Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to illness. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about illness.
Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.
When it comes to children’s stories about illness, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Madeline to popular sellers like Fever 1793 to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Two Princesses of Bamarre.
We hope this list of kids books about illness can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.
Newspaper Hats - Georgie visits her Grandpa at the home where he lives, but he doesn’t always remember who she is. He does, however, remember how to make newspaper hats, and together they fold enough for all his friends. Touching moments portray the difficulties and nuances of memory loss from a child’s perspective, and an uplifting ending leaves readers with hope. A poignant and age-appropriate story about a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
Grandma Forgets - When your grandmother can’t remember your name it should be sad, but maybe it is just an opportunity to tell her more often how much you love her. Grandma Forgets is the heart-warming story of a family bound by love as they cope with their grandma’s dementia. Over the years, the little girl has built up a treasure trove of memories of time spent with Grandma: sausages for Sunday lunch, driving in her sky-blue car to the beach, climbing her apple trees while she baked a delicious apple pie, and her comforting hugs during wild storms. But now, Grandma can’t remember those memories. She makes up new rules for old games and often hides Dad’s keys. Sometimes Dad is sad because he has to hold onto the memories for both him and his mother now, but fortunately his daughter is only too happy to help him make new memories to share. This is a warm, hopeful story about a family who sometimes needs to remind their grandmother a little more often than they used to about how much they care. She might not remember any of their names but she will always know how much she is loved.
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones - “My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain. The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him and to let them know him.”—
The Day Abuelo Got Lost - A touching story about a boy and his grandfather who enjoy a special relationship—until Abuelo starts to lose his memory. Instead of building model planes and cooking together, Luis and his father have to search the neighborhood for Abuelo, and Luis and Abuelo have to find new activities to enjoy together.
Want to see books about dementia and Alzheimer's?
Marvin's Monster Diary - Meet Marvin, a lovable monster with a twelve-stringed baby fang guitar, a rambunctious case of ADHD, and a diary to record it all. His teachers scold him, his parents don’t know what to do with him, and his sister is convinced he was raised by triple-tailed monkeys. In short, Marvin’s life is feeling out of controle until a secret formula changes everything. In the same humorous spirit of Diary of a Wimpy Kid comes Marvin’s Monster Diary: ADHD Attacks! (And I Win, Big Time). Using the “monstercam” and “ST4” techniques developed by Dr. Raun Melmed of the Melmed Center in Arizona, Marvin’s Monster Diary teaches kids how to be mindful, observe their surroundings, and take time to think about their actions. Marvin’s hilarious doodles and diary entries chronicle his delightful adventures, misadventures, and eventual triumph in a funny, relatable way. It’s the one book on ADHD that kids will actually want to read! Marvin’s Monster Diary also includes a resource section to help parents and teachers implement Dr. Melmed’s methods, plus ST4 reminders that kids can remove, color, and place around the house.
Everything I Know About You - Misfit Tally is forced to room with queen bee Ava on the seventh-grade field trip to Washington, DC, and discovers several surprising things about her roommate—including the possibility of an eating disorder—in this timely new novel from the author of Star-Crossed and Halfway Normal.
Knockout - Levi just wants to be treated like a typical kid. As a baby, he had a serious disease that caused him respiratory issues. He’s fine now, but his mom and overprotective brother still think of him as damaged, and his schoolmates see him as the same class clown he’s always been. He feels stuck. So when his dad—divorced from his mom—suggests he take up boxing, he falls in love with the sport. And when he finds out about a school with a killer boxing team and a free-study curriculum, it feels like he’s found a ticket to a new Levi. But how can he tell his mom about boxing? And how can he convince his family to set him free?
Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time - In this picture book companion to the bestseller A Long Walk to Water, a young South Sudanese girl goes on a journey that requires determination, persistence, and compassion. Young Nya takes little sister Akeer along on the two-hour walk to fetch water for the family. But Akeer becomes too ill to walk, and Nya faces the impossible: her sister and the full water vessel together are too heavy to carry. As she struggles, she discovers that if she manages to take one step, then another, she can reach home and Mama’s care. Bold, impressionistic paintings by Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honor winner Brian Pinkney evoke the dry, barren landscape and the tenderness between the two sisters. An afterword discusses the process of providing clean water in South Sudan, reducing waterborne illness.
Want to see books about self-esteem?
Beginners Welcome - The acclaimed author of Where the Watermelons Grow is back with a story perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, about finding friendship after a tragic loss. It’s been eighty-three days since Annie Lee’s daddy died, but she still sees reminders of him everywhere. His record player mysteriously plays his favorite songs, there’s shaving cream in the sink every morning, and the TV keeps flipping to the Duke basketball games he loved. She knows Mama notices it too, but Mama’s been working around the clock to make ends meet. To make matters worse, Annie Lee’s friends ditched her over the summer. She feels completely alone—until she meets Mitch. Though Mitch is tough and confident on the outside, she may need a friend just as badly as Annie Lee. But after losing so much, Annie Lee is afraid to let anyone get too close. And Mitch isn’t the only friend trying to break through Annie Lee’s defenses. Ray, an elderly pianist who plays at a local mall, has been giving her piano lessons. His music is pure magic, and Annie Lee hopes it might be the key to healing her broken heart. But when Ray goes missing, searching for him means breaking a promise to Mitch. Faced with once again losing those who mean the most to her, Annie Lee must make a choice: retreat back into her shell, or risk admitting how much she needs Mitch and Ray—even if it means getting hurt all over again. Just like in her debut, Where the Watermelons Grow, Cindy Baldwin brings her signature twist of magic to this authentically heartfelt story.
Love Your Body - My body is strong. My body can do amazing things. My body is my own. Freedom is loving your body with all its ‘imperfections’ and being the perfectly imperfect you. Learning To Love Your Body encourages young girls to admire and celebrate their bodies for all the amazing things they can do, and to help girls see that they are so much more than their bodies.
Anxious Charlie to the Rescue - A friend in need causes an anxious pup to confront his fear of change in this thoughtful and encouraging tale. Charlie follows the same routine every day: he hops out of bed in the morning, walks the same route to the market, and lines up his stuffed animals just so in the evening. If anything is slightly different, Charlie worries that something bad might happen. But when friends call one morning asking for Charlie’s help, he forgets to follow his usual routine. Will something bad happen, as Charlie fears? Or will he learn that change can be good? In this touching story by Terry Milne, readers will fall in love with the nervous little dog named Charlie and his ability to overcome his fear of change.
The House of Lost and Found - Pixar’s blockbuster UP meets Coraline in this atmospheric and emotional story.Niles lives alone in a big house full of dust and memories of the people he’s lost.Then one day, the boy from next door asks Niles to look after his plant. Reluctantly, Niles takes the pot of dirt. Can he remember how to care for something?As the flower grows, Niles realizes how empty and lonely his house is and begins to care for the plant, his house and himself. By the time the little boy returns the flower has bloomed into a beautiful poppy and Niles, and his house, are filled with hope again.This feel-good picture book from bestselling Swedish children’s author Martin Widmark and award-winning illustrator Emilia Dzuibak digs deep.
Want to see 8 more books about illness and depression and mental illness ?
How about books about depression and mental illness?
Good Enough: A Novel - A young girl with an eating disorder must find the strength to recover in this moving middle-grade novel from Jen Petro-Roy Before she had an eating disorder, twelve-year-old Riley was many things: an aspiring artist, a runner, a sister, and a friend. But now, from inside the inpatient treatment center where she’s receiving treatment for anorexia, it’s easy to forget all of that. Especially since under the influence of her eating disorder, Riley alienated her friends, abandoned her art, turned running into something harmful, and destroyed her family’s trust. If Riley wants her life back, she has to recover. Part of her wants to get better. As she goes to therapy, makes friends in the hospital, and starts to draw again, things begin to look up. But when her roommate starts to break the rules, triggering Riley’s old behaviors and blackmailing her into silence, Riley realizes that recovery will be even harder than she thought. She starts to think that even if she does “recover,” there’s no way she’ll stay recovered once she leaves the hospital and is faced with her dieting mom, the school bully, and her gymnastics-star sister. Written by an eating disorder survivor and activist, Good Enough is a realistic depiction of inpatient eating disorder treatment, and a moving story about a girl who has to fight herself to survive.
Where the Watermelons Grow - Fans of The Thing About Jellyfish and A Snicker of Magic will be swept away by Cindy Baldwin’s debut middle grade about a girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness. When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren’t there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time. With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations. But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.
My Grandfather's War - The award-winning team of Glyn Harper and Jenny Cooper share this poignant story about a Vietnam veteran and his relationship with his granddaughter. While the relationship is a positive one, the young girl senses her grandfather’s pain and is curious to find out the cause of it. As she innocently seeks answers, she unknowingly opens old wounds and discovers her grandfather’s sadness is a legacy of the Vietnam War and his experiences there. This is a sensitive exploration of the lingering cost of war and of the PTSD so many returned servicemen experience. Released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Khe Sanh (the Vietnam War’s longest battle), My Grandfather’s War also sheds light on a war that is not always remembered in the same way that the world wars and other conflicts are. Many who served experience a sense of betrayal at the treatment they received on their return, as the conflict came to be regarded as the ‘unpopular’ war, and this is covered in a child-friendly way in a note at the back of the book.
The Color Thief - A child recounts his experience of losing his father to depression in this poignant and beautifully illustrated picture book. The boy’s father disappears into a world without color. As the father seeks help, color begins to reappear and with it hope. An ideal book for parents and caregivers to share with children to help them make sense of the devastating effects that depression can cause.
Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet - When Kitty is happy and healthy, everything is perfect. She jumps around, eats everything in sight and has the energy to keep slobbering puppies in their place. But when she’s sick, all she can do is lie in her bed. Looks like it’s time for this sick kitty to go… to the vet. When Kitty’s family finally manages to get their clawing, angry pet into the doctor’s office, it’s a wild adventure for Kitty who has to get the most dreaded thing of all…a shot. Once administered, Kitty is cast into an ingenious dream within a dream sequence in which she has to make right by puppy or risk being shut out of PussyCat heaven forever. Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet, the 9th installment of the popular Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel is chock full of brilliant supporting characters and of course, the crankiest bad kitty you’ve ever seen.
Wild Honey from the Moon - In an epic adventure like no other, an unflappable mother will stop at nothing to find a cure for her ailing young son — even if it means traveling to the moon itself. “Where are you going?” “To the moon. A quick trip.” “But you can’t fly.” “Darling, I am your mother,” she said, and gave him one last kiss. On a cold winter’s eve, deep in the woods, a mother shrew frets about her sick young son. His head is cold and his feet are hot, and there is only one thing that can cure him: wild honey from the moon. Mother Shrew does not stop to wonder how she will make such an impossible journey. Instead, she grabs her trusty red umbrella, gives her darling son a kiss, and sets out into the unknown. Along the way, Mother Shrew encounters one obstacle after another, from a malevolent owl to a herd of restless “night mares” to an island humming with angry bees. But each can prove no match for a mother on a mission. From the mind of the uniquely talented Kenneth Kraegel comes an utterly original ode to the limitlessness of maternal love.
Kasey & Ivy - Through twenty-six letters to her friend Nina, twelve-year-old Kasey chronicles the often humorous observations and impressions of her unexpected, month-long stay in a geriatric ward for the treatment of a rare but treatable bone disease (“osteo-something-something-itis”). Kasey tries to make her life less dull by wearing her own nightgowns, surrounding herself with her favorite stuffies and developing an unusual exercise routine. Hospital food, insomnia and the germy communal bath are enduring sources of dread, but some new (and unexpected) friends make her life bearable.
Katie Woo Has the Flu - Katie misses school while she is home with the flu.
Want to see books about feeling sick?
Don't You Feel Well, Sam? - In the little white house, Mrs. Bear is putting Sam to bed, when suddenly — HCK HCK! coughs Sam. Mrs. Bear gets some syrup. But the syrup tastes bad, and there’s too much of it on a too-big spoon, and it’s too hard to swallow. What will make Sam feel better? Acclaimed picture-book creators Amy Hest and Anita Jeram revisit Sam and Mrs. Bear as they share a quiet moment of comfort that is enough to conquer the coldest night.
The Great Googlini - Filip, the ten-year-old son of Croatian immigrants, lives in a boring suburb of the big city,where he passes his time either at school or in his cozy kitchen, googling everything from dinosaurs to the Hubble Space Telescope. When his favorite uncle gets sick, Filip turns to Google for answers. Instead he receives a visit from the Great Googlini, a tiny woman in Converse sneakers who swirls out of the computer vents. She’s not really a genie, she explains: “I’m more of an archivist.” Her visit is a little bit of magic that lets Filip see the magic all around him. Ultimately about the things we can know and the things we can’t, this is a smart, touching, funny chapter book about growing up, braving tough times and looking for answers.
Papillon Goes to the Vet - Papillon, the kitty so fluffy he floats, is back! Only this time, he’s grounded. Literally. Weighed down after swallowing a toy and beset with hiccups, Papillon is miserable! Miss Tilly takes him to the vet, but will he ever float again?