Ten books to support younger children’s mental health

Feb 13 2023

A woman reads to her daughter on a colourful bench

Supporting children’s mental health as they go through life events for the first time is important to their growth and emotional wellbeing. Everyone has mental health, in the same way that everyone has physical health - it’s just affected by emotional situations. From friendship and bullying to body image and bereavement, books can help your children with life events that might affect their mental health.

We’ve created a list of some of our favourite books that’ll help younger children with their mental health.

Book covers for Giraffe Problems and You're Not Ugly Duckling against a wavy orange background

Body image

As children grow up, their relationship with their bodies will change. Reading books that reflect and sensitively handle their worries can help boost children’s emotional wellbeing.

You’re Not Ugly, Duckling! – Steve Smallman and Neil Price

Ugly Duckling is bullied by the other farm animals and his siblings and so he decides to run away. As he goes to leave, he notices another animal in danger. Through his daring rescue, Ugly Duckling proves that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Giraffe Problems - Jory John

This funny picture book tells the story of Edward the giraffe, who doesn’t like his neck. He tries to hide and disguise it and feels very self-conscious. Luckily, Edward meets a turtle called Cyrus who helps him understand that his neck has a purpose and looks great in a bow tie.

Book covers for Girls Can Do Anything and Melissa against a yellow and blue wavy background


Children’s relationships to gender can have a big impact on their emotional wellbeing. Introducing gender to children through child-friendly books can help as they start to learn what their gender means to them.

Melissa – Alex Gino

Originally published as George, this book follows a girl called Melissa, who the world sees as a boy called George. Melissa wants to play Charlotte in her class production of Charlotte's Web but can’t even audition because her teacher says she’s a boy. Throughout the book Melissa learns to become more comfortable with her gender and even eventually plays Charlotte in the production.

If you want to read Melissa, our libraries stock copies of the book under its old name, George.

Girls Can Do Anything – Caryl Hart

A picture book empowering girls to do and be anything. Whether they’re scruffy or fancy, the book reinforces that all girls are different and that’s great.

Book covers for Frankie's World and Isaac and his Amazing Aspergers Superpowers on a blue and purple background


Autism isn’t a mental health condition. However, being autistic or being friends with someone who’s autistic can influence your child’s emotions. Reading about this topic can help your child better understand autism and celebrate the differences in the way we all think and feel.

Frankie's World: A Graphic Novel - Aoife Dooley

Frankie’s World is a graphic novel about Frankie, who’s autistic. Frankie and her best friend Sam go on a quest to find Frankie's dad who left when she was a baby. The book is based on Dooley’s real-life experiences of autism.

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers - Melanie Walsh

Isaacs loves to play superheroes with his brother. Even though Isaac doesn’t have superpowers, he’s still special because he has Asperger syndrome (now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder), which means that his brain works a little differently. This first-person story helps children see the world through the eyes of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Book covers for A Place for Pluto and Bad Girls

Friendship and bullying

Friends are an important part of life. They’re wonderful support systems and are invaluable for people of all ages, particularly in childhood. Unfortunately, the emotions friendships can create are not always positive ones. Books about finding belonging and what to do when things go wrong in friendships are great conversation starters. They can even give your children valuable tools to use as they grow up and make friends on their own.

Bad Girls – Jacqueline Wilson

Ten-year-old Mandy is being bullied by three girls when she meets Tanya. Tanya is fun and daring, but Mandy’s mum thinks she’s a bad influence. Jacqueline Wilson’s book discusses the impact of bullying and friendship on primary school children.

A Place for Pluto – Stef Wade

When Pluto’s planet status is stripped away he sets off to find a place where he belongs. When he’s just about to give up, he meets another dwarf planet and finds his place in the solar system.

Book covers for When Someone Dies and A Monster Calls against a blue background

Bereavement and loss

Losing someone you love is one of the most destabilising things that a child can experience. Finding ways to communicate and process loss for the first time is particularly difficult. These books can help provide a starting point to help your children to cope with their grief.

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Conor’s mum is seriously ill and he’s struggling to cope with his feelings. One night, there’s an ancient elemental force at his window, demanding the truth from him . The book sensitively handles the themes of family, grief, loss and death.

When Someone Dies – Dawn Hewitt

This picture book uses child-friendly text to sensitively explains what happens when someone dies. It also suggests starting points for how to deal with loss and the grieving process.

All of the books mentioned here are available from Hampshire’s libraries. Head over to the When a Book Might Help section of our website for more of our picks or go to The Reading Agency’s Reading Well for teens page for suggestions for older readers.

Find out more and explore what your local library has to offer on the Hampshire Libraries website.