Choosing Cheeriness: Picture 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 Pout-Pout Fish book
#1
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!

Bernice Gets Carried Away book
#2
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.

Augustus and His Smile book
#3
Augustus and His Smile
Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from 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!

Augustus the tiger was sad. He had lost his smile. So he did a HUGE tigery stretch, and set off to find it. Stunning illustrations celebrate the beauty of the world and the simple happiness it brings to us. An imaginative book for children who love to explore the world around them.

How to Cheer Up Dad book
#4
How to Cheer Up Dad
Written and illustrated by Fred Koehler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

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.

Last Stop on Market Street book
#5
Last Stop on Market Street
Written by Matt De La Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

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.

  1. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? - 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!

  2. Sing, Don't Cry - 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Pass It on book
#10
Pass It on
Written and illustrated by Sophy Henn
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

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
#11
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.

Miles of Smiles book
#12
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
#13
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
#14
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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Grin & Bear it: The Wit and Wisdom of Corduroy - 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
#19
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.

Sunny book
#20
Sunny
Written and illustrated by Celia Krampien
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

This Beautiful Day book
#21
This Beautiful Day
Written by Richard Jackson and illustrated by Suzy Lee
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Grumpy Pants book
#22
Grumpy Pants
Written and illustrated by Claire Messer
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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
#23
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?

  1. Construction Cat - 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.

  2. A Day with Parkinson's - 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!

  3. 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!