Kindness, compassion and empathy: picture books

The Smile Shop

Help put your child in another person’s shoes with these picture books that inspire compassion: whether that’s towards animals, friends, or people in very different situations to your own.

Not only will you end up caring about about them all, but you’ll also feel grateful for the simple things you have and the people you love.

So share these books as a family, and let’s spread a little kindness in the world…

  • Kind

    Author: Alison Green Illustrator: Axel Scheffler & with pictures by 38 artists
    Publisher: Scholastic
    Interest age: 4-8
    Reading age: 5+

    A delicious book by Alison Green with illustrations and a foreword by Axel Scheffler, plus pictures by 38 international illustrators, to celebrate kindness and humankind. A profound book that is quite simply a treasure trove of wisdom and beauty. 

  • Feel Better, Daddy

    Author: Nancy Loewen and Hazel Quintanilla
    Publisher: Words and Pictures
    Interest age: 1-3

    This adorable story about a little girl taking care of her unwell father is one that encourages empathy in little ones. It's a lovely little story with appealing red, black-and-white illustrations in a ten-page board book.

  • When Sadness Comes to Call

    Author: Eva Eland
    Publisher: Andersen Press
    Interest age: 4-8
    Reading age: 5+

    Introducing the concept of mental wellbeing, this picture book helps children to recognise and understand difficult emotions. The result is a contemplative and ultimately uplifting tale.

  • It’s a No-Money Day

    Author: Kate Milner
    Publisher: Barrington Stoke
    Interest age: 4-8
    Reading age: 5+

    This moving picture book about a family’s visit to the food bank is a sensitive exploration of how it may feel to live below the poverty line. Perfect to share with young children to develop empathy and understanding (or to recognise their own situation).

  • Kindness Rules!

    Author: Eunice and Sabrina Moyle
    Publisher: Abrams Appleseed
    Interest age: 2-4

    Magic Manners, a large blue elephant with a superhero costume and cape, is here to remind us that kindness rules! This bright, cheery, rhyming board book is great for toddlers and preschoolers who are learning to share and treat others with gentleness. 

  • My Pet Star

    Author: Corrinne Averiss Illustrator: Rosalind Beardshaw
    Publisher: Orchard Books, Hachette
    Interest age: 2-5

    A star falls from the night sky and is cared for by a small girl, who introduces him to all the things she loves, until it's time to say goodbye. A gentle, magical story about the importance of kindness with a positive message about letting go. Perfect for bedtime.

  • Ned and the Great Garden Hamster Race

    Author: Kim Hillyard
    Publisher: Ladybird
    Interest age: 3-6

    There’s only one thing on Ned’s mind today and that’s winning. A funny, heartwarming story about a little hamster, a big race and the value of kindness.

  • The Smile Shop

    Author: Satoshi Kitamura
    Publisher: Scallywag Press
    Interest age: 4-8
    Reading age: 6+

    A captivating and surprising picture book packed with intricate illustrations and a strong message – that kindness is more important than money.

  • Do Something for Someone Else

    Author: Loll Kirby with foreword by Michael Platt Illustrator: Yas Imamura
    Publisher: Magic Cat Publishing
    Interest age: 6-8
    Reading age: 7+

    Emphasising that every small act of kindness can make a genuine difference, this thought-provoking picture book is sure to motivate young people to take action and make the world a fairer place.

  • The Little War Cat

    Author: Hiba Noor Khan Illustrator: Laura Chamberlain
    Publisher: Macmillan
    Interest age: 4-5

    With stunningly emotive illustrations, this is an accessibly and inspiring story for 4-5 year olds showing how hope and kindness can still thrive during times of extreme adversity.

  • Be Kind

    Author: Pat Zietlow Miller Illustrator: Jen Hill
    Publisher: Macmillan
    Interest age: 4-5

    Tanisha is so embarrassed when she spills grape juice on her dress at school, but the little girl telling the story thinks of lots of ways she can show kindness to someone in trouble. A wonderful picture book that reminds us that being kind is one of the simplest and most profound things we can do.

  • See What I Can Do!

    Author: Jon Roberts Illustrator: Hannah Rounding
    Publisher: Graffeg Books
    Interest age: 4-8
    Reading age: 6+

    See What I Can Do! introduces a range of characters (based on real-life children) who each share an insight about disability and point out the challenges but also positive aspects of their lives. A beautiful book that celebrates individuality, empathy and understanding. 

  • The New Girl

    Author: Nicola Davies Illustrator: Cathy Fisher
    Publisher: Graffeg
    Interest age: 6-8

    A new girl joins the class, but the other children laugh and shout at her as she doesn't look like them and speaks a different language. Slowly, compassion blooms amid the origami flowers she makes for her classmates.

  • The Perfect Shelter

    Author: Clare Helen Welsh
    Publisher: Little Tiger Press
    Interest age: 4-8

    It’s the perfect day to build a shelter, the perfect day for a family expedition, the perfect day to play in a den. However, joy turns to concern as it becomes clear that the narrator’s sister is sick. This beautiful book tackles a tough subject with real tenderness.