Six books with the theme of anxiety

Published on: 18 September 2023

Author Simon Packham shares some top books that can open up conversations about feelings of anxiety and worry.

Worrybot is probably my most personal book so far. Aged twelve, I was an ‘emotion-based school avoider’ (more commonly known as ‘school refuser’), feigning illness for a whole term after being bullied. Anxiety seems to be increasingly prevalent in today’s children. My daughter experienced it throughout school and university, so I know how debilitating it can be. I hope that Worrybot will reassure readers suffering from anxiety that they’re not alone, as well as opening up discussions about friendship and feelings. But most of all of course, I just hope they enjoy it!  

All The Things That Could Go Wrong by Stewart Foster

Alex, who suffers from OCD, has a long list of all the things that make him anxious (cars, germs, being pooped on by birds, hugging his dad). Some days he finds it difficult to leave the house and go to school, especially when it means running into angry Dan the class bully. Thrust together by their mums, the two boys find themselves working on a raft-building project together. They both hate the idea. But as Alex and Dan begin to feel empathy for one another, a true friendship develops which will benefit them both. The use of two narrators allows the reader a fascinating glimpse into both boys’ heads in a wonderful story about the transforming power of friendship.

Charlie Changes into a Chicken by Sam Copeland. Illustrator Sarah Horne

Charlie McGuffin has a problem. At apparently random moments, he changes into animals. No one believes him at first and he feels quite lonely. But with the help of his friends, he sets out to find why it’s happening. This is a highly original (and very funny) book about how stress and anxiety can manifest themselves and what we might do to try and cope with them. Shout out too for Sarah Horne’s brilliant illustrations.

Dog Ears by Anne Booth

Behind the happy mask, Anna is a real worrier. Trying to fit in at secondary school is hard enough. But looking after her mum (who’s worried sick about baby Jack) while her dad is working abroad is almost impossible. What’s more, the only one she can talk to about it is her beloved dog, Timmy. Luckily, he’s a really good listener! This poignant story about the difficulties faced by young carers is also extremely funny. 

No worries! (an activity book for young people who sometimes feel anxious or stressed) by Lily Murray. Illustrator - Katie Abbey. Consultant - Dr Sharie Coombes

This is an interactive self-care book in which children aged 7+ can use their creativity to help tackle feelings of anxiety and stress. There are a variety of activities (for instance a picture of a ‘worry jar’ where you write down your worries and then put a lid on them so they can’t get out again) which I think would have been brilliant for my daughter when she suffered from anxiety at primary school.

Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe

New girl Ella is facing all the anxieties of starting life at a different school. No friends, the wrong colour jumper, plus her eczema is starting to flare up. So when Lydia, the most popular girl in the school, wants to befriend her, it feels like she’s won the lottery. But what does Lydia really want from her? Maybe it’s something to do with the secret she’s been hiding. Cath Howe really understands Ella, beautifully capturing her insecurity and the stresses and challenges of school life.   

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thomson. Illustrator – Mike Lowery

Twelve-year-old Matthew spends most of his time watching the neighbours from his bedroom window. His OCD, which makes him anxious about anything from germs and death to the number thirteen, means that he finds it almost impossible to leave the house. But when a local toddler goes missing, Matthew thinks he can help. This is not only a great detective story, but also offers a positive message about the benefits of psychotherapy and a supportive family.  

Topics: Features, Feelings


Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 16 titles.

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