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Children's books to support

Mental Health Awareness

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Recommended texts for primary classrooms on the topic of mental health.


This month, we've been asking our community of primary teachers, TAs, children's authorslibrarians and book lovers to nominate their favourite books that open up conversations about mental health in age-appropriate ways.


This is what they told us... 

Cloud Boy

Marcia Williams

Nominated by: Carol Carter ( @HPSLibrary), librarian

 

"A superb book for upper KS2 examining the emotions Angie experiences during her best-friend Harry's terminal illness, including grief, anger, happiness and boredom. The lesson that all her feelings are valid is transferable to anyone experiencing stressful life events."

Ruby’s Worry

Tom Percival

Nominated by lots of you! Including Parent Governor/Vice-Chair of PTA Celia (@Cecilmgo), Year 1 Teacher Dean Boddington (@MisterBodd) and Early Years Practitioner Maxine Farrant (@picturebookbox).

Celia says: "This is a picture book that belongs in all school libraries or classrooms... about how important it is to tell someone if you have a worry. So much discussion can be had around this book, which is beautifully illustrated and uses colour brilliantly to reflect Ruby’s mood. Such an important book, both as a very basic introduction to mental health (talk and tell) and as a book with diverse characters."

Dean says: "This is one of the most important books to share with young people. It teaches them about sharing their troubles rather than letting them spiral out of control. I've shared with classes and in assembly and the kids love it. Such a beautiful book and a pertinent message. Percival is a genius!"

Maxine says: "Ruby's Worry is arguably the most accessible mental-health themed picture book that my class have come across. Percival depicts a 'worry' with a yellow orb that appears next to Ruby one day and continues to grow when she ignores the shadow-like entity, simply hoping that the worry will disappear of its own accord. When she meets another child with their own 'worry' and asks them about their feelings, she realises how to rid herself of worries... she needs to talk about them! This book has sparked meaningful class discussions, supporting pupils to understand that 'it's okay to not be okay'."

All The Things that Could Go Wrong

Stewart Foster

Nominated by: Justine Laismith (@justinelaismith), Children's Author

 

"Some books you read a few pages or some chapters and park it for the day. Other books, you get so into the story that you just keep turning the pages and lose track of time. This book is the latter. This is about a bully and his victim (who also suffers from OCD) and their points of view on their respective lives at school. I really enjoyed it. It was at a very good pace and you get a good sense of school and home life of both characters. It's so well written that both bully and his victim got under my skin."

How Not to Lose It: Mental Health Sorted

Anna Williamson & Sophie Beer

Nominated by: Kate Gieler (@Glebelove2read), School Librarian

 

"A brilliant resource for UKS2 children to dip into – probably most useful in the transition to secondary school. Anna Williamson is a trained therapist and Childline counsellor. She has packed her mental health guide with support and guidance perfectly pitched in a chatty, informal style which is both practical and reassuring, without being overwhelming. The information is presented honestly and openly which will hopefully encourage questions and discussions. Sophie Beer’s illustrations and the bright colours used throughout make this appealing to pick up and explore. I think this book is spot on in its approach to supporting children to develop strong emotional well-being, resilience and belief in themselves."

Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot

Horatio Clare

Nominated by: Simon Fisher (@lamerch/@bookwormswales), teacher and blogger at familybookworms.wales 

 

"A brilliant book, the first in a series, published by Firefly Press in 2017. The compelling title features Aubrey, a “rambunctious child”, an adventurer and determined discoverer. 'The Terrible Yoot' refers to dad's depression; he becomes sad, pale, confused and rather lost – “Sometimes he seemed so wispy he might have been made of mist.” Horatio Clare writes openly and honestly about Jim's battles and Aubrey's responses to what he witnesses. There is plenty of humour, plenty of adventure and some remarkably adept description. All in all, a very grounded and relatable story."

Thank Goodness for Bob

Matthew Morgan & Gabriel Alborozo

Nominated by: Jenny Holder (@JennyHolderLiv), Reading for Pleasure Coordinator for an education charity

"Max worries a lot. He worries about what is around him, what has happened and what might happen. His dog Bob, however, is much more relaxed. Bob teaches Max that the best way to deal with worries is to share them with a friend. This is a gentle story that shows that everybody worries at times and introduces the idea of talking about fears as a coping mechanism. A wonderful book for opening conversations about fears and anxieties with KS1 pupils. "

The Heart and the Bottle

Oliver Jeffers

Nominated by: KS1 teacher Sarah Pertzel (@PertzelSarah) and Y4 teacher Jane Evans.

 

Sarah says: "This book touches on depression and loss but also looks at the power of imagination and love. It sparked great conversations of loss and sadness with my Year 2 class."

Jane says: "A wonderful soulful story capturing a little girl's loss and path through bereavement, complimented by beautiful illustrations. One to be shared while being mindful of those who may have experienced similar loss and who are perhaps struggling to talk about it or see any light afterwards."

 

The Mystery of the Colour Thief

Ewa Jozefkowicz

Nominated by: Alison (@booksfortopics), founder of booksfortopics.com

 

"An authentically-told story that poignantly portrays life during dark times for twelve-year-old Izzy. After a traumatic car accident, Izzy’s mum is in a coma in hospital and Izzy struggles to keep up good relationships with family and friends. While Izzy tries to act bravely and hold everything inside, something even darker is happening inside her mind. Sometimes emotions become so tangled that they are too difficult to put into words and what I liked about this book is how the author weaves into the plot a number of ways of visually representing some of the associated feelings, like the painted mural on Izzy’s bedroom wall whose colours fade one by one. Powerful emotional experiences are handled in a compassionate way, characters are authentically nuanced and the plot is compelling. I recommend this book for Years 5-6+ for opening up important conversations about mental health.

Michael Rosen's Sad Book

Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake

Nominated by: Stephanie Taylor (@MrsTaylorY2), Y2 Teacher

 

"Although mostly about grieving, Michael Rosen's Sad Book also explores sadness generally. A beautiful, truly human text with perfectly matched illustrations by Quentin Blake."

The Goldfish Boy

Lisa Thompson

Nominated by: Rebecca Morley (@bextar007), year 6 lead

"A really enjoyable book where the main character Matty has OCD. It helps to portray what people who have OCD suffer with and what they have to go through."

Grobblechops

Elizabeth Laird & Jenny Lucander

Nominated by: Melissa Jordan (@melissacreate15), Children's bookseller and reading for pleasure advocate at www.readersthatcare.co.uk.

"A retelling of a tale by Rumi, an ancient Persian poet. On one level this is the story of a boy who is too scared to go to bed because of the monster under the bed. The boy's dad gently encourages him to make friends with the monster so he won't be scared of it anymore. In the story, the boy and his dad also discover that fighting the monster doesn't get them anywhere. With universal messages of acknowledging and making friends with your fears, and that trying to fight what we are scared of is rarely the answer, this will resonate with children (and adults) of all ages. It might also help children deal with their anxiety over making new friends."  

What to Do When You Worry Too Much

Dawn Huebner & Bonnie Matthews

Nominated by: School Book Clubs (@schoolbookclubs), bookclubsinschools.org.

 

"What to Do When You Worry Too Much has always been a favourite. It's a practical guide for both children and adults for working through your 'worries'."  

Seaglass

Eloise Williams

Nominated by: Nia Talbot (@NiaTalbot), assistant headteacher and EYFS lead

 

"Seaglass is essentially a ghost story but explores and delves into various aspects of mental health throughout. The main protagonist, Lark, is dealing with isolation, worry and prejudice. She also struggles with anger and her coping strategies are explored in the book. There is the underlying theme of mental illness when it comes to Lark’s mother also and how she deals with this differently to how Lark may tackle situations. This is finally discussed in more detail towards the end of the book. An interesting and impactful read for mature upper KS2 children and those in KS3."

The Jar of Happiness

Ailsa Burrows

Nominated by: Bev Humphrey (@LibWithAttitude), Literacy & Technology Consultant

 

"A lovely, gentle story about finding your happiness with family and friends."

Not Today, Celeste

Liza Stevens

Nominated by: Alison (@booksfortopics), founder of booksfortopics.com

 

"This is a story about living with somebody suffering from depression, told through the eyes of a dog called Celeste. Celeste is confused and sad when ‘something different’ seems to come over her owner, Rupert. Celeste learns that Rupert’s feelings are poorly and that it is not Celeste's own fault or responsibility. This is a sensitive picture book with beautiful illustrations and a compassionately told story that speaks of real issues faced by those living with family members with depression."