“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.
Hugo is a bird that's afraid to fly. I love this story, because he faces his fears and ends up so happy once he's learned how to fly. I also love that he has such wonderful friends along the way that help him practice and help him through his nerves when he's scared. Sometimes it's helpful to have friends that can help you to overcome your fears. :) Plus, the illustrations in this story based in Paris are gorgeous!
Hugo is a dapper little bird who adores the Eiffel Tower -- or at least his view of it from down here. Hugo, you see, has never left the ground. So when he meets another bird, the determined Lulu, who invites him to fly with her to the top of the tower, Hugo stalls, persuading Lulu to see, on foot, every inch of the park in which he lives instead. Will a nighttime flying lesson from Bernard the Owl, some sweet and sensible encouragement from Lulu, and some extra pluck from Hugo himself finally give this bird the courage he needs to spread his wings and fly?
This was a fantastic book about conquering your fear. The illustrations are so fun—I love all of the different angles and perspectives the illustrator shows Jabari's situation from and how that really pulls you into the story. Jabari's dad is patient and understanding, and doesn't tell Jabari to just hurry up and jump, but waits for him to be ready and coaches him through a technique that might help him be ready to make the leap.
Working up the courage to take a big, important leap is hard, but Jabari is almost absolutely ready to make a giant splash. Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. “Looks easy,” says Jabari, watching the other kids take their turns. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. He needs to figure out what kind of special jump to do anyway, and he should probably do some stretches before climbing up onto the diving board. In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, newcomer Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.
After reading this for the first time, I immediately added to my "to buy" list. I'm a sucker for "fractured fairy tales" (which this isn't quite, but in the same vein) and this is an incredibly clever take on Humpty Dumpty "after the fall," exposing the emotional trauma following his traumatic accident and how he goes about conquering his fears. No spoilers here, but when I hit the last page I was blown away: so clever and so many warm fuzzies when Humpty realizes his full potential.
From the New York Times–bestselling creator of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend comes the inspiring epilogue to the beloved classic nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after? Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat's poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall―that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most. Will he summon the courage to face his fear? After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) is a masterful picture book that will remind readers of all ages that Life begins when you get back up.
A loud clap of thunder booms, and rattles the windows of Grandma’s old farmhouse. “This is Thunder Cake baking weather,” calls Grandma, as she and her granddaughter hurry to gather the ingredients around the farm. A real Thunder Cake must reach the oven before the storm arrives. But the list of ingredients is long and not easy to find . . . and the storm is coming closer all the time! Reaching once again into her rich childhood experience, Patricia Polacco tells the memorable story of how her grandma–her Babushka–helped her overcome her fear of thunder when she was a little girl. Ms. Polacco’s vivid memories of her grandmother’s endearing answer to a child’s fear, accompanied by her bright folk-art illustrations, turn a frightening thunderstorm into an adventure and ultimately . . . a celebration! Whether the first clap of thunder finds you buried under the bedcovers or happily anticipating the coming storm, Thunder Cake is a story that will bring new meaning and possibility to the excitement of a thunderstorm.
The illustrations in this book are simultaneously spunky, charming and engaging! The story is a great read aloud and feels very conversational as if one child was telling another child their wisdom gained so far. I love how it addresses so many common childhood fears, while simultaneously providing perspective and some tricks for dealing with them without seeming preachy or condescending.
From the author and illustrator of the bestselling In My Heart! The life of a toddler can be full of frightening things: the dark, the neighbor’s dog, and thunderstorms, just to name a few. As children get older, they begin to feel braver around these everyday events, but how do they build this newfound confidence? In this lyrical, insightful picture book, an older sister explains to her younger sister all the things she used to be afraid of, along with some tricks to help, whether it’s a special blanket for bedtime or singing during a storm. Now, big sister assures little sister, the fears that once felt as big as a mountain feel as minuscule as a speck of dust. This playful portrait of fear and bravery empowers young readers to confront once-scary situations and, with charming illustrations and die-cuts throughout, is also beautifully packaged. The Growing Hearts series celebrates the milestones of a toddler’s emotional development, from conquering fears and expressing feelings to welcoming a new sibling.
Lionheart - The Book Snob Mom - The illustrations in this book are gorgeously rich and detailed and add reality to this story of imagination and conquering fears. Richard's lion (Lionheart) was reminiscent of Aslan (of The Chronicles of Narnia) to me in his protection and empowerment of the little boy in facing his own fears, which made the story even more powerful and meaningful to me personally.
The Lion Inside - "That day they BOTH learned That, no matter your size, We all have a mouse AND a lion inside." A mouse feels small and insecure and determines that what he needs to do is learn how to roar like a lion. He knows he has to act brave when he approaches a lion to learn how. In a hilarious turn of events, the lion is afraid of mice! The mouse comforts the lion, they become friends, and we learn that there's a lion and a mouse inside all of us. The inspiring text by Rachel Bright and the fun, bold illustrations by Jim Field teach young readers an important lesson. Regardless of how big or mighty we are, we can all live our dreams and do what we want to do. Fans of Aesop's "The Lion and the Mouse" will enjoy The Lion Inside!
The Red Boat - Posy is afraid of her new house and all the unknown that comes with it, but when she and her dog find a red boat in the garden, she imagines all kinds of adventures and gains confidence despite being the new kid.
Scaredy Squirrel - Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. It's way too dangerous out there. He could encounter tarantulas, green Martians or killer bees. But in his tree, every day is the same and if danger comes along, he's well-prepared. Scaredy Squirrel's emergency kit includes antibacterial soap, Band-Aids and a parachute. Day after day he watches and waits, and waits and watches, until one day ... his worst nightmare comes true! Scaredy suddenly finds himself out of his tree, where germs, poison ivy and sharks lurk. But as Scaredy Squirrel leaps into the unknown, he discovers something really uplifting ...
Dot is a small chick who's scared of lots of things: wolves, bears, the occasional lawn ornament. But when an egg rolls out of her mother's nest, Dot must pluck up her courage to save the day--and her new sibling! Perfect for kids who need some encouragement to face the challenging world, this story proves that sometimes a big hero is just a little chicken.
A heartwarming father-son story about bravery and facing fears. Nicholas was afraid of the dark outside his door, the bushes where the giant bugs live, and the underside of manhole covers. His dad was not afraid of anything. Nicholas wants to be as brave as his dad, but he needs help. That’s why he needs a dinosaur. After all, dinosaurs like the dark, bugs are nothing to them, and they eat manhole covers for lunch (and everything under them for dinner). With his toy dinosaur, Nicholas can scale tall walls, swim in deep water, even score a goal against the huge goalie everyone calls Gorilla. But when the dinosaur goes missing, everything is scary again. Luckily, his dad knows that even the bravest people can get scared, and it’s okay to ask for help facing your fears. It’s just guy stuff.
A tale with many tails, perfect for cat lovers everywhere! Miss Hazeltine is opening a very special school for shy and fearful cats. They come from all over, and Miss Hazeltine gives them lessons in everything, from “Bird Basics” to “How Not to Fear the Broom.” The most timid of all is Crumb. He cowers in a corner. Miss Hazeltine doesn’t mind. But when she gets in trouble and only Crumb knows where she is, will he find his inner courage and lead a daring rescue? Filled with adorable illustrations and ideal for fans of Disappearing Desmond and The Invisible Boy, Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats is a story that’s perfect for shy and fearful children as it both helps them face scary situations and accepts them just as they are.
What do you do when no one can see your monsters but you? At first, Molly runs from them. But they follow her down the sidewalk, getting in the way when she tries to make a new friend, popping up unexpectedly out of shadows, and multiplying. Until finally...Molly faces her fears. Author-illustrator Brooke Boynton-Hughes delivers a modern classic in this moving adventure that honors everyday acts of bravery and the power of friendship to banish the monsters that haunt us.
There are many ways of letting go. With each goodbye, a new hello. From being pushed on a swing to learning how to pump your legs yourself, from riding a beloved trike to mastering your first bike ride, from leaving the comforts of home behind to venturing forth on that first day of school, milestones are exciting but hard. They mean having to say goodbye to one moment in order to welcome the next. Honest and uplifting, this cheerfully illustrated ode to change gently empowers readers to brave life's milestones, both large and small.
Lifeboat 12 - In the tradition of The War That Saved My Life and Stella By Starlight, this poignant novel in verse based on true events tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II. With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones—one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada. Life aboard the luxury ship is grand—nine-course meals, new friends, and a life far from the bombs, rations, and his stepmum’s glare. And after five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger. They’re wrong. Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive? Award-winning author Susan Hood brings this little-known World War II story to life in a riveting novel of courage, hope, and compassion. Based on true events and real people, Lifeboat 12 is about believing in one another, knowing that only by banding together will we have any chance to survive.
Splat the Cat - It's Splat's first day of school and he's worried. What if he doesn't make any new friends? Just in case, Splat decides to bring along his pet mouse, Seymour, and hides him in his lunchbox. The teacher, Mrs. Wimpydimple, introduces Splat to the class and he soon starts learning all his important cat lessons. But when Seymour escapes and the cats do what cats do (they chase mice!), Splat's worried again. Maybe now he'll lose all his friends, old and new! Just in time, wise Mrs. Wimpydimple takes charge and teaches everyone an important new lesson. Maybe Cat School is going to be okay after all!
Mighty Jack and the Goblin King - Like a bolt from the blue, Jack's little sister Maddy is gone—carried into another realm by an ogre. When Jack and Lilly follow Maddy’s captor through the portal, they are ready for anything . . . except what they find waiting for them in the floating crossroads between worlds. Even the power of their magic plants may not be enough to get them back to earth alive. Alone and injured, Jack and Lilly must each face their own monsters—as well as giants who grind the bones of human children to feed their “beast” and a fearsome goblin king in the sewers down below. But when Jack finds himself in a tough spot, help comes from the most unlikely person: the goblin king! Ben Hatke, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Zita the Spacegirl, concludes his latest middle-grade fantasy-adventure graphic novel series, Mighty Jack, with the energetic finale to his retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk.
The Crocodile and the Dentist - Oh, it's time to go to the dentist! Crocodile has a toothache, but he's afraid of the dentist. The dentist wants to help, but he's afraid of Crocodile. Never fear! Bestselling author-illustrator Taro Gomi cleverly and humorously presents both sides of the story, as the crocodile and the dentist learn to be brave and face their fears—of what might happen in that dentist's chair and of each other!
It’s the night before preschool, and a little boy named Billy is so nervous he can’t fall asleep. The friends he makes the next day at school give him a reason not to sleep the next night, either: he’s too excited about going back! The book’s simple rhyming text and sweet illustrations will soothe any child’s fears about the first day of school.
The king searches his kingdom far and wide for the perfect cook. He’s very particular, and none of the cooks can get the job done just right. Until the king meets Wobbly Bob. The king thinks Wobbly Bob might be the perfect fit, but there’s just one small hitch—Wobbly Bob is afraid of everything. He’s afraid that he’ll nick himself with the sharp kitchen knives, and he’s afraid he’ll get dirt from the vegetable garden on his new apron. Wobbly Bob needs a companion to help him feel brave, so the king himself tags along every step of the way. This tale of unlikely friendship is a fun and hilarious romp from a bestselling team.
A girl unravels a centuries-old mystery after moving into a haunted house in this deliciously suspenseful read that Kirkus Reviews calls “just the ticket for a cold autumn night.” Tessa Woodward isn’t exactly thrilled to move to rainy, cold Chicago from her home in sunny Florida. But homesickness turns to icy fear when unexplainable things start happening in her new house. Things like flickering lights, mysterious drawings appearing out of nowhere, and a crackling noise she can feel in her bones. When her little brother’s doll starts crying real tears, Tessa realizes that someone—or something—is trying to communicate with her. And it involves a secret that’s been shrouded in mystery for more than one hundred years. With the help of three new friends, Tessa begins unraveling the mystery of what happened in the house on Shady Street—and more importantly, what it has to do with her!
Armed with a vivid imagination and her trusty cat mask, Lily can take on anything–even a new school… But when her teacher tells her no masks allowed in class, Lily worries, can she make friends without it? Anyone who has been daunted by a new experience, or struggled to put on a good face, will relate to Lily. Whimsical art brings Lily, her father, and her new classmates to life, with text that begs to be read aloud. Perfect for Father’s Day, back to school, and even Halloween–Lily and her grinning cat mask are sure to make you smile back.
This is the real-life story of 10-year old refugee Hamid, who flees Eritrea with his mother to escape the war and threats to his family from the government. Told in Hamid's own words, this story describes the hardship experienced by immigrants who are rebuilding their lives with little understanding of the language and culture of their new country.
The Gray Hunter's Revenge - Frank and Joe investigate a supernatural crime in the seventeenth book in the thrilling Hardy Boys Adventures series. One of the Hardys’ favorite writers, Nathan Foxwood, has recently died in a tragic car accident. Now, the press is swarming his house in Bayport to get the scoop on the novel he completed just before his untimely death. When Joe hears that Nathan’s wife is having a giant estate sale, he drags Frank with him. Who could pass up the opportunity to see inside their favorite author’s home? Nathan’s wife says she wants to get away as quickly as possible; strange things have been happening since their first night there and now her husband is gone and she’s sure the house is haunted. But Nathan’s assistant, Adam, is not so willing to blame it all on the supernatural. Valuable things keep disappearing from the house—why would a ghost need money? Adam recognizes the Hardys’ from an article he read and asks for their help. Of course Frank and Joe Hardy don’t believe in ghosts and are positive they can get to the bottom of all this. But when Adam is mysteriously hurt after spending the night alone in the house, the brothers start to wonder; what is the motive for these crimes if not ghostly revenge? Could these brother detectives be in over their heads?
The Boy on the Bench - The playground is packed with children playing, but Tom is sitting on a bench with his dad. He's just not sure he's brave enough to join in. He can't see a space for himself anywhere in the playground. Not on the slide, or on the roundabout or on the swings. But when a little girl loses her teddy, will Tom have the courage to help? Gabriel Alborozo's warm, friendly illustrations perfectly bring to life this gentle, empathetic story about overcoming fears and being yourself.