“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.
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!
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.
Poppy Louise Littleton is not afraid of anything . . . almost. Fans of Ladybug Girl and other girl-power heroines will fall in love with this spunky character!
Poppy Louise Littleton thinks vampires are cute and mummies are funny. She’s positive a tarantula would make a perfect pet. All her imaginary friends are monsters. Is there anything that will scare her? Her sister, Petunia, is determined to find out. . . .
In this inviting picture book, Jenna McCarthy brings us a new character who feels at once modern and timeless. Girls and boys will recognize themselves in Poppy Louise (and maybe sometimes in her sister, Petunia) and will gobble up Molly Idle’s deliciously cinematic spreads, which highlight the drama of Poppy Louise’s escapades.
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.
A Little Chicken - 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.
Roar and Sparkles Go to School - Roar is worried about his first day at school. He’s worried that he’ll have to do really hard things, like molt his scales and fly over a volcano. His big sister Sparkles reassures him, but Roar still worries. The first day of school arrives and Roar is pleasantly surprised! Instead of having to breathe fire, he gets to kick fireballs in gym class. He also gets to make popsicle-stick caves in art and to listen to stores about Johnny Apple-dragon and Cinder-dragonella during circle time. And when he’s asked to draw something he loves before the day is over, he figures out just how to thank Sparkles for her sisterly support. Roar and Sparkles is a sweet story about the anxieties children may feel about attending school for the first time, as well as a comforting tale about the bond between siblings. Sarah Beth Durst’s imaginative and playful script is enhanced by Ben Whitehouse’s modern and fresh illustrations to create a book that’s sure to squelch first-day-of-school worries for children.
Frankenbunny - Spencer the bunny’s older brothers frighten him with stories about Frankenbunny and other monsters until Spencer figures out how to overcome his fears and his brothers.
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.
Fionn Boyle comes from a long line of brave seafarers, people with the ocean behind their eyes. But he can’t help but fear the open sea. For years, Fionn’s mother has told him stories of Arranmore Island, a strange place that seems to haunt her. Fionn has always wondered about this mysterious island, and from the day he arrives he starts noticing things that can’t be explained. He can sense the island all around him, and it feels like the island is watching him, too. Once in a generation, Arranmore Island chooses a new Storm Keeper to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for his grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. But as Fionn and the other descendants of Arranmore’s most powerful families fight to become the island’s next champion, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling a long-ago war and changing Fionn’s life and the island’s future forever.
Stink takes a star turn—and helps stave off cosmic calamity—in a new Judy Moody & Friends adventure just right for newly independent readers. Look up! Look out! A comet is coming, a comet is coming! Stink is camped out in the backyard with his sister, Judy, and he can’t wait to lay eyes on P/2015 OZ4, also known as the Sherman-Holm Comet. But then news of an asteroid hitting Russia reaches Stink, and suddenly he’s feeling squeamish (and squash-ish) about close encounters of the outer-space kind. Will donning an aluminum-foil cape and building a bunker in the basement help keep him safe? Can this fearless Asteroid Boy save Earth from disaster?
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?”
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