Recommended children's booklists sorted by age or topic

Home > Curriculum Topic Booklists > PSHE & Emotional Literacy Topic Booklists > Emotional Literacy & ELSA Booklist

Emotional Literacy & ELSA Booklist

emotional literacy booklist icon

Best Children’s Books about Emotional Literacy 

From mental health first aid to specialist work with Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSA) there’s no doubt that stories can be a key tool in helping children to develop emotional literacy.

Chosen especially for their value in dealing with mental health issues, feelings and emotions, the books on this list can be used with pupils to start conversations that enable children to begin to make sense of their own feelings and understand ways to manage and deal with their emotions.

From books about managing anger like When I See Red to stories about sadness and anxiety like A Shelter for Sadness and The Worry Jar, many of the books on this list explore different ways of recognising and responding to big feelings. We’ve also included stories about identifying different emotions, like The Colour Monster, and books about the importance of friendship and connection like The Hugasaurus.

With thanks to specially trained ELSA Sue Mills at Garway Primary School for helping us to compile this list and for commenting on using these books with her school community. Schools looking to buy full packs of the books featured on this ELSA booklist can purchase whole sets via Peters

SAVE 20% with Peters

Visit our booklists on Amazon

Support independent bookshops

Children's stories about identifying different emotions

Emily Coxhead

Find Your Happy is a bright, welcoming book that is bound to get children talking about emotions. Despite being called ‘find your happy’, the book recognises that it is sometimes hard to feel happy all of the time and that every day can be different. It gives honest advice and easy ways to cheer yourself up that do not involve the more common methods that can sometimes be suggested (for example playing on electronics and playing games).

A variety of emotions are mentioned in this book, including anger, worry and shyness. Each emotion comes with small tips and tricks that any individual child could easily use in real life to help make themselves feel better and to also help them to embrace the emotion. In particular, the page about feeling sad and the encouragement given to talk to someone trusted is a particularly important one that could strike up many conversations and support children’s emotional literacy.

The wording and designs of each page are colourful, engaging and fun, making the book easy to follow. The motif of a sloth animal running throughout each page is also a nice addition, adding subtle humour and sure to be a hit with children. It will no doubt leave readers with a heart-warming feeling inside and lots of great advice that they can use when understanding and dealing with different emotions.

Moira Butterfield
 & Gwen Millward
Today I'm a baby bear I want to hug. I wouldn't mind a cuddly squeeze. I'm baby bear, so yes, please!Developing emotional and social intelligence is a huge part of young children's development, and parents are often left grappling with how best to discuss feelings of shyness, social anxiety and physical boundaries with their children. In Sometimes I'm a Baby Bear, Sometimes I'm a Snail, author Moira Butterfield deftly broaches the many different feelings children face – from feeling cuddly like a baby bear or playful like a puppy, to wanting some peace and quiet alone, like a snail curled up in its shell. Through these charming animal comparisons, we see that all feelings are valid and are given tools for how to respect boundaries. Gwen Millward's lively illustrations bring every emotion vividly to life. A final spread provides extra tools to parents and carers to help young children express their feelings in a calm and constructive way.
Anna Llenas
A picture book follow-up to The Colour Monster, Anna Llenas's jaw-dropping pop-up book. One day, Colour Monster wakes up feeling very confused. His emotions are all over the place; he feels angry, happy, calm, sad and scared all at once! To help him, a little girl shows thim what each feeling means through colour. What is the Colour Monster feeling? And can you help him feel a little less mixed up? A gentle exploration of feelings for young and old alike.
Katie Abey
A fantastic first book of feelings that introduces little ones to a wide range of emotions. Why are the animals happy? What has made them feel sad? What do YOU feel excited about?We feel happy when reading our favourite book. We feel calm when we have a bath. We feel excited when we go to a party! We Feel Happy is the perfect book for starting a conversation about feelings with children. The animals are experiencing lots of different emotions, from the hippos who are excited to visit their friends to the shark who is grumpy about brushing its teeth.Includes learning hooks such as counting, first words and recognising animals, interactive speech bubbles, prompts and ideas on how to process and understand our emotions and lots of interesting things to spot on every page.

Children's poetry about emotions

Various authors
 & Various illustrators

Many classrooms have poetry book with the classics – which are fabulous – but this collection really celebrates modern, diverse poets and their poetry.

The poems in this book will directly relate to children’s experiences of life and the emotions they will have felt. Some poems tackle more challenging emotions that arise from bullying or sadness and one poem tackles an often unspoken emotion – embarrassment. Some of these poems may need to be introduced sensitively, but the language and range of poetry styles make them accessible to explore as well as providing useful springboards for the discussion of feelings.

Some of the poems lend themselves to being spoken out loud and poems such as ‘Stomp’ and ‘It’s like this’ in the collection almost demand performance. Others are well suited to quiet reflection. The poems are written by a wide and diverse range of poets and this collection makes it a good introduction to some of the great children’s poets of today.

At the back of the book, there are photographs and short biographies of each of the poets. What this makes explicit for children is the diversity of poets as well as their achievements. Many of the poems would work well as models for children’s own poetry writing, with clear patterns that could be followed. For example, the first poem ‘If you could see laughter’ asks us to see laughter as a colour and something we can visualise. Each poem is illustrated in a different style and children could easily identify their favourite illustration. This is a great collection for any classroom.

The School of Life

This is a beautiful collection of poems, all themed around different emotional states. Working through the alphabet (Anger, Boredom, Curiosity and so on), each feeling is likened to an animal and starts with the line ‘If ….were an animal’, helping children to identify the words we use to describe emotional states and how the feelings might cause people to behave or react.

The bright illustrations help children to make the link between the emotions and their paired animal. Anger is compared to a lion, boredom is a limp jellyfish, obsession to an otter and zeal to busy, working ants. Children will have loads of fun creating their own comparisons. A comprehensive resource pack is also available to download from the publisher.

A lovely book to help develop emotional literacy, we recommend this as a great addition to book collections in schools and homes.

Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow & Laura Mucha
 & Victoria Jane Wheeler
Read about the Land of Blue, where it's OK to feel sad, find ideas for what to do with worries or how to slow down when your head is full of hurry. Give yourself time to chill out, find quiet voices in noisy places and discover kindness in yourself and others. Then maybe your own special thought machine will tell you, 'This is going well. You're doing great. You've got this!' And you have!This important and unique anthology of 45 poems by three leading poets, well known for their empathy and perception, speaks to the heart of what children think and care about, offering understanding, support and encouragement.With an endnote by leading clinical psychologist Karen Goodall.

Children's books about anger management

Samuel Langley-Swain
 & Katie Cottle

Storm in a Jar is the story of a young boy called Arlo, who has a loving relationship with his Nana. When his Nana passes away, Arlo chooses to keep her special sweetie jar as a keepsake, taking it everywhere with him. The jar keeps the memory of his Nana alive and provides him with comfort. Slowly, however, Arlo’s sadness turns to confusion and anger and the contents of the jar become dark and cloudy, like a storm. Before long, Arlo releases his anger and the jar releases its storm. But, with the help of his parents, Arlo begins to understand his feelings and that his Nana has gone on to a safe and happy place.

This poignant tale accurately portrays the feelings children experience when they lose someone they love. It shares the importance of remembering those we have loved in positive ways, using simple, understandable language. The illustrations are clear and add further detail to the story. For example, the sharp-eyed reader would notice that Arlo has a hearing impairment, he comes from a mixed-race family and doesn’t appear to notice that he has also inherited a pet tortoise from his Nana who rides the waves of the storm along with him.

At the back of the book, there are also two added extras: a ‘Stormy Bottle’ sensory craft to help with anxiety and anger; and a ‘Storm in a Jar’ science experiment. This would be an excellent book for a child suffering from a bereavement or as a starting point for a class discussion in a PSHE lesson.

James Sellick
 & Craig Shuttlewood
Goliath got angry ALL the time. Anything and anyone could spark off his rages. Some sweet singing … a croc crunching … a birthday party … Then, Goliath has an idea how to control his anger. His new theory is soon put to the test by the world’s worst parrot. Explore feelings in this fantastic new picture book series. With bright, engaging illustrations and lots of delightful animals that children can identify with, this is a perfect way to deal with big feelings.
Michelle Robinson & Tom Knight
A perfectly-pitched tale of fun and friendship, from master storyteller Michelle Robinson and illustrator extraordinaire Tom Knight.Kevin the cucumber is so cool - everybody knows it! Whenever anyone gets hot and bothered, Kevin is always there to cool them down.But when Kevin starts to feel like his friends are leaving him out, something happens that has never happened before: KEVIN. LOSES. HIS. COOL!Will Kevin's friends be there for him when he needs them most?Rhyming text by Michelle Robinson is full of energy and rhythm. Bright, bold illustrations by Tom Knight bring the brilliant story to life.This laugh-out-loud story is a super fun way for children to think about emotions - whether it's their own or someone else's.
Britta Teckentrup

The end page of this book has a quote from Anni Lanz – a human rights activist who has a focus on refugee policy. It says “Use your anger to transform the world around you” and this is the positive message of a book that focuses on anger, rage and fury – an emotion felt by us all and an emotion felt particularly keenly by children and young people with deeply held views on the issues of the day. That is why this is such a useful and meaningful book for the four year old and the young adult alike.

When I See Red is a stunningly illustrated book that tells the ‘story’ of anger. Anger in this book is seen like a storm: we see how the storm gathers and blinds, as well as how the storm heralds ‘the change’ that anger can inspire. Britta’s choice of words to describe the storm compliment the illustrations – stunning print designs – which show the main, unnamed character’s journey through her rage and ‘the storm’. The all-encompassing feeling of anger is fabulously described through poetic language and illustration. Every few pages there is a double page spread of illustration which seems to mirror the way anger can take over our whole being. Despite this, what is so refreshing is this picture book puts the angry young girl in charge of her fury – clearly in control, knowing what she is doing, knowing what and whom she is calling on to demonstrate her rage. The suppression felt before the anger is allowed to spill out is made evident as well as the positive nature of the outpouring.

I think it may be easy to cast this book as a KS1 or early years text and yet it is a really powerful tool for discussion with older pupils too about the need for anger as a means to instigate change. Anger is seen not only as a storm but also embraced as a journey that takes the girl to a stronger, braver and more powerful place. As the storm of anger clears, what is left is a new confidence and a new journey, a new way forward. This is a stunning book with huge opportunities for discussion and reflection.

Children's stories about worries and anxiety

Linzie Hunter
You're not going to find a more heartwarming and dynamic duo than Pig and Mouse! Join Pig as he learns how to turn his "what if" worries from anxiety to optimism, all with the help of his loving friend Mouse. Mouse has never had a friend quite like Pig. Pig is so incredibly kind, endlessly thoughtful and fabulously fun, but he also has a big secret... he's a tremendous worrier! When Pig gets the brilliant idea to throw a party for Mouse and their friends, he can't help but think of everything that could possibly go wrong. After all, what if a lion eats all the invitations? What if nobody comes? Or worse, what if everyone comes and has an awful time? In this adorable story, Linzie Hunter's charming, bright illustrations pair perfectly with her sweet and funny story about friendship and the endless wonder of "what if" that readers of all ages can relate to. This picture book is a great conversation starter in the home or classroom and a great way to talk to your children about worries or anxieties. Perfect for boys, girls, families and anyone who has ever had a worry or a wobble!
Jon Burgerman

‘Everybody Worries’ teaches that regardless of being ‘the coolest of the cool’ or the ‘bravest of the brave’, everyone will worry about something. Brimming with playfulness and good humour, this short picture book explores different scenarios which people may find daunting or upsetting.

With easy-to-read rhyming couplets and repetition, the story welcomes a rhythmical read-aloud to be enjoyed by all. The important message within the words of this book is further enhanced with the iconic and joyful illustrations of Jon Burgerman himself. Children could spend valuable time on each page exploring the subtle humour within the drawings, such as noticing a hidden bear in a shirt pocket or finding a curled-up cat enjoying a tea break. Equally, the characters who worry offer their own quirky features, while also celebrating diversity and inclusion.

In addition to giving examples of worries a child may have, the book also offers valuable advice on how a child may alleviate these concerns, such as drawing the worries or giving them a name. It nods towards mindfulness and breathing techniques, as well as how we can keep ourselves healthy. My favourite element of the book is how it highlights reaching out to others and that ‘we can overcome anything when we’re there for each other’. I would highly recommend this to younger children or children with social and emotional needs. Burgerman has a real talent for creating an important message in a playful way, without being patronising. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing this with my 2 little boys; a must for every Key Stage 1 bookshelf!

Rachel Rooney
 & Zehra Hicks
What happens when you get a Worry? They can follow you around everywhere, and they are HUNGRY. They feed on your fears and put sad thoughts in your head until they’ve grown so big, it can be hard to get anything done! Luckily, the Worry Expert knows exactly what to do.
Lou John
 & Jenny Bloomfield
Frida worries all the time. Big worries, small worries, and all-the-time worries. Her worries feel heavy, just like the pebbles she collects every day. Some days, Frida's worries become that only thing she can think about.But then, one day, her granny teaches her an ingenious way to keep her worries in check-and Frida finally feels the weight of her fears slip away . . .This sensitively written picture book explores how a young girl learns to manage her worries. Jenny Bloomfield's beautifully observed illustrations bring Frida's feelings and experiences vividly to life.

Children's books about feeling resentment, negativity or jealousy

Shinsuke Yoshitake

Shinsuke Yoshitake’s books are always a treat to look forward to, beloved by adults and children alike, for the inimitable illustration style and inventive, philosophical texts which prompt us to think more deeply, more imaginatively about the world around us.

‘Why Do I Feel Like This?’ looks at where our bad, mad, sad feelings come from and what we can do to make them go away. As all the options are investigated, there is no shying away from darker impulses, such as “I wish they’d trip over a rock and hurt themselves”, counter-acted by thoughts such as “Hating people doesn’t feel good”. A range of coping mechanisms are explored, such as distracting yourself, talking your problems through and realising that everyone feels this way sometimes.

There are no easy answers here though, this is by no means a child’s self help book. It is a witty, relatable exploration of negative thoughts that asks many more questions than it answers, allowing the reader space to draw conclusions for themselves.

I would use ‘Why Do I Feel Like This?’ with children throughout the primary school age range, knowing that each time they return to it they will see more, get more, from the story as their own emotional understanding develops. Simply wonderful.

Tom Percival

Tom Percival’s Big Bright Feelings series is a hit in classrooms up and down the country. Children love the personification of big feelings like worry, fear or anger and enjoy seeing how recognising and dealing with big feelings is better than ignoring them or bottling things up. This story is about dealing with jealousy, which aptly appears as a green-eyed monster. The monster keeps popping up with Milo when his best friend is playing with a new neighbour.

Children love the appeal of the big bright monster that gives a visual way of showing an all too familiar emotion. Young readers also love that the story shows a very relatable scenario and will help them to navigate the daily ups and downs of friendships.

A super Year 2 story belonging to a highly recommendable series.

Nicola Kent
Everyone knows that little sisters can be an-noy-ing! So when Ravi gets annoyed with Ruby and breaks her toy car in a rage, everyone goes to bed upset. Ravi wakes up the next morning with a bright red grumpy hat stuck fast on his head! And he can’t get rid of it, no matter how hard he tries... Ravi learns how to swap his grumpy hat for happy socks in this uplifting story about siblings, family life and controlling bad moods.
Jory John
 & Pete Oswald

The Sour Grape just can’t help but hold a grudge, a whole bunch of them in fact (geddit? Be ready for plenty of fruit-based puns). He used to be a sweet little thing, but so many things have gone wrong recently, including NOBODY coming to his birthday party, that now he’s determined to remember every upset and hold on to every insult, even if that does mean his face has become all wrinkled from frowning and he only has one friend left.

But never fear, as you may have guessed, this book has a message, and when Sour Grape makes his own mistakes and finds out that nobody is perfect, he starts to see how holding a grudge is holding him back, and that maybe there is another path to follow.

By the conclusion, Sour Grape has learned that if you can be kind, forgiving and grapeful, life can indeed be pretty sweet. With lots of colourful illustrations full of animate fruit of all shapes and sizes, and an easy-to-follow storyline, ‘The Sour Grape’ will be a hit with KS1 children.

Children's books about feelings of sadness

Eva Eland

This book has very few words but it does such an incredible job of introducing the ideas of emotional literacy and mental well-being to very small children. Sadness turns up on the doorstep one day and follows our main character around. We don’t know why it came or when it will leave but it’s there. By embracing Sadness (taking it for a walk or drawing with it), the emotion becomes easier to live with until, one day, it completely disappears.

Sarah Christou
Blue the monster doesn't have to be scary. And he doesn't have to be a secret. After all, we all feel blue from time to time and talking about it helps.A friendly, gentle story to help young children navigate big emotions.
Anne Booth
 & David Litchfield
A poignant and heart-warming picture book exploring the importance of making space and time for our own griefs, small or large, sensitively visualized with David Litchfield's stunning illustration. A small boy is sad, and instead of ignoring it or trying to push the feeling aside, he creates a shelter for his sadness - a safe space where Sadness can dwell until it is ready to leave the shelter. This story can be used in a small group to support children experiencing sadness, e.g. after a loss or bereavement, or more widely to talk about the value of acknowledging feelings. It can also be useful to explore the concept of safe spaces​.

Children's stories about kindness, friendship and connection

Rachel Bright
 & Chris Chatterton

This is an utterly charming book about a little Hugasaurus who sets off to play with some new friends for the first time. It goes well… until the other little dinosaurs start to squabble. Can Hugasaurus make everything better using the power of kindness? With fabulous rhyming text, and really sweet, colourful illustrations, this book is perfect for opening up conversations about being kind.

Patrice Karst
 & Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

A story about the connections between loved ones. A mother tells her two children that they’re all connected by an invisible string. ‘What Kind of String?’ the children ask. The answer is the simple truth that binds us all: an Invisible String made of love. This book links to the whole school value of ‘love’ and can be used with children who might find separation from parents difficult, such as at dropping off time in the morning, for settling in new children in pre-school and reception or for children living through a prolonged period of separation from a family member.

Wendy Meddour
 & Daniel Egneus

This is a beautiful picturebook that celebrates new beginnings and the power of human connection. Tilly moves to a new home by the sea. She’s sad to learn that her precious dog Shadow is not allowed to go into her new school on her first day. Tilly faces the challenge of a new start alone. At playtime, the teacher notices that Tilly is alone and suggests trying the Friendship Bench. A boy already occupies the bench and the pair form a bond as they work together to transform the old, broken bench into something beautiful.

This is a warm and gentle story. Most children can relate to the feeling of having nobody to play with or having to face a new challenge alone. The story gently encourages readers to seek human connection and reminds us all of the difference that reaching out and making friends can make. The story could be used to encourage children to reflect on how to make new or isolated members of the school community welcome. Could you work together this year to create spaces around the school where lonely children could go, where children can build connections through shared activity or where friendships can blossom?

Tom Percival
Meesha loves making things . . . but there's one thing she finds difficult to make - friends. She doesn't know quite what to do, what to say or when to say it. But one day she discovers that she has a special talent that might just help her navigate social situations - and maybe even make new friends. A warm and affectionate look at the joys and difficulties of making and keeping friends, relating to others, and finding your place in the world.
Linda Sarah
 & Benji Davies
Brit and Etho are the best of friends. Every day they take their cardboard boxes to the top of Sudden Hill and turn them into adventures. But when Shu comes along, their comfortable two-by-two relationship is changed and Brit finds it difficult to adjust. Eventually, with much persuasion from Etho and Shu, Brit learns that three-by-three can be even better. This heartwarming story explores the feelings of insecurity many of us feel when a new personality comes along, and shows children that it is okay for friendships to change over time. The story inks to the whole school value of 'friendship' and can be use with individuals or small groups of children experiencing friendship issues (e.g. when three children are finding it difficult to share each other) or for helping established friends to welcome new friends into their group.

SAVE 20% with Peters

Visit our booklists on Amazon

Support independent bookshops

Booklists you might also like...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your Review

Stone Girl Bone Girl


Year group(s) the book is most suitable for:

Year group(s) the book is most suitable for:

Does the book contain anything that teachers would wish to know about before recommending in class (strong language, sensitive topics etc.)?

Does the book contain anything that teachers would wish to know about before recommending in class (strong language, sensitive topics etc.)?

Would you recommend the book for use in primary schools?


Curriculum links (if relevant)

Curriculum links (if relevant)

Any other comments

Any other comments