Best Kids Books About Facing fears

31 Books for Helping Kids Feel Brave and Face Their Fears

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.

Let's Go, Hugo! book
#1
Let's Go, Hugo!
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

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?

Brave As Can Be: A Book of Courage book
#2
Brave As Can Be: A Book of Courage
Written by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-4
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

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.

Shark Nate-O book
#3
Shark Nate-O
Written by Tara Luebbe, Becky Cattie and illustrated by Daniel Duncan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Nate loves sharks. He reads shark books every day, watches sharks on TV, and talks about them nonstop. He even likes to pretend he's a shark wherever he goes! However, there is one small problem. . . . Nate can't swim. When his older brother points this out, Nate works hard to overcome his fears and learn how to blow bubbles, use a kickboard, and finally swim without help, as quickly and as gracefully as a shark. Will he be able to beat his brother in a swim tryout and get his bite back? Kids will love this jawsome book complete with vibrant and whimsical art and a list of shark facts in the back!

Little Home Bird book
#4
Little Home Bird
Written and illustrated by Jo Empson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Little Bird loves everything about his home. He's surrounded by his favourite branch, his favourite food, his favourite view and his favourite music. Why on earth would he ever want to change, even when his brother tells him that they must? Discover how Little Bird ends up finding happiness in his new home from home in this beautifully illustrated picture book. Perfect for all children who love home, however many they may have.

Jabari Jumps book
#5
Jabari Jumps
Written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

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.

Wally Does Not Want a Haircut book
#6
Wally Does Not Want a Haircut
Written and illustrated by Amanda Driscoll
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Wally the sheep does not want to get the haircut he really needs, even after all the other farm animals get new hairdos, but when his shaggy wool gets him in trouble, he has no choice but to ask for a trim.

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) book
#7
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)
Written and illustrated by Dan Santat
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

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.

Chicken Lily book
#8
Chicken Lily
Written by Lori Mortensen and illustrated by Nina Victor Crittenden
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

"Through puns and poetry, Chicken Lily overcomes her fears and reads a poem onstage at her school poetry jam"--

Orion and the Dark book
#9
Orion and the Dark
Written and illustrated by Emma Yarlett
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is just an amazing book all around: the illustrations are gorgeous and unique and the story is fantastic as well, with a great message! Orion is afraid of so many things, but especially the dark until The Dark comes to visit him. The cheerful personification of the dark looks absolutely huggable and I love how together they conquer Orion's fear by discovering the truth of each aspect of the dark that terrifies him—knowledge is power.

Orion is very scared of the dark—until Dark decides to pay him a visit! Orion is scared of a lot of things, but most of all he’s scared of the dark. So one night the Dark decides to take Orion on an adventure. Emma Yarlett’s second picture book combines her incredible storytelling and artwork with die-cut pages that bring the Dark to life.

Thunder Cake book
#10
Thunder Cake
Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

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.

Giant Dance Party book
#11
Giant Dance Party
Written by Betsy Bird and illustrated by Brandon Dorman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Betsy Bird knows all there is to know about kids and books. She is the New York Public Library’s youth collections specialist, she writes a blog hosted by School Library Journal, and has served on the Newbery Medal committee. Now Betsy Bird has written a children’s book of her own, Giant Dance Party. In this rollicking picture book, a group of giants shows up at Lexy’s door wanting dance lessons. After some initial hesitation, Lexy is happy to teach them, and her dance classes end with all her students—as well as Lexy herself—overcoming their fears and putting on a boogying performance. Brandon Dorman, an award-winning artist whose work can be found in The Wizard, and on the covers of Fablehaven and Goosebumps, brings the giants and their dance moves to life with his full-color illustrations.

Lionheart book
#12
Lionheart
Written and illustrated by Richard Collingridge
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from 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.

Richard hears something in his room before bedtime. Is it a monster? He doesn't wait to find out and sets off running through the streets, over the hills, through the forest, and into the fields until he finds himself in a magical jungle. With the help of his stuffed lion Lionheart, Richard finds the courage he needs to face his fears.

The Lion Inside book
#13
The Lion Inside
Written by Rachel Bright and illustrated by Jim Field
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-6

"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!

Bear Feels Scared book
#14
Bear Feels Scared
Written and illustrated by Karma Wilson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book has great cadence and illustrations to accompany the sweet story. The use of repetition "and the bear feels scared" is great for budding readers and also creates a real emotional connection with the reader. It's important to remember when you're scared that you have people who love you who want to help you and bring you back safe, and I think that's the truly fantastic message of this book.

Bad weather frightens Bear, but his woodland friends are there to help him in this sweet, reassuring Bear story from bestselling duo Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman! In the deep, dark woods by the Strawberry Vale, a big bear lumbers down a small, crooked trail… The sun is setting and it’s getting chilly. When Bear’s friends discover that he is not at home in his lair, they march out into the cold to find their pal. Friends don’t let friends stay lost! Wren, Owl, and Raven take to the skies while Badger, Mole, and Mouse search on the ground. Pretty soon Bear is found, and once he’s back in his cave, he feels quite safe with his friends all around.

Wemberly Worried book
#15
Wemberly Worried
Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Wemberly worried about everything. Big things. Little things. And things in between. Then it was time for school to start.And Wemberly worried even more. If you ever worry (or know someone who does), this is the book for you.

Mae's First Day of School book
#16
Mae's First Day of School
Written and illustrated by Kate Berube
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

The first day of school can be scary for everyone--not just the students. As Mae gets ready for her very first day, she reflects on all the things she's afraid of. What if the other kids don't like her? What if she can't learn to read? What if she misses her mom? On the way to school, she decides that instead of facing all the unknowns, it would be much easier to climb up into her favorite tree and wait there until school is over. As other kids pass by, they, too, share their own fears with Mae, and she learns that everyone gets nervous about trying new things, even her teacher! Together, Mae and her new friends decide to face the day and celebrate new beginnings, hand in hand.

The Dark book
#17
The Dark
Written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo. Mostly, though, the dark stays in the basement and doesn't come into Lazslo's room. But one night, it does. This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark. With emotional insight and poetic economy, two award-winning talents team up to conquer a universal childhood fear.

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears book
#18
Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears
Written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Spiders: Little Mouse is afraid of them (arachnophobia). Shadows: Little Mouse is afraid of those (sciaphobia). In fact, Little Mouse is afraid of everything. Join her as she faces her fears and records them in her journal - and discovers that even the biggest people are afraid of some things.

Scaredy Squirrel book
#19
Scaredy Squirrel
Written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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 ...

Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night book
#20
Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night
Written by Kallie George and illustrated by Oriol Vidal
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Feather, Flap, and Spike are spending their first night in their very own nest. They tell stories and snuggle up to get a good night’s sleep, until . . . GRRORE! What’s that scary-sounding noise? Young readers will find both humor and comfort in this cozy bedtime story, perfect for anybody who’s ever been nervous about a mysterious noise at night.

You Can Do It, Bert! book
#21
You Can Do It, Bert!
Written and illustrated by Ole Könnecke
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-6

This is Bert's big day. He is well prepared, mentally, and physically. But he might need some encouragement. You Can Do It, Bert! is a simple, funny picture book with an encouraging positive message. It's a great gift for anyone embarking on a new venture: a child about to start school, a teenager finishing high school, a college student graduating, or anyone starting a new job or going overseas.

Shark in the Dark book
#22
Shark in the Dark
Written by Peter Bently and illustrated by Ben Cort
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

The shark has been lurking in the deep, dark sea, searching for a fishy snack. He's big and he's mean and he's always hungry. Tired of fleeing the shark, the other seas creatures come up with a plan. If they all work together it might be possible to teach the shark a lesson he'll never forget. With a lively rhyming text; bright, expressive illustrations; and a playful die-cut cover, this is one shark's tale that will be a hit either at story hour . . . or feeding time.

Dad and the Dinosaur book
#23
Dad and the Dinosaur
Written by Gennifer Choldenko and illustrated by Dan Santat
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

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.

What Do You Do with a Problem? book
#24
What Do You Do with a Problem?
Written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

What do you do with a problem? Especially one that follows you around and doesn't seem to be going away? Do you worry about it? Ignore it? Do you run and hide from it? This is the story of a persistent problem and the child who isn't so sure what to make of it. The longer the problem is avoided, the bigger it seems to get. But when the child finally musters up the courage to face it, the problem turns out to be something quite different than it appeared. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who has ever had a problem that they wished would go away. It's a story to inspire you to look closely at that problem and to find out why it's here. Because you might discover something amazing about your problem and yourself. What are problems for? They challenge us, shape us, push us, and help us to discover just how strong and brave and capable we really are. Even though we don't always want them, problems have a way of bringing unexpected gifts. So, what will you do with your problem?

It's Tough to Lose Your Balloon book
#25
It's Tough to Lose Your Balloon
Written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Lost balloons. Melted ice cream. Babysitters. Life as a kid can be pretty daunting. But don’t let these troubles get you down. With the right attitude, a hurdle can become a hammock and an obstacle can become an opportunity! Veteran picture book creator Jarrett J. Krosoczka teaches kids to look on the bright side of things. With lively illustrations and spot-on humor, It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon champions resilience and helps children navigate childhood indignities while making them laugh at the same time.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.