Picture Books for Challenging Days

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The books on this list offer sensitivity, comfort and hope for kids (and grownups) dealing with unstable routines, worry and depletion.  Whether providing coping strategies or simply acknowledging feelings, these titles will brighten a gray day.




a dad holding his son with bright balloons in the corner of cover

Balloons for Papa by Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia, illustrated by Erika Meza

A child’s empathy for his father reminds us that there is hope and light in the worst situations. A poignant reflection on the sensitivity of children. 

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young boy in striped pajamas hugging a rabbit

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld 

Instead of trying to fix his problem like the other stuffed toys, Taylor’s rabbit simply listened. 

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cartoon bear lounging and looking up at a catepillar

Don’t Worry Bear by Greg Foley 

A caterpillar assures a worried bear that they will see one another soon once the caterpillar emerges from its cocoon 

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a girl and her grandma driving in a car with a sunset and trees in the background

Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffen, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga 

Lily is sad about all the necessary changes in her life but her grandmother helps her find ten beautiful things they can share. 

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photo of a snowy owl with wide yellow eyes

All Birds Have Anxiety by Kathy Hoopmann 

Through a quizzical depiction of bird behavior, this humorous yet compassionate book provides an understanding of anxiety and offers coping strategies. 

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a girl and her cat look out a window with plants and a stuffed bear on the sill

Outside, Inside by LeYuen Pham 

A compassionate chronicle of the pandemic that honors change, loss, and growth through simple text and beautiful illustrations. 

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a collage paper cat looks out from a paper tree

Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young 

As a young cat searches for the meaning of her name, she learns about the Japanese concept of finding balance and beauty in imperfection. 

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two cartoon children and a dog look at a TV screen

The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul 

When bad news leaves her parents worried and depleted, a young girl learns that tiny acts of kindness can help her community in big ways.

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an elephant, a penguin, and a zookeeper play cards on a quilt

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead 

When the hard-working zookeeper gets sick, his animal friends travel by bus to care for him.  

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two cartoon children hold hands and walk against a white background

Jenny Mei is Sad by Tracy Subisak 

Jenny Mei’s friend finds simple ways to comfort her when she’s feeling sad.  Find a Copy


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Sarah Zaharako
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