Choosing Cheeriness: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about choosing cheeriness?

We all tell our children that happiness is a choice, and here are the books to help you prove it! We’ve compiled a list of our favorite 30 books that exemplify choosing cheeriness, because this lesson is never too early to learn, and you can never have too many reminders. It’s hard to learn to regulate your emotions (just ask any two-year-old!), and if we’re being honest, it’s something we’re even mastering as adults. These books are great way to learn and reinforce the knowledge that we control our emotions, no matter our circumstances. To quote Leo Tolstoy, “If you want to be happy, be.”

The Secret Garden book
#1
The Secret Garden
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle’s gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no one is allowed to enter. Then Mary uncovers an old key in a flowerbed – and a gust of magic leads her to the hidden door. Slowly she turns the key and enters a world she could never have imagined.

The Pout-Pout Fish book
#2
The Pout-Pout Fish
Written by Deborah Diesen and illustrated by Dan Hanna
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

As the pout-pout fish swims along in the ocean, he discovers that being glum and spreading the “dreary wearies” isn’t much fun anymore—especially when his true destiny is revealed!

Wonder book
#3
Wonder
Written by R. J. Palacio
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Born with a facial deformity that initially prevented his attendance at public school, Auggie Pullman enters the fifth grade at Beecher Prep and struggles with the dynamics of being both new and different, in a sparsely written tale about acceptance and self-esteem.

Bernice Gets Carried Away book
#4
Bernice Gets Carried Away
Written and illustrated by Hannah Harrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is amazing and I love it so much! The illustrations are beyond phenomenal—gorgeous, wonderfully detailed, and absolutely expressive— and the message that happiness is a choice and best achieved by having empathy for others and helping and sharing with others is fantastic. This is definitely a favorite.

Perfect for a new generation of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day readers, this charming story about a grumpy cat gently shows how far a little sharing can go.

Bernice is having a truly rotten time at her friend’s birthday party. First, everyone else gets a piece of cake with a frosting rose. But not Bernice. Then, everyone else gets strawberry-melon soda. Bernice gets the prune-grapefruit juice. And it’s warm. The last straw is the one lousy (squished) candy she gets from the piñata. So when the balloons arrive, Bernice knows just what she has to do: grab them all. And then, poor cross Bernice gets carried up, up, and away. Luckily, she figures out just how to make her way back down to the party…and she brightens lots of other animals’ days on her way.

Hannah Harrison’s gorgeous animal paintings come alive in her second picture book. Her “exceptionally polished” debut, Extraordinary Jane, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal.

Be Happy! book
#5
Be Happy!
Written and illustrated by Monica Sheehan
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

A great introduction to the idea that happiness isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you make for yourself with your actions and your attitude. It’s geared towards a little older crowd than my 18 month old son, but by adding a little discussion about what’s happening with the dog and mouse on each page we both enjoy it, and it’s honestly a great reminder for me as a mom to be mindful about CHOOSING to be happy.

Monica Sheehan has taken her bestselling book be happy. and created an irresistible little gem for people BIG & small. So open it up and get inspired to . . .

Sing and dance a little! Have fun! Be kind—be brave! And be the best YOU.

  1. Augustus and His Smile - B is for Bookworm - I love this sweet, meaningful book about a tiger who finds that there is joy all around him and that he can find happiness just by choosing to be aware! Such a good reminder for the reader. He goes on a fun adventure to learn this lesson, and I love the illustrations of this book, too!

  2. The Best Bear in All the World - B is for Bookworm - I love these stories based off of the original Winnie the Pooh, and love that it’s divided up into four stories with the four seasons. Pooh is always so positive and looks for the good in everything, there’s so much wisdom from the little sayings throughout the story. I think Pooh is a great example of choosing to look at the bright side and be happy. :) Plus, I was surprised by how high quality this book is! The illustrations throughout are also gorgeous.

  3. How to Cheer Up Dad - A hilarious book about parent and child relationships for fans of Ian Falconer and Jon Agee–a perfect gift idea for Father’s Day and beyond! Little Jumbo just can’t understand why his dad is having such a bad day. It couldn’t be the raisins Little Jumbo spit out at the ceiling or the bath he refused to take–after all, Little Jumbo’s dad knew he hated raisins and had already taken a bath that week! Luckily, Little Jumbo is such a thoughtful elephant that he decides to turn his dad’s bad day around with some of his–ahem, his dad’s–favorite things. How to Cheer up Dad is a standout debut featuring a charmingly oblivious little elephant with serious pluck and staying power. It turns the parent-child roles upside down is a great book for dads and the kids who make them laugh.

  4. Last Stop on Market Street - A young boy rides the bus across town with his grandmother and learns to appreciate the beauty in everyday things. By the author of the celebrated picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? book
#10
Have You Filled a Bucket Today?
Written by Carol McCloud and illustrated by David Messing
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-9
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This book does a fantastic job of just laying it all on the table so it’s super simple and easy to understand how to make others happy, and, in turn, how it makes you happy. :) I love the message of this book and I actually love how explanatory it is, even though that’s not my usual style. There are even specific examples given. I also think the visual aid of the buckets is a great way to teach kids this concept! But any book that teaches you how to make others happy and yourself happy is a winner in my book!

“Children are not the only ones that need to learn how to be truly happy. It’s all in the bucket, that invisible bucket that follows you everywhere… teaches young readers valuable lessons about giving, sharing, and caring. This guide to daily happiness, though, is not just for kids. We all need reminders of the benefits of positive thinking and positive behavior. It’s an important lesson to teach and remind us all . . . that showing kindness and appreciation of others goes a long way to making this world a happier place for everyone, including ourselves. A classic tale, beautifully told and beautifully shared.” —Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews While using a simple metaphor of a bucket and a dipper, author Carol McCloud illustrates that when we choose to be kind, we not only fill the buckets of those around us, but also fill our OWN bucket! Conversely, when we choose to say or do mean things, we are dipping into buckets. All day long, we are either filling up or dipping into each other’s buckets by what we say and what we do. When you’re a bucket filler, you make the world a better place to be! This 32-page picture book is perfect for children, parents, grandparents, teachers and people that want to teach empathy, nurture kindness and create a positive environment in their home, classroom, workplace and community.

The Little Engine That Could book
#11
The Little Engine That Could
Written by Watty Piper and illustrated by Doris Hauman and George Hauman
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone loves this classic book with a can-do message for littles and adults! I love that the little engine shows perseverance, even when things are hard, and believing in yourself. It’s such a great example of having a positive attitude, and that we are in charge of our thoughts and choose what we feel. :)

A classic story now in a lap-book format has been slightly abridged and features the famous illustrations from the original edition that will keep toddlers cheering on the little blue engine as she continues chugging along.

Kitty Cones: What Makes Us Happy? book
#12
Kitty Cones: What Makes Us Happy?
Written and illustrated by Ralph Cosentino
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Discover all the little things that make the Kitty Cones happy in this sweet book of illustrations from Ralph Cosentino. Life is full of happy moments, from playing on the beach to chasing rainbows, and even running outside when it sprinkles! Join best friends Miyu, Yumi, and Koko as they discover what makes them happy. Filled with clever and endearing art from author and illustrator Ralph Cosentino, this Kitty Cones book teaches kids to value friendship, help others, and enjoy the little things in life.

Sing, Don't Cry book
#13
Sing, Don't Cry
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Once a year, Abuelo comes from Mexico to visit his family. He brings his guitar, his music—and his memories. In this story inspired by the life of Apolinar Navarrete Diaz—author Angela Dominguez’s grandfather and a successful mariachi musician—Abuelo and his grandchildren sing through the bad times and the good. Lifting their voices and their spirits, they realize that true happiness comes from singing together.

My Heart Fills with Happiness book
#14
My Heart Fills with Happiness
Written by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Julie Flett
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

A board book that celebrates happiness and invites children to reflect on the little things in life that bring them joy.

  1. I'm Grumpy - B is for Bookworm - This cute board book does a great job talking about emotions, and grumpy cloud shows that sometimes it’s easy to get down in a funk! I love the ending where he chooses to be kind and happy to make sunny feel better, and I think that shows a great lesson about how we can choose to do something nice for someone—which will make us happy, and get us out of the dumps!

  2. Joy - Fern’s Nanna has not been herself of late. And when Mom remarks that all the joy seems to have gone out of her life, Fern decides to fetch the joy back. With a net, a box, and a bag to help her, she begins her search for joy. A wonderful and uplifting story that is guaranteed to bring joy to every reader.

  3. It's Tough to Lose Your Balloon - Lost balloons. Melted ice cream. Babysitters. Life as a kid can be pretty daunting. But don’t let these troubles get you down. With the right attitude, a hurdle can become a hammock and an obstacle can become an opportunity! Veteran picture book creator Jarrett J. Krosoczka teaches kids to look on the bright side of things. With lively illustrations and spot-on humor, It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon champions resilience and helps children navigate childhood indignities while making them laugh at the same time.

  4. Pass It on - Here’s a fun idea: When you laugh or smile–pass it on! A story about giving, sharing, and joy. When you see something terrific, smile a smile and pass it on! If you chance upon a chuckle, hee hee hee and pass it on. Should you spot a thing of wonder, jump for joy and pass it on! So begins Sophy Henn’s ode to the excitement of sharing happiness with others. With a refrain that begs to be uttered before every turn of the page, children will eagerly read alongside their parents as they discover how wonderful–and fun!–it is to share the good things in life. After all, if you spread happiness to others, even on a gray, rainy day, when you least expect it, like a bolt out of the blue, a smile or a chuckle might be passed right back to you! This heartwarming, upbeat book is the perfect way to bring a warm ray of sunshine into every reader’s life.

Happiness Doesn't Come from Headstands book
#19
Happiness Doesn't Come from Headstands
Written and illustrated by Tamara Levitt
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Trying—and failing—can be a path to happiness too. Leela loves to do yoga. She could do all sorts of poses, but there was one pose she couldn’t do. Every time Leela tried to do a headstand…KERPLUNK! This book explores the themes of acceptance, resilience, and self-compassion and offers the message that just because we may experience a failure does not mean that we are a failure. Written as a counterpoint to the message of The Little Engine that Could, Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands is a story about a girl who tries her best, but still falls down. Through the process she learns that happiness is not determined by external achievement. Even in the face of failure, peace can be found if we accept that we cannot do everything and focus on our experience.

Annie book
#20
Annie
Written by Thomas Meehan
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

Even though sometimes “it’s a hard-knock life,” Annie shows that you can choose to be happy and believe “the sun will come out tomorrow!”

It’s a hard-knock life for America’s favorite orphan! Everyone knows the story of the irrepressible Annie, who lives at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage until she beats the odds and finds a new life with the benevolent and wealthy Daddy Warbucks. Annie has enchanted millions of readers from her original comic strip appearance to the hit Broadway musical. Now, with a Tony-nominated revival playing on Broadway, Puffin is reissuing this novelization of the classic story, with a new introduction by Tony and Emmy Award-winning author Thomas Meehan. This is an adaptation that delves even deeper into Annie’s story, as she lives on the streets during the Great Depression, finds Sandy the dog, and encounters characters both familiar and new.

Miles of Smiles book
#21
Miles of Smiles
Written by Karen Kaufman Orloff and illustrated by Luciano Lozano
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

When someone smiles, who knows where it goes? Baby smiles at Mommy, Mom keeps it for a while . . . and then passes it on. As the smile begins its joyful journey—moving from a first-grade class to a soccer team, from Gran to a garbage man, even to a puppy—it spreads happiness throughout the community, bringing everyone together. A sunny picture book guaranteed to make kids SMILE!

Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy book
#22
Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy
Written and illustrated by Bernadette Russell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

“In this book are lots of acts of kindness that kids can do to spread a little joy — with a side order of mischief and magic!” —P. [4] of cover.

Because Amelia Smiled book
#23
Because Amelia Smiled
Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A little girl’s smile as she skips down the street inspires a neighbor to send cookies to her grandson in Mexico, and the good will she shares soon spreads around the world. From the creator of the Caldecott Honor-winning Interrupting Chicken.

  1. 100 Things That Make Me Happy - In the grand tradition of “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” comes an uplifting tribute to 100 everyday things worth celebrating. The list, in rhyming couplets, draws directly from a preschool­er’s world—from slippery floors to dinosaurs, from goldfish to a birthday wish. Amy Schwartz weaves a masterful balance between art and text, with each of the 100 items portrayed as its own well-observed and warmly detailed vignette. While the contents provide readers with a frame of reference for the quantity of “100”—a celebratory milestone in preschools and early elementary grades—the oversized pages envelop young children in the wonderful things surrounding them.

  2. Snow Lane - Fifth grader Annie is just like every other girl in her small suburban town. Except she’s starting to realize that she isn’t. Annie is the youngest of nine children. Instead of being condemned to the bottom of the pecking order, she wants to carve out place for herself in the world. But it’s hard to find your destiny when the only thing you’re good at is being cheerful. Annie is learning that it’s difficult to be Annie, period, and not just because her clothes are worn-out hand-me-downs, and she suffers from a crippling case of dyslexia, but also because there are secrets in her life no one in her family is willing to face. In Snow Lane, Josie Angelini presents a story about a resilient girl who, in spite of many hardships, can still find light in the darkest of places.

  3. Terrific - When grumpy Eugene wins a free cruise to Bermuda, he thinks he knows just what to expect: a really nasty sunburn. But instead, after a shipwreck, he finds himself stranded on a tiny island with no one—except for a parrot with a busted wing. “Terrific,” says Eugene. “What good is a parrot?” It turns out a parrot is good for a lot, including planning a very elaborate escape. And when the castaways are rescued by a team of fishermen, it’s Eugene’s turn to be kind to his new friend.

  4. The Wrong Side of the Bed - When you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, there’s just no getting around it: The porcupine under the covers will insist on snuggling (oww); penguins will make bubbles in your bath (eww); and a crocodile will probably need to borrow your toothbrush (no, thanks). It’s just going to be that sort of day. Unless, that is, you decide to do something about it. A whimsical assortment of havoc-wreaking critters is here to inspire Lucy—and readers—to turn their all-wrong days into all-right ones.

Grin & Bear it: The Wit and Wisdom of Corduroy book
#28
Grin & Bear it: The Wit and Wisdom of Corduroy
Written by Don Freeman and illustrated by Jody Wheeler and Don Freeman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Adventurous, imaginative, and always optimistic, Corduroy offers up wit and wisdom that will bring a little bit of sunshine to readers of all ages. Since Corduroy’s first publication in 1968, this adventuresome stuffed animal has been delighting readers of all ages. Now America’s favorite teddy bear is here to share with you fifty years of his accumulated wit and wisdom, all in one adorable little book. Charming and inspirational, this is the perfect gift for graduation, or any other occasion when you might need a little confidence boost.

Spin book
#29
Spin
Written by Rebecca Janni and illustrated by George Ermos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

As she rides her bike up and down steep slopes, a little girl reminds herself that if she just keeps moving she will eventually climb her mountain.

If You're Happy and You Know It  book
#30
If You're Happy and You Know It
Written and illustrated by Annie Kubler
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-2

The words to a familiar nursery song encourage babies and their parents to have fun together. On board pages.

Happy! book
#31
Happy!
Written and illustrated by Pharrell Williams
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Grammy Award winner Pharrell Williams’s super-hit song “Happy” is now a board book

Nominated for an Academy Award in 2014, “Happy” hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, and has topped the charts in more than seventy-five countries worldwide. Now Pharrell Williams brings his beloved song to the youngest of readers in photographs of children across cultures celebrating what it means to be happy. All the exuberance of the song pulses from these vibrant photographs of excited, happy kids. This is a board book full of memorable, precious childhood moments that will move readers in the same way they were moved by the song.

“Happy” has had the world dancing ever since it first hit the airwaves, and now the irresistibly cheerful tune will come to life on the page with Pharrell Williams’s very first picture book! A keepsake and true classic in the making.

Olivia book
#32
Olivia
Written and illustrated by Ian Falconer
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

It’s everyone’s favorite pig…it’s OLIVIA! The Caldecott Honor Book and New York Times #1 bestseller is now available in a sturdy format perfect for pig-loving toddlers everywhere!

  1. Rain! - Good attitudecanchase away the blues at any age!Now in aboard book format for more rainy day reading. “

  2. This Beautiful Day - Undaunted by the rainy weather, three children take their happiness outside and seem to chase the clouds away as they jump, skip, and dance together.

  3. Sunny - Most people would say there is nothing good about trudging to school on a rainy day. Most people would say that being carried away by the wind and dropped into the middle of a tumultuous sea is a very bad sort of situation. No, most people wouldn’t like that at all. But Sunny isn’t most people. Sunny likes to look on the bright side. And when things get exceedingly bleak? Well, isn’t that what friends are for? From debut author/artist Celia Krampien comes an unforgettable, transcendent story about the true power of optimism.

  4. Grumpy Pants - Have you ever had a grumpy day and not known why? Penguin is having a grumpy day like that. No matter what he does, he just can’t shake it! Sometimes the only thing left to do is wash the grumpy day away and start over. The simple text and lively illustrations are the perfect cure for even the grumpiest of days.

Kat Writes a Song book
#37
Kat Writes a Song
Written and illustrated by Greg Foley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Kat writes a song to make things better on a gray and rainy day. After perfecting her magic song, she sings it out loud, and to her surprise, the rainy clouds go away! Kat is so pleased that she goes around her neighborhood singing her magic song. Will her song be able to help her friends too?

The Sandman and the War of Dreams book
#38
The Sandman and the War of Dreams
Written by William Joyce
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-11

When Pitch and Katherine go missing, the Man in the Moon recruits the sleepy but clever Sandman to aid the Guardians’ cause in an adventure that finds them struggling to convince their new member to accept a more optimistic perspective. By the creator of the best-selling The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Construction Cat book
#39
Construction Cat
Written by Barbara Odanaka and illustrated by Sydney Hanson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-6

Cats in hard hats make work seem like play in this cheery, rhyming picture book about building something and having a loving family to share your accomplishments with. Construction cat wakes up at dawn, grabs her boots and tugs them on… It’s time to build! Tail high, Construction Cat kisses her family goodbye and goes to work with the other cats on a construction site. They lug lumber and pound nails, they saw, sand, and sweep the dust, all to build a truly paw-some park that they can’t wait to share with friends and family! Sydney Hanson’s lively and lovable cats combined with Barbara Odanaka’s rhythmic story create a universal story that is a joy to read again and again.

A Happy Day book
#40
A Happy Day
Written by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Tammy Lyon
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Katie Woo loves her life and lists the many reasons she is so happy.

A Day with Parkinson's book
#41
A Day with Parkinson's
Written by A. Hultquist and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Ever since Grandpa got Parkinson’s, Noah has noticed he hasn’t been the same. He doesn’t have as much energy as he used to, and sometimes when he’s excited or happy, he can’t smile. Noah worries that Parkinson’s is his fault, but Grandpa assures him it’s not—and it won’t stop him from having fun at the beach!

  1. Theo's Mood - It’s Mood Monday and Miss Cady’s class is sharing how they feel after the weekend. But Theo doesn’t know whether he’s in a good mood or a bad mood. He has a new baby sister and he isn’t just happy like Eric who got a new bike or sad like April who lost her dog. As Theo’s classmates discuss all their feelings, he realizes he’s not in a good mood or a bad mood—he’s all those things!

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!