person voice and punctured throughout with illustrations by LeUyen Pham, fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will find much to enjoy with the Alvin Ho books. Look for them in our Series section!

Graphic Novel

From the Kirkus review:

“Shannon, depicted in Pham’s clear, appealing panels as a redheaded white girl, starts kindergarten in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1979, and her story ends just before sixth grade. Desperately longing to be in “the group” at school, Shannon suffers persistent bullying, particularly from a mean girl, Jenny, which leads to chronic stomachaches, missing school, and doctor visits. Contemporary readers will recognize behaviors indicative of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but the doctor calls it anxiety and tells Shannon to stop worrying. Instead of being a place of solace, home adds to Shannon’s stress. The middle child of five, she suffers abuse from her oldest sibling, Wendy, whom Pham often portrays as a fierce, gigantic bear and whom readers see their mother worrying about from the beginning. The protagonist’s faith (presented as generically Christian) surfaces overtly a few times but mostly seems to provide a moral compass for Shannon as she negotiates these complicated relationships. This episodic story sometimes sticks too close to the truth for comfort, but readers will appreciate Shannon’s fantastic imagination that lightens her tough journey toward courage and self-acceptance.

A painful and painfully recognizable tale of one girl’s struggle to make and keep ‘one good friend.’ (author’s note).”

From the dust jacket copy:

“In this wordless graphic picture book, a young boy feels alone with his worries. He isn’t fitting in well at school. His grades are slipping. He’s even lashing out at those who love him.

In talented Austrailian artist Mel Tregonning’s emotionally rich illustrations, the boy’s anxiety manifests as tiny beings that crowd around him constantly, overwhelming him and even gnawing away at his very self. The striking imagery is all the more powerful when, overcoming his isolation at last, the boy discovers that the tiny demons surround everyone, even those who seem to have it all together.

This short but hard-hitting wordless graphic picture book gets to the heart of childhood anxiety and opens the way for dialogue about acceptance, vulnerability, and the universal experience of worry.”

Beginning Reader

Friday is scared of many things, running and jumping and hiding to avoid a variety of fears. But Friday is also not afraid of a lot of things, and he regains confidence as he remembers that it’s okay to be afraid. A perfect, fun read to process childhood fears and redirect those anxieties into affirmative realizations.

Yoko is excited for school, but she doesn’t want her mother to leave; she’s afraid she won’t come back. But with the help of her teacher and friends, Yoko learns that her mother will always be there, and that she will always come back. Many children deal with separation anxiety in their first days of school, and Mama, Don’t Go! could be a great way to address those concerns and offer that much-needed assurance for school-bound children.

Fan-favorite Splat the Cat is back, this time facing a school music concert. Except Splat is shy and afraid to sing. With the help of his teacher and classmates, Splat learns that he’ll be supported in song by his classmates, even while singing flat. Children can be shy and struggle with confidence, which can lead to fear and anxiety, and this funny, colorful book can help encourage any child facing some kind of public performance; while it might be scary, they’ll always have people to support them.

Kit

In addition to these materials, we also feature a Parent Power Kit related to the subject of Anxiety, which contains these materials:

  • A Feel Better Book for Little Worriers by Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen (picture book)
  • Anxiety Relief for Kids: On-the-Spot Strategies to Help Your Child Overcome Worry, Panic & Avoidance by Bridget Flynn Walker, PhD (adult non-fiction)
  • But What if? by Sue Graves (picture book)
  • Bye-Bye Time/Momento de la despedida by Elizabeth Verdick (board book)
  • Silly Billy by Anthony Brown (picture book)
  • Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes (picture book)
  • Parent Resource Folder

Look for our kits in our pre-school area!

While this list is by no means exhaustive of our collection’s titles which deal with anxiety, we hope that some of these texts might help guide you and your family as you address these issues with your children. If you have any book suggestions of your own, sound off in the comments below!

Matt Holder is a seasonal Library Associate in the Youth Services department. When he's not working here he's at work on his PhD in English at Saint Louis University. He enjoys all things science fiction and horror, and he'd be happy to talk with anyone that will listen about comic books and film. His favorite authors include Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, Cormac McCarthy, and Victor LaValle.