Picture books to help you talk about tough topics

What Does The Crocodile Say

Reading together is a wonderful way to support your child’s mental health, even when they’re young.

Sharing picture books and talking about the words and images you see can help you to gently introduce topics which might seem tricky to talk about at first. It also provides an opportunity to spend special one-on-one time with your child where they feel supported and listened to.

In this list you’ll find book suggestions covering a wide range of emotions and experiences including anxiety, sadness, loss and worry about starting school.

You can find more about how shared reading can support your child’s emotional wellbeing on our Time to Read page.

  • 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.

  • Kaya’s Heart Song

    Author: Diwa Tharan Sanders Illustrator: Nerina Canzi
    Publisher: Lantana
    Interest age: 3-5

    Kaya's mother says that to hear your heart song, you must quieten your mind. This picture book aims to promote mindfulness and there’s an explanation of the word at the back of the book, but it can also be read as a fantasy story.

  • The Building Boy

    Author: Ross Montgomery Illustrator: David Litchfield
    Publisher: Faber & Faber

    The boy loves his grandmother dearly. Best of all, he loves the stories about her life as a prize-winning architect. One day, she promises she'll build him an extraordinary house. Now his grandmother's gone, and he's heartbroken. But in her garden there are bricks and girder and he begins to build….

  • The Great Big Book of Feelings

    Author: Mary Hoffman Illustrator: Ros Asquith
    Publisher: Frances Lincoln
    Interest age: 4+
    Reading age: 7+

    How are you feeling today? This warm-hearted and thoughtful picture book explores a whole range of emotions that children might experience.

  • Ruby's Worry

    Author: Tom Percival
    Publisher: Bloomsbury
    Interest age: 3-6
    Reading age: 5+

    Ruby loves being Ruby. Until, one day, she finds a worry – and it won't stop growing. How can Ruby get rid of it and feel like herself again? A very beautiful, sensitive look at anxiety and how a problem shared is a problem halved. 

  • Brave Molly

    Author: Brooke Boynton-Hughes
    Publisher: Chronicle Books
    Interest age: 4-6

    In this (almost) wordless picture book, a young girl’s anxiety is brought to life in dark shadowy figures that follow her around. Brave Molly will capture the attention of art fans, as well as being useful for children dealing with anxiety and fear-issues. 

  • What Does The Crocodile Say?

    Author: Eva Montanari
    Publisher: Book Island
    Interest age: 3-5

    First days at nursery can be really hard for little ones and grown-ups. What Does The Crocodile Say? is a wonderful and emotive picture book that manages to express all the anxieties, along with a happy reassurance that nursery is actually quite fun.

  • Mae’s First Day of School

    Author: Kate Berube
    Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
    Interest age: 4-7
    Reading age: 6+

    It’s Mae’s first day of school, but she doesn’t want to go. Instead, she climbs a tree and refuses to come down. This charming, stylish and reassuring picture book acknowledges the anxiety that children might have about starting school.

  • Grobblechops

    Author: Elizabeth Laird Illustrator: Jenny Lucander
    Publisher: Tiny Owl
    Interest age: 3-5

    A stunningly illustrated reworking of a classic "monster under the bed" story, which helps defuse the fear for the next generation of youngsters.