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Depression: Books For Kids

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

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to depression. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about depression.

Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about depression, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Someone Else’s Shoes to popular sellers like Skim.

We hope this list of kids books about depression can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!

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Sometimes When I'm Sad
Written by Dr. Deborah Serani & illustrated by Kyra Teis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A sensitive and supportive story to help young children recognize and cope with sadness.

“Now when I get sad, I still cry sometimes. I still hide sometimes. But only for a little while. Because now I know ways to feel better.” Sadness can be an overwhelming emotion, especially for young children. But it’s important to know when sadness can be overcome, and when it’s indicative of a greater problem.

Sometimes When I’m Sad is an invaluable self-help resource that helps children identify sadness or depression and offers helpful ways to manage it, such as:

  • Talk about it with a parent or a trusted adult or counselor
  • Draw the sadness with crayons
  • Release tension by squishing clay
  • Run and jump around outside
  • Observe nature

The word depression is never used in the gentle, child-focused text, but this simple story offers an entrance point for both adults and children to identify and address childhood depression symptoms early.

This timely resource is a wonderfully gentle way to take steps toward banishing the stigma around mental illness. A special section at the back of the book provides support for adults, from an explanation of the difference between sadness and depression to helpful tools to manage the illness. Especially useful for counselors, social workers, teachers, parents, and any other adults caring for children who struggle with dark feelings.

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Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge
Written by Kristin L. Gray
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

“Vilonia must prove she is responsible enough to get a dog in order to help her mom get over her grief”–

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Some Kind of Happiness
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Reality and fantasy collide in this heartfelt and mysterious novel for fans of <i>Counting by 7s</i> and <i>Bridge to Terabithia</i>, about a girl who must save a magical make-believe world in order to save herself. <p/>Things Finley Hart doesn’t want to talk about: <br> -Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)<br> -Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.<br> -Never having met said grandparents.<br> -Her blue days–when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.) <p/>Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is <i>real</i>–and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones. <p/>With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

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When Sadness Is at Your Door
Written & illustrated by Eva Eland
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

In the style of Harold and the Purple Crayon comes a picture-book primer in emotional literacy and mindfulness that suggests we approach the feeling of sadness as if it is our guest. Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who we are–an overwhelming, invisible, and scary sensation. In When Sadness Is at Your Door, Eva Eland brilliantly approaches this feeling as if it is a visitor. She gives it a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. She suggests activities to do with it, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to “get over” it or indicates that it’s “bad,” both of which are anxiety-producing notions. Simple illustrations that recall the classic style of Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crayon) invite readers to add their own impressions. Eva Eland’s debut picture book is a great primer in mindfulness and emotional literacy, perfect for kids navigating these new feelings–and for adult readers tackling the feelings themselves!

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Last Tree Town
Written by Beth Turley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12
"A tender novel about how negotiating fine lines--between friendship and a crush, between sadness and something crueler--is part of the mixed bag that is growing up." --Shelf Awareness
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  • Looking for Smile - In this sweet and gentle picture book, Bear wakes one day to find his Smile gone and enlists his friends to help him find it.

  • My Ex-Imaginary Friend - Eleven-year-old Jack thought he had outgrown his imaginary friend, George--until his dad also disappears from his life. His mom's bipolar disorder isn't being properly treated, so while in the throes of a manic episode, she ditches Jack with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Jack decides that only George can help him figure out where people go when others stop believing in them--and how Jack can put his family back together.

    Meanwhile, the imaginary George--half-walrus, half-human, all magic--has a problem of his own: with nobody to believe in him, he is slowly disappearing. Rejoining Jack is his only hope for survival. Or is it?

  • A Blind Guide to Stinkville - Before Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville. For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time. This is a stirring small-town story that explores many different issues—albinism, blindness, depression, dyslexia, growing old, and more—with a light touch and lots of heart. Beth Vrabel’s characters are complicated and messy, but they come together in a story about the strength of community and friendship. Sky Pony Press, with our Good Books, Racehorse and Arcade imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of books for young readers—picture books for small children, chapter books, books for middle grade readers, and novels for young adults. Our list includes bestsellers for children who love to play Minecraft; stories told with LEGO bricks; books that teach lessons about tolerance, patience, and the environment, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

  • The Color Thief - A child recounts his experience of losing his father to depression in this poignant and beautifully illustrated picture book. The boy’s father disappears into a world without color. As the father seeks help, color begins to reappear and with it hope. An ideal book for parents and caregivers to share with children to help them make sense of the devastating effects that depression can cause.

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Someone Else's Shoes
Written & illustrated by Ellen Wittlinger
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Twelve-year-old Izzy’s life just seems to get more and more complicated: she is upset by her father’s new marriage, and a new baby on the way; she is expected to look out for her ten-year-old cousin, Oliver, who has moved in with her family since his mother committed suicide, because his father is depressed and having trouble coping; and now Ben, the rebellious sixteen-year-old son of Izzy’s mother’s boyfriend, is also living with them–but when Oliver’s father disappears, the three children put aside their differences and set out to find him.

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Skim
Written by Mariko Tamaki & illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
picture book
Recommend Ages: 14-17

The time is the early 1990s, the setting a girls’ academy in Toronto. Enter “Skim,” aka Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth. When her classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself, the entire school goes into mourning overdrive. It’s a weird time to fall in love, but Skim does just that after secret meetings with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer. When Ms. Archer abruptly leaves the school, Skim has to cope with her confusion and isolation, as her best friend, Lisa, tries to pull her into “real” life by setting up a hilarious double date for the school’s semi-formal. Skim finds an unexpected ally in Katie. Suicide, depression, love, being gay or not, crushes, cliques of popular, manipulative peers — the whole gamut of tortured teen life is explored in this masterful graphic novel by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.

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