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PARACHTUTE (Danny Parker, Matt Ottley)
Parachute (Eerdmans, 2016) is a picture book story about a little boy who always wears a parachute wherever he goes. It makes him feel safe in case danger strikes.
But when his parachute is used to save someone, the boy learns to be brave and use his parachute less and less.
This story would be great for encouraging children to take small steps of courage out of their comfort zone.
THE VISITOR (Antje Damm)
The Visitor (Gecko Press, 2019) is a truly glorious picture book starring Elise who is scared of everything, so never goes outside. But one day something blows in through the open window – a paper plane! When a boy comes along to collect it, he looks around and makes conversation with Elise, who ends up reading to the boy. Not content with a story, the boy also wants to play.
The 3D illustrations – cut out characters that move through hand-made paper scenes – are original and highly effective. There’s a beautiful contrast between the dark of Elise’s house and the warm yellow of the outside.
At the end of the story, Elise still lives alone, but thanks to Emil, the unexpected visitor, she has reconnected to her childhood. The illustrations intimate that she might have a plan to venture out and meet people again. A unique and subtle story about facing fears.
JABARI JUMPS (Gaia Cornwall)
Told from Jabari’s first person point of view, Jabari Jumps (Walker, 2018) is the story of a little boy who sets himself the challenge of jumping off a diving board despite other people’s reservations. Jabaria claims it looks fun and easy… but the reader will be aware of the subtle clues in the text and images that Jabari is actually a little afraid. His Dad tells him it’s ok to be scared and that sometimes scary things can feel like surprises. Jabari decides he likes surprises before facing his fear. The build up of suspense is excellent. The reader can’t help but will Jabari on and will have all the happy feels when he achieves what he sets out to.
THE WORRY JAR (Lou John and Jenny Bloomfield)
The Worry Jar (Oxford University Press, 2022) is a story about a little girl, Frida, who worries all the time. Little worries, big worries… all relatable to small children, from not knowing who to sit with in class to knowing what to wear. Some days, Frida’s worries become the only thing that Frida can think about. They weigh her down, just like the pebbles she collects in her pockets each time they appear. Then one day her granny teaches her an amazing trick to manage her fears.
This book has a subtle message of consciously choosing not to let worries take over and suggests a helpful way for children to do just that – their own worry jar, a place to keep worries so they are lighter and free to enjoy life.
EVERYBODY HAS WORRIES (Jon Burgerman)
Big and small, we all have worries and that’s ok, because the friendly and exuberant characters in Jon Burgerman’s Everybody has Worries (Oxford University Press, 2021) give us reassuring and practical advice about how to deal with worries as they arise. The helpful tips, endorsed by clinical psychologists, are combined with fun rhyming couplets and colourful pictures to help children open up about their feelings and get anxiety under control. Indeed, in Jon’s typically vibrant and fantastic style, this story shows readers there are many ways to support each other and that we are not alone in the struggles we face.
The book has been used to help children during the Coronavirus pandemic, but this is not specifically mentioned in the text, making it a relevant story for all families hoping to soothe worries and ease anxiety.
THE WORRY TIGER (Alexandra Page, Stef Murphy)
The Worry Tiger (Two Hoots, 2022) written and illustrated by the same team that brought you The Fire Fox, is one of my favourite picture books about worries.
Alexandra’s text is lyrical and lilting, whilst still being accessible to young readers. Rory’s den, and the jungle that appears when he is worried, are beautifully described and wonderfully sensual. We follow Rory and the worry tiger, who shares some tips on how to stay calm. Their midnight adventure ends with Rory and the tiger snuggling up together in Rory’s den. The next day, ‘show and tell’ still feels overwhelming, but Rory remembers the tiger’s suggestions for staying calm and Rory is able to share something special with his friends.
Stef’s illustrations are delightful. Such a warm but exciting colour palette, befitting Rory’s adventure and also the heartfelt takeaway. Together with the poetic text, Stef and Alex are such a magical pairing.
Another reason to love The Worry Tiger is the back matter, featuring child friendly things to try to help feel calm, including tiptoeing , stretching, listening and breathing like a tiger.
This is fabulous combination of magical friendship and pertinent message, pitched perfectly for the age group .
DRAMA LLAMA (Rachel Morrisroe, Ella Okstad)
‘One day a worry comes to stay, and simply will not go away!’
Rachel Morrisroe and Ella Okstad’s Drama Llama (Puffin 2022) sees Alex Allen – a super worrier – with a seriously silly llama problem. The more Alex worries, the bigger the llama grows! Rachel’s snappy, energetic verse is dynamic and fun, while Ella’s illustrations— of the bright, pink, fluffy llama — are hilarious.
The ending has a powerful takeaway about living with a llama, rather than getting rid of it completely, meaning readers will not only be full of smiles but also empowered to share their worries. At the very back there is some further advice for managing worries.
SUPERHEROES DON’T GET SCARED (OR DO THEY?) (Kate Thompson, Clare Elsom)
Superheroes Don’t Get Scared (Or Do They?) (Welbeck, 2020) is an important story for young readers, told in a lively, dynamic rhyme. In this fast-paced but sensitive story, Maisy Brown learns that even the strongest and bravest heroes get scared sometimes, giving this story an empowering message for all wanna-be superheroes – we all get scared sometimes! Because bravery isn’t the absence of fear, it’s feel afraid and doing it anyway.
As well as a poignant message for little ones, this book is also a great story – with fun and memorable characters, including Burpnado, Specstacular and Bogey Boy, and lots to enjoy in the bright and colourful illustrations. All in all, a great book to share with a child who needs a little encouragement to take a big step.
SPLASH! (Claire Cashmore, Sharon Davey)
These are Claire’s big sisters.
They call her Bear and ruffle her hair.
And whatever Claire’s sisters can do,
Claire can do too…
But there is one thing Claire can’t do!
Splash! (Farshore, 2021) is an empowering picture book following main character, Claire, as she navigates her worries around water. Claire would rather eat a pickle sandwich or be chased by a (real) bear than dip her toe in the swimming pool. But she learns to face her fear and is suitably proud of herself. Claire pushes herself further, entering swimming races. She doesn’t succeed immediately, learning a very important lesson – what she can’t do today, she’ll conquer tomorrow.
Author, Claire Cashmore, MBE and Paralympic gold medallist, was born without a left forearm – but she never let being different stand in the way of her big dreams. Her foreword explains that Splash! is partly inspired by personal experience as well as a lack of representation of people with a disability in books.
Sharon Davey’s joyful illustrations bring the story alive. The characters are bold but warm, reaffirming the fun and positivity rippling through this text.
SOMETIMES I JUST WONT (Timothy Knapman, Joe Berger)
Timothy Knapman and Joe Berger’s brilliant characters are back, this time in another fun story with an empowering message about giving things a try before you decide you don’t like them. In Sometimes I Just Won’t (Macmillan, 2022), the humourous, dynamic rhyme takes us by the hand and through the pages as we follow the main character who knows exactly what they like (and what they don’t).
But when the child becomes conflicted – meeting a scenario that combines both what they do and don’t like – the adult in their life encourages them to give the new thing a try. Maybe they’ll like it, but they might not! And that’s ok. At least they know for sure.
This picture book is funny and relatable, advocating to readers that sometimes you need to be brave and give things a try.
ME AND MY FEAR (Francesca Simon)
The main character in Me and My Fear (Flying Eye, 2018) has a secret – a tiny friend called Fear who keeps the girl safe and helps her explore new things. But when the girl moves to a new country, starts a new school and doesn’t speak the language, settling in is difficult and the girl’s personified Fear stops her doing things like playing and joining in. Fear even stops her from sleeping and the main character feels increasingly sad and lonely.
When a new boy reaches out, Fear shrinks and things improve. When the girl realises he has a secret fear too, their bond is strengthened. Things are still tricky at the new school – it takes time to adjust to big changes – but now the girl knows everyone has a little fear.
This book shows children that fear is important for keeping us away from danger, but also empowers them to manage their worries and mental health. We are all afraid at sometimes.