“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.
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.
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.
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.
The young girl at the centre of this charming and quirkily-illustrated story hates brushing her teeth and is terrified of the dentist; as far as she's concerned, there's no scarier monster. But when she meets a real monster in her bathroom, she learns how dentists are really heroes and brushing your teeth is very important - so important that even monsters do it!This inventive picture book is brimming with humour and imagination. Parent and child will love to read along together over and over again.
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.
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!
How to Catch a Monster - There's a monster in my closet, with claws, and teeth, and hair, and tonight, I'm going to scare him! He lives just right through there... Get ready to laugh as a young ninja heads into the closet to meet the monster that's been so scary night after night! But what if things aren't what they seem and our monster isn't scary at all? What if our ninja hero is about to make a friend of strangest sort? If you dare to travel beyond the closet door and into the land of the monsters... you might just find the very best reward of all. But with robots, lava pie, and a smattering of traps—catching monsters is no easy business! Is there a monster living in your closet? Are you brave enough to catch him? Parents and children will love sharing this fun and inventive picture book, which reminds us that things aren't always as scary as they seem.
Tiger Walk - One day Tom draws a tiger, inspired by his visit to the art gallery... That night, when Tom can't sleep, the tiger pads out of his drawing and purrs, "Let's go for a walk!" It's the beginning of a magical and life-changing adventure, as the tiger helps Tom to overcome some of his biggest fears.
Ready to Ride - A little boy is told to play outside by his mom, and bumps into an imaginary friend with whom he goes for a bike ride. At first he finds it difficult to keep up, but with the imaginary friend’s help he takes off the bike’s stabilisers and learns to freewheel—all the way home. A marvelous book with a can do attitude.
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?”