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12 Kids Books About Facing Fears & Courage

Updated Jan. 19, 2019

Fear is one of those things that is common to the human experience and plagues both children and adults alike. When you are scared of something, regardless of your age, reason and logic can give way to an irrational fear that it seems impossible to conquer. In these moments, we crave someone who understands, empathizes and yet is simultaneously above this fear and can also provide comfort and reassurance. Parents and other mentors can help fill this role for children, and stories can help. They provide a framework for talking about fears (whether a specific fear the child shares with a book character or fears in general) and how to conquer them in a way that is less personal and thus more accessible. Then when situations arise in everyday life, parents and children have a common point they can start from—"Remember what Orion did when he was scared of the dark?"—and work from there. Whether you're tackling anxieties about the dark, starting school, leaving home, getting a haircut, being alone, stage fright or anything else, these books can help bridge the gap and start to quell those fears—seriously, some of our very favorites on this list.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles book
#1
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The Whangdoodle was once the wisest, the kindest, and the most extraordinary creature in the world. Then he disappeared and created a wonderful land for himself and all the other remarkable animals -- the ten-legged Sidewinders, the little furry Flukes, the friendly Whiffle Bird, and the treacherous, "oily" Prock. It was an almost perfect place where the last of the really great Whangdoodles could rule his kingdom with "peace, love and a sense of fun"-- apart from and forgotten by people. But not completely forgotten. Professor Savant believed in the Whangdoodle. And when he told the three Potter children of his search for the spectacular creature, Lindy, Tom, and Ben were eager to reach Whangdoodleland. With the Professor's help, they discovered the secret way. But waiting for them was the scheming Prock, who would use almost any means to keep them away from his beloved king. Only by skill and determination were the four travelers able to discover the last of the really great Whangdoodles and grant him his heart's desire. Julie Andrews Edwards, star of stage and screen, has written a unique and beloved story that has become a modern classic. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles is sure to continue to delight readers everywhere. This edition includes a new foreword by the author.

Pablo in the Snow book
#2
Pablo in the Snow
Written by Teri Sloat and illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

What is soft, fluffy, and white? Pablo’s wool, of course. But this little lamb soon discovers that there’s something else as well: SNOW! From making trails to sledding with friends, having snowball fights and crafting snowmen, there’s tons of fun to be had in the snow. But winter days grow dark very fast, and Pablo finds himself lost on his way home. Not to worry―Mama and Papa help Pablo get back to the cozy barn so he can talk about his adventures.

On a Windy Night book
#3
On a Windy Night
Written by Nancy Raines Day and illustrated by George Bates
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

On a windy Halloween night, as a little boy makes his way home after trick-or-treating, he hears a voice: “Cracklety-clack, bones in a sack. They could be yours—if you look back.” As his heart flip-flops with fear, the boy dashes through woods and fields that seem full of haunting shapes—owls, ghosts, skeletons, and more. The detailed illustrations are packed with visual tricks for children to discover. Are those skeletons or cornstalks? Ghostly hands or tree branches? The playful tone of the text makes this a perfect, not-too-scary read-aloud, with an enjoyable surprise ending.

Mary Wears What She Wants book
#4
Mary Wears What She Wants
Written and illustrated by Keith Negley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Once upon a time (but not too long ago), girls only wore dresses. And only boys wore pants. Until one day, a young girl named Mary had a bold idea: She would wear whatever she wanted. And she wanted to wear pants! Inspired by the true story of Mary Edwards Walker, a trailblazing doctor who was arrested many times for wearing pants, this fresh, charming picture book encourages readers to think for themselves while gently challenging gender and societal norms.

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King book
#5
Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
Written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

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.

Ella and Penguin Stick Together book
#6
Ella and Penguin Stick Together
Written by Megan Maynor and illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Sometimes all you need is a good friend to help you be brave. Ella has a surprise for Penguin—glow-in-the-dark stickers! But to see the stickers glow, Ella and Penguin must be in the dark. And the dark is so . . . dark! If only they could see the stickers glow in the light—but that won't work. Soon Ella and Penguin find out that if they stick together, they can face anything. Megan Maynor's sweet and lively text, paired with Rosalinde Bonnet's irresistible illustrations, will have readers clamoring for more Ella and Penguin.

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee book
#7
The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee
Written by Deborah Abela
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

India Wimple can spell. Brilliantly. Every Friday night, she and her family watch the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee on TV. When the Wimples suggest she enter the next bee, India finds the idea disconcerting. She's sure she's not good enough—but her family won't accept that and encourages her to sign up. There are plenty of obstacles to reaching the finals, and the whole thing seems rather calamitous to India. But with hope, hard work, and a little bit of heart, something splendiferous might be on the horizon…

The Most Marvelous International Spelling Bee book
#8
The Most Marvelous International Spelling Bee
Written by Deborah Abela and illustrated by Aleksie Bitskoff
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

"India Wimple can spell with the best of them. How else would she have won the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee and garnered an invitation to the Most Marvelous International Spelling Bee? India couldn't be more thrilled to travel to London along with the rest of the Wimples. And at first, it seems like a dream come true; she reunites with her spelling bee friends, and they even get to meet the Queen! But there is skulduggery afoot, with some rather mysterious goings-on going on and a series of accidents that seem to be not-so-accidental after all. India has her suspicions about who is behind the duplicitous demonstrations. But can she solve the mystery in time to save the competition?"

One Last Wish book
#9
One Last Wish
Written by Suzanne I. Barchers and illustrated by Sue Todd
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

A princess marries a man she loves in spite of his impending death. Due to her devotion and persistence, she is granted a wish, which she uses wisely. Themes: love, devotion, bravery.

I Am Famous book
#10
I Am Famous
Written by Becky Cattie, Tara Luebbe and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Kiely knows she is famous! The paparazzi (her parents) follow her every move, documenting with cameras. It’s exhausting being famous, but someone has to do it! She even gets to perform a big song at her grandfather’s birthday. When she messes it up, she’s worried she’s lost her audience forever, but it turns out that no one is as loyal as her fans who love her.

Goodnight Bob book
#11
Goodnight Bob
Written by Ann Hassett and illustrated by John Hassett
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

It's bedtime for Bob. But, oh no, he sees a pair of eyes in the dark! Who is it? With a flashlight, Bob discovers it's a friendly creature wishing him goodnight. Goodnight, Bob! Then more eyes appear. Who is it now?

Violet and the Woof book
#12
Violet and the Woof
Written by Rebecca Grabill and illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

If you love stories of imagination, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Where the Wild Things Are, and Charlie and Lola—you’ll adore spending time with these two courageous siblings. “Once upon a time, a brave little girl and her brother set out on a long, long journey,” Violet tells Peter. “A journey fraught with danger and peril.” Riding their building’s elevator and traveling the hallways past apartment doors to bring soup to a sick neighbor, Violet and Peter encounter both real and imagined adventure—getting lost in the laundry room, running into a troll, and escaping scary noises in the nick of time, only to find that their poor sick neighbor looks . . . like a wolf! Clever, thought-provoking, and with an unforgettable ending, Violet and the Woof is a book that explores the power of imaginative storytelling and will have kids asking: “What’s real?”

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected]!