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Facing Fears and Scared: 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.

Wemberly Worried book
#1
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.

What's Following Us? book
#2
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.

A Bedtime Yarn book
#3
A Bedtime Yarn
Written by Nicola Winstanley and illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Like a well-worn, snuggly blanket, this sweet bedtime story about a little bear who's afraid of the dark and his mother's creative solution will warm and comfort readers big and small. Frankie is a little bear who has a hard time falling asleep. The dark is scary, and he hates to be alone. So his mother gives him a ball of yarn to hold when he goes to bed, and she keeps the other end in the next room, working it into a surprise for Frankie. Every few nights the yarn color changes, and Frankie dreams in all the colors that he and his mother pick out. One night he's swimming in turquoise water, another night he's in a cool gray fog. He plays with a marmalade kitten and eats delicious chocolate cake. Eventually Frankie and his mother create something special--and Frankie learns that he's always connected to those he loves, even when he's alone in the dark. A beautiful story of love and crafting, A Bedtime Yarn will appeal to knitters, sleepy little bears and any parents dealing with their child's fear of the dark.

Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats book
#4
Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats
Written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Birgitta Sif
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

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.

The Doghouse book
#5
The Doghouse
Written and illustrated by Jan Thomas
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Mouse, Pig, Cow, and Duck are playing a carefree game of ball when (horror of horrors!) their ball gets kicked into . . . THE DOGHOUSE. Who will risk a run-in with scary Dog to get it back? Hysterical high anxiety ensues as Mouse volunteers each animal to do the dirty work—but you’ll never believe what’s really going on in the doghouse! With Jan Thomas’s fun, fresh art and priceless animal expressions, this timeless tale of fear and friendship will have young readers howling.

  1. The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark - Mr. Fish wants to help his friend Ms. Clam when she loses her pearl, but though he's fast as a sailfish, as smart as dolphin, and as strong as a shark, Mr. Fish has a secret: he's scared of the dark! Very young children will swim along with Mr. Fish as he journeys deep into the ocean to new and mysterious places. They will discover, as Mr. Fish does, the power of friendship to light the way through the big-big dark.

  2. When I'm Feeling Scared - The Feelings Series are beautifully produced picture books that cover different emotional concepts for young children. These fully refreshed editions of the classic The Feeling series are especially designed to help children better understand their feelings and how to identify, manage and express those feelings in an appropriate and acceptable way - both to themselves and others. These books provide an invaluable tool to help build confidence, self-esteem and contribute to a healthy emotional foundation upon which children can thrive.

  3. The Wildest Cowboy - Saddle up for a funny and uplifting adventure story in which fun wins out over fear. Way out in the West there’s a town they call Fear And only the roughest and toughest live here . . . When cheerful salesman Bingo B. Brown rolls his wagon full of Wild West goodies into town, he’s met with a stony silence. This is clearly no place for novelty bow ties and elastic lassos. Not even Bingo’s dancing dog can raise a smile! But this town is not just joyless, it’s dangerous. And as Bingo soon discovers, the people of the town are not just scary, they’re also scared. It isn’t long before Bingo and his dog discover why, as they come face to face with the Wildest Cowboy in the West! Featuring a dramatic train chase, rattlesnake socks and a dancing dog.

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