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Facing Fears and Animals: Books For Kids

“I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life." So writes Yann Martel in his classic, Life of Pi. Fear can be terribly debilitating in our lives, no matter our age. Children (and adults!) can have fears of all kinds of things, from big things, like fear of failure, to little things, like fear of bugs.

If fear is life's opponent, books may be life's best ally. As C.S. Lewis stated, “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Children's literature provides a powerful resource for helping children face and overcome fears and challenges. In these books and stories, children will see characters who have challenges or fears similar to their own. They'll see how the characters face these fears and challenges and what they do to manage or overcome them. These characters provide children with someone who understands their fears and challenges yet has also successfully overcome them and can inspire courage and offer comfort and reassurance. In other words, stories provide parents and loved ones a framework for talking about fears in a way that is less personal yet still relatable to children.

In this list, we highlight books about overcoming fears of all varieties. Books cover all kinds of challenges, like leaving home, being alone, stage fright, the dark, or even getting a haircut and more. You can use our table of contents to navigate to specific topics that are relevant to helping your reader overcome a fear, such as having courage to start school, overcoming the monster under the bed, being brave while learning to swim, and many others. You can also limit the list to certain book types: board books, great for babies and toddlers; picture books, perfect for toddlers through elementary school age; and chapter books, best for advancing readers through early middle school age.

We hope you can use this list to help children overcome their fears, whatever they may be. If you have a book that is not on the list that has been helpful in overcoming a fear, please share it in the comments below.

What's Following Us? book
#1
What's Following Us?
Written by Brandy Cooke and illustrated by John Reasoner, Charles Reasoner
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Something scary and strange is following Scaredy Snake and his pals through the jungle. What could it be? As the "SWISH"-ing and "SWOOSH"-ing draws closer, Scaredy and his animal friends realize that what's been chasing them may not be as scary as they originally feared.

I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! book
#2
I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!
Written by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Gus Gordon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

While showing her timid gal pals the wonders of the woods, brave Nadine the cow discovers that she is not entirely fearless.

So Big! book
#3
So Big!
Written and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

A simple, clever text paired with utterly adorable animal characters makes school-day jitters seem not so big after all! Bear is so big, and he's ready to start school! But even if you're SO BIG, you might feel a little nervous at times. Can Bear brave his first day and find a way to make it feel just right? A clever and charming story, So Big! will help young readers through all the important first steps in life. Acclaim for Dad's First Day Bank Street Best Children's Books of 2016--outstanding merit title Acclaim for Moo! An ALA Notable book A BCCB Blue Ribbon selection

Ninita's Big World book
#4
Ninita's Big World
Written by Sarah Glenn Marsh and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

"The heart-tugging true story of how YouTube star Ninita—a deaf, orphaned pygmy marmoset (the smallest type of monkey)—found family, friendship, and a forever home! Illustrated in full color. Ninita is the only known deaf pygmy marmoset in the world, but that doesn't stop her from making friends and chasing her next adventure! Abandoned by her parents and rescued by the RSCF, this tiny, curious monkey loves exploring her habitat. And when she meets Mr. Big—another pygmy marmoset—she has finally found a friend who likes to eat, climb, and play as much as she does. A YouTube celebrity, Ninita's videos have been viewed nearly 2 million times! "

Ernestine's Milky Way book
#5
Ernestine's Milky Way
Written and illustrated by Kerry Madden
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

In Maggie Valley, North Carolina, in the 1940s, Ernestine, who is five years old and a big girl, carries fresh milk to needy neighbors through thickets, down paths, and over a barbed-wire fence, despite her fears.

  1. Fish Are Not Afraid of Doctors - Maud the koala knows a visit to the doctor will help keep her healthy–so why is she so scared? Maud gets nervous waiting at the doctor’s office for a checkup, so she looks to the fish tank in the waiting room for comfort. Fish don’t have to go to the doctor–she wishes she could be a fish. So when Maud has to get a shot, she shuts her eyes and pretends exactly that: She becomes an aquatic version of herself and pretends to swim through the sea, blowing bubbles and meeting other marine life, until she hears the doctor telling her it’s all done!

  2. Toad Has Talent - Every year when Moonlight Pond freezes over, a talent contest takes place deep in the woods. Ducks dance, mice perform… But there is one animal that never competes. Toad watches the talent show from behind his rock, careful to keep himself hidden. Because Toad doesn't have a special talent--or so he thinks! When Toad is finally discovered, he slips on the icy pond and realises he does have an incredible talent himself ice-skating! This hilarious, heart-warming, story shows the reader that you never know what you can do unless you try.

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