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Books to support mental health awareness

Michael Rosen's Sad Book

Books that acknowledge or explore mental health issues can help to increase awareness, encourage dialogue, reduce stigma and develop real understanding.

The following suggestions offer a spectrum of different perspectives and are well worth seeking out. 

These include books that explore emotions for discussion with younger children, plus a range of teen/young adult reads that feature mental health issues.

  • Hopewell High: All Too Much

    Author: Jo Cotterill Illustrator: Maria Garcia Borrego
    Publisher: Bloomsbury
    Interest age: 9+
    Reading age: 9+

    An absorbing school story that looks at the pressures and mental health challenges for young people when trying to live up to expectations. Part of a series that provides age-appropriate stories for struggling and reluctant readers.

  • Paper Avalanche

    Author: Lisa Williamson
    Publisher: David Fickling Books
    Interest age: 12+
    Reading age: 12+

    Fourteen-year-old Ro Snow’s got a secret: her house is filled to the doors with her mother’s hoarded rubbish. A brilliant, thoughtful read that explores Bonnie’s mental health issues and their effect on Ro with compassion. 

  • The 10pm Question

    Author: Kate Di Goldi
    Publisher: Templar
    Interest age: 14+
    Reading age: 10+

    Like his desk, Frankie likes life to be orderly and neat. But then Sydney arrives, and disturbs Frankie's carefully organised world, forcing him to ask a hitherto unspoken 10pm question.

  • The Cloud

    Author: Hannah Cumming
    Publisher: Child's Play
    Interest age: 4+
    Reading age: 6+

    Everyone loves art class; everyone except the little girl who sits alone and draws nothing, a black cloud glowering above her

  • Tiny Infinities

    Author: J H Diehl
    Publisher: Chronicle Books
    Interest age: 9+
    Reading age: 9+

    Thirteen-year-old Alice is trying to stop her family falling apart. A very beautiful and sensitively handled book that touches on themes of mental health, family relationships, friendships and love.

  • The Mystery of the Colour Thief

    Author: Ewa Jozefkowicz Illustrator: Sophie Gilmore (front cover)
    Publisher: Zephyr
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9-11

    The book paints a convincing picture of a harrowing time in a young life, and the time, talking and friendship that helps her to process trauma. But this is by no means a gloomy read, offering ample humour, hope and optimism.

  • Under Rose-Tainted Skies

    Author: Louise Gornall
    Publisher: Chicken House
    Interest age: 14+
    Reading age: 14+

    Seventeen-year-old Norah is essentially trapped in her own home, caught in the vice-like grip of Agoraphobia and OCD. Then one day a new young neighbour on the street arouses her curiosity. Honest, brave and utterly compelling.

  • The Colour Thief

    Author: Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters Illustrator: Karin Littlewood
    Publisher: Wayland
    Interest age: 4-8
    Reading age: 7+

    Drawing on personal experiences of living in a family blighted by depression, this unusual, yet important, book may help youngsters to make sense of an illness they cannot see.

  • The Goldfish Boy

    Author: Lisa Thompson
    Publisher: Scholastic
    Interest age: 9-12
    Reading age: 9+

    Matthew has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Can he help an investigation into the abduction of a child, perhaps without even leaving his house? A captivating read, combining a compelling whodunit with an engaging protagonist.

  • Michael Rosen's Sad Book

    Author: Michael Rosen Illustrator: Quentin Blake
    Publisher: Walker Books
    Interest age: 6+
    Reading age: 6+

    The subject of bereavement is treated in an unusual way in Michael Rosen's Sad Book, which deals with the death of the author's own son.

  • The Pond

    Author: Nicola Davies Illustrator: Cathy Fisher
    Publisher: Graffeg Books
    Interest age: 5+
    Reading age: 7+

    A young boy and his father are planning a pond in their back garden - but they only get as far as digging a muddy hole when Dad passes away. A raw, emotional but ultimately hopeful take on grief, loss, nature and love.

  • The Colour Monster

    Author: Anna Llenas
    Publisher: Templar
    Interest age: 4-8
    Reading age: 7+

    An original and entertaining picture book using colour, collage-effect illustrations and a delightfully cute monster to help youngsters identify and understand different emotions.

  • Running on the Cracks

    Author: Julia Donaldson
    Publisher: Egmont
    Interest age: 11+
    Reading age: 11+

    Julia Donaldson's first novel for young adults is a tense thriller about a runaway. Donaldson addresses numerous issues in her gripping text, including abuse, mental health, mixed-race families and, above all, loyalty.

  • Bang, Bang, You're Dead!

    Author: Narinder Dhami
    Publisher: Corgi
    Interest age: 9+
    Reading age: 9+

    Dhami's thriller takes us from a dysfunctional home, where twins Mia and Jamie live with their divorced mother – who has bipolar disorder – to a school siege in which a pupil holds a class hostage. Compelling.

  • Optimists Die First

    Author: Susin Nielsen
    Publisher: Andersen Press
    Interest age: 12+
    Reading age: 12+

    Petula's life is ruled by anxiety, fear and pessimism after her little sister died two years before. Then she meets Jacob, and an unconventional love story unfolds. Another five star read from Susin Nielsen: one of the most talented teen writers working today.

  • The Illustrated Mum

    Author: Jacqueline Wilson Illustrator: Nick Sharratt
    Publisher: Random House
    Interest age: 10+
    Reading age: 10+

    This is a moving yet unsentimental account of two children coming to terms with their mother’s depression, mental instability and alcohol problem.

  • More Than This

    Author: Patrick Ness
    Publisher: Walker Books
    Interest age: 14+
    Reading age: 14+

    Carnegie Medal-winning author Patrick Ness tackles weighty questions of life and death head on in this provocative and challenging novel. Combining elements of a sci-fi thriller with the abstract and philosophical, this is bold, unusual and beautifully written. 

  • Scarlet Ibis

    Author: Gill Lewis
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Interest age: 8+
    Reading age: 7+

    At times heart-rending, this is a powerful story which skilfully gains our sympathy for those who are often misjudged, feared and derided by society.

  • Finding a Voice

    Author: Kim Hood
    Publisher: O'Brien
    Interest age: 12-16
    Reading age: 10+

    This is an engaging story about the two-way nature of friendship and the risks of making assumptions. The overriding message is uplifting, whilst also leaving the reader with a powerful reminder that good intentions aren't always enough.

  • The Ghosts of Heaven

    Author: Marcus Sedgwick
    Publisher: Indigo
    Interest age: 13+
    Reading age: 12+

    The Ghosts of Heaven is an excellent book that will open up new avenues of thought and future reading and introduces teenage readers to a more inventive understanding of storytelling.

  • Am I Normal Yet?

    Author: Holly Bourne
    Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
    Interest age: 14+
    Reading age: 14+

    This is a powerful and engrossing read that successfully informs, shocks, reassures and entertains in equal measures.

  • Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot

    Author: Horatio Clare Illustrator: Jane Matthews
    Publisher: Firefly
    Interest age: 8-12
    Reading age: 8+

    This fabulously illustrated book addresses the difficult subject of parental depression, at once describing the horror of Aubrey’s dad’s experience but also remaining upbeat and full of surreal humour.

  • The Red Tree

    Author: Shaun Tan
    Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
    Interest age: 9+
    Reading age: 9+

    The perfect blend of words and pictures, this is a wonderful book to share with anyone suffering from depression or uncertainty

  • My Monster and Me

    Author: Nadiya Hussain and Ella Bailey
    Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
    Interest age: 3-5

    A boy introduces both himself and his monster, who has been with him for as long as he can remember. An all-round perfect picture book for entertaining and reassuring any child that though anxiety may be a part of life, it does not define us and can be managed. 

  • Up and Down Mum

    Author: Summer Macon
    Publisher: Child’s Play
    Interest age: 4-8
    Reading age: 5+

    Everyone has good days and bad days, but in some cases, it is far more extreme. This powerful and moving portrayal of a parent with Bipolar Disorder is laced with hope and reassurance. An inspired picture book, created in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust.