Since being sent a copy of Mind Hug it has got us thinking about how picture books can be used to support children’s mental health and wellbeing. To coincide with Children’s Mental Health Week we’ve created a list of some of our favourite picture books that provide positive messages about being different or feeling out of place and also help to develop vocabularies and start conversations about how we’re feeling.
DISCLAIMER: This list is in no way meant to be prescriptive, it is simply a list of books we have enjoyed that touch on mental health and wellbeing issues that we would like to share.
Mind Hug by Emily Arber and Vanessa Lovegrove, published by Circus House.
An innovative picture book that introduces young children to mindfulness techniques through the story of Jack. Jack can’t keep up with this thoughts and when they become too loud his dad shows him a new game called a Mind Hug to help. Through deep breathing and noticing how his body feels Jack is able to control his thoughts better and become happier and calmer.
Written in consultation with doctors and a psychotherapist, this is a great book that can be introduced slowly to children who need it and as a lovely story to build empathy for others.
The Bear Who Stared by Duncan Beedie, illustrated by Templar Publishing.
Crippling shyness is not something that is covered much in picture books but it is something that can cause great anxiety for some. In this sublimely illustrated story we meet a bear who can’t find the words, or indeed any words, to say to his fellow forest dwellers so he simply stares. This eventually angers the other animals and they send him away. Embarrassed and alone bear seeks solace by a pond where a wise and friendly frog shows him the power of smiling.
We all find ourselves in the same boat as this bear from time to time; struggling to think of the right thing to say, a clever thing to say or just something to say at all. This beautiful picture book tackles this sensitive issue with consideration and charm.
Buy The Bear Who Stared from Wordery.
I Feel Happy illustrated by Giuditta Gaviraghi, published by Little Learners, Parragon Books
For the youngest readers this is a fun book to introduce the vocabulary around feelings and emotions. Each page simply illustrates a different emotion with easy to grab, pull out tabs that display an opposing feeling.
The emotions and the reasons you might feel them are explained clearly and are easy for little ones to relate to.
Great for building vocabulary and starting conversations about feelings, perfect for toddlers whose language is still developing and may feel frustrated if they are unable to explain how they feel.
In My Heart by Jo Witek, illustrated by Christine Roussey, published by Abrams Appleseed
This beautiful book focuses on the heart as the centre of our feelings and describes it as being “like a house, with all these feelings living inside.” The cut out heart illustration runs through each page and changes colour with each different feeling described.
The language is wonderfully descriptive, interpreting emotions in a concrete way making them easier to understand and explore.
A tactile and vibrant book that explores and celebrates the different ways our hearts feel and how they might make us behave.
Buy In My Heart from Wordery.
Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival, published by Bloomsbury
Norman had always been normal until one day, he grew wings. Immediately he feels the wonderful freedom as he zooms up into the air flying with the birds. However, he is brought back down to earth when he realises he needs to go home. Worried what people will think, Norman hides his wings under his coat and refuses to take it off.
It’s painfully sad watching Norman withdraw and the excellent, but minimal use of colour in the illustrations reflects how a child might be feeling if they’re anxious or worried, hiding something about themselves for fear of what others will think.
An incredibly powerful book that conveys an important message about having the strength and courage to be who you are.
Buy Perfectly Norman from Wordery.
Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph, published by Harper Collins
In the busy dog city there is one dog who doesn’t quite fit, a dog who seems to be walking a different path to all the rest. Feeling very lonely, she leaves the city and heads out to try and find who she is and where she belongs.
She finds herself in Doggywood surrounded by dogs just like her, finally she belongs. Until she spots one dog who is different, another odd dog out. This new friend makes her see that being who you are is something to be proud of.
Incredibly stlyish and vibrant, Rob Biddulph’s picture books are always a joy to read with powerful words of wisdom wrapped up in a perfect rhyming story.
“blaze a trail, be who you are.”
Buy Odd Dog Out from Wordery.Follow @Acornbooks
We received copies of Mind Hug, The Bear Who Stared and Perfectly Norman from their respective publishers for review. All other books we either own or borrowed from our local library.
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