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 picture books. 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. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
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 Llama Llama Home with Mama to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Remember Balloons.
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.
“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines the smallest one was Madeline.”
Nothing frightens Madeline—not tigers, not mice, not even getting sick. With its endearing, courageous heroine, cheerful humor, and wonderful, whimsical drawings of Paris, the Madeline stories are true classics that continue to charm readers even after 75 years!
A 2019 Schneider Family Award Honor Book!
What’s Happening to Grandpa meets Up in this tender, sensitive picture book that gently explains the memory loss associated with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.
But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!
Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.
A young girl loves her grandpa so much! When they spend the day at the beach, she holds his hand as they go for a walk, and they build sand castles together. But sometimes, it is difficult, because Grandpa has become forgetful. Grandpa’s memories are like the tide, Mommy explains. Sometimes, they are near and full of life. Other times, they are distant and quiet. A story about families, laughter, and how we can help a loved one with dementia live well.
Told in diary form, Oscar relates how his grandmother becomes less able to look after herself and enters a nursing home, with information about dementia to help children discuss their feelings and adjust to the changing relationship.
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.
Bob, Not Bob! - Little Louie is stuck in bed with a bad cold. His nose is clogged, his ears are crackling, and his brain feels full. All he wants is his mom to take care of him, but whenever he calls out for her, his stuffed-up nose summons slobbery dog Bob instead! As Louie tries and tries to make himself understood in this funny picturebook, kids will love calling out with him, “Bob, not Bob!”
You've Got Dragons - Worries, fears, and anxieties are all dragons that sneak up on most of us at one time or another. Lots of people get dragons. Even really really good people get them. And sometimes they are hard to get rid of. So what can a young boy with a bad case of the dragons do? He can pretend they are not there, or that they are really quite harmless. Hugs from his mom help. Looking his dragon straight in the eye at least once every day helps even more. But most reassuring of all is the reminder that dragons don’t stay forever. Kathryn Cave’s lighthearted writing style and illustrator Nick Maland’s appealing pen-and-ink drawings exaggerate the humor of the text without minimizing the seriousness of the underlying themes. It is the perfect read-aloud story for young children whose fears can sometimes get the better of them.
The Colossus of Roads - Eleven-year-old Rick Rusek is determined to improve the traffic conditions in Los Angeles— his parent’s failing delivery catering service, Smotch, depends on it. Rick Rusek’s stomach has a lot to say. It’s got opinions on tasty foods, not-so-tasty foods, and how driving in traffic-jammed Los Angeles makes it roil, boil, gurgle, and howl. It never meant to earn its owner the nickname Carsick Rick or make him change schools for fifth grade. It’s doing the best it can. Rick has a lot to say back to his stomach. In fact, his stomach is the only one he can talk to about his favorite subject: the mighty power of road signs. Rick sees how shifting these bold, beautiful signs announcing STOP, LEFT TURN ONLY, SPEED LIMIT 35, and ROAD WORK AHEAD could improve all the traffic problems in Los Angeles. Too bad his talent for sketching maps that show how to fix everything doesn’t seem to interest or impress anyone else. When his parents’ catering business teeters on the verge of ruin, Rick wants to prove his talent for noticing small details can make a big difference. He’ll need help from his unicorn-loving Girl Scout neighbor, the Department of Transportation, a renowned street artist, plus the best driver in LA. He’ll have to fight back against snarled streets, graffiti vandals, and other people’s very wrong ideas about traffic. If Rick can successfully move the 330,000 slow-moving cars standing in the way of his family’s future, maybe everyone will see that he’s not Carsick Rick. He’s one of the seven wonders of Los Angeles. He’s the Colossus of Roads.
Sometimes When I'm Sad - A sensitive and supportive story to help young children recognize and cope with sadness. “Now when I get sad, I still cry sometimes. I still hide sometimes. But only for a little while. Because now I know ways to feel better.” Sadness can be an overwhelming emotion, especially for young children. But it’s important to know when sadness can be overcome, and when it’s indicative of a greater problem. Sometimes When I’m Sad is an invaluable self-help resource that helps children identify sadness or depression and offers helpful ways to manage it, such as:
Living with Mum is a bit like a roller coaster ride. At times, she is excited and full of energy, but at others, she is tired and withdrawn. But she’s always my mum, and we’re sharing the ride. For children who grow up in the care of a parent who has bipolar disorder, life can be filled with anxiety and uncertainty. With the aid of a clear and simple information spread, this story helps us to understand the causes of bipolar disorder and how we can learn to live with someone who has it. Developed in close consultation with families who have a parent with bipolar disorder, and created in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust.
What do you do when no one can see your monsters but you? At first, Molly runs from them. But they follow her down the sidewalk, getting in the way when she tries to make a new friend, popping up unexpectedly out of shadows, and multiplying. Until finally…Molly faces her fears. Author-illustrator Brooke Boynton-Hughes delivers a modern classic in this moving adventure that honors everyday acts of bravery and the power of friendship to banish the monsters that haunt us.
Llama Llama, morning light. Feeling yucky, just not right. Down to breakfast. Tiny sneeze. Sniffle, snuffle. Tissues, please!
Ah-choo! Uh-oh, Llama Llama’s nose is feeling tickly, his throat is feeling scratchy, and his head is feeling stuffy. Back to bed, no school today for Llama Llama! Instead, he’s home with Mama. By lunchtime, though, he’s beginning to feel a tiny bit better. But now someone else has the sneezes . . . Mama! And who will help her feel better? Why, Llama Llama, of course! Anna Dewdney’s fun-to-read rhymes are sure to help children and their parents get through those under-the-weather days.
For fans of Dragons Love Tacos comes a fresh, funny story that deals with everyone’s least favorite thing: a cold. Is your dragon sleepy? Does he have a runny nose? Does he keep sneezing fire? Unfortunately, it sounds like your dragon has a cold. But luckily, this guide will help anxious dragon owners through the challenges of caring for their sick dragon! Balancing tongue-in-cheek humor through Charles Santoso’s illustrations with gentle reassurance, this story proves that laughter really is the best medicine and will appeal to anyone who has felt under the weather.
Lori Nichols’s delightful book celebrates the bond of two nature-loving sisters, and their ability to find fantastic kid-powered solutions to any problem—and it will give allergy sufferers an extra reason to celebrate.
Maple and Willow love trees—and now they are getting their first real Christmas tree. It is going to be the best Christmas ever! After a snowy expedition to pick out the perfect tree, it’s time to decorate. But whenever Maple gets near the tree, she starts sniffling and sneezing. Could she really be allergic to the perfect Christmas tree? And if so, how will the girls find a way to make this the best Christmas after all?
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.
How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear? - You and your friend Bear are an excellent pair. But if your friend gets sick, And can’t do all the things that you two love to do… You may wonder—how do you care for a very sick Bear? When someone dear is dealing with illness, it’s difficult to know what to do or say. The actor Vanessa Bayer experienced this firsthand when she was treated for childhood leukemia. In her first children’s book, she offers gentle, reassuring advice that people of all ages will appreciate.
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.
Mothers are superheroes when they’re battling cancer, and this empowering picture book gives them an honest yet spirited way to share the difficult experience with their kids.
Author Jessica Reid Sliwerski was diagnosed with breast cancer four months after giving birth to her daughter. And through all the stages of treatment—surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, losing her hair—she thought about how hard it would be to talk to your child about cancer while coping with it. She wrote this picture book to give other parents and their children an encouraging tool for having those conversations—a lovingly upbeat book that is also refreshingly authentic and straightforward. With its simple text and heartwarming illustrations, Cancer Hates Kisses is relatable to any type of cancer.
Children describe what makes their autistic friend different but also explain the activities at which he excels, in a book with coloring pages and resources for parents and educators on a CD-ROM.
Her mother says you can’t see her daddy’s hurt because it’s inside his head. One in five adults experiences depression in their lifetime, but young children are often left in the dark when their mother or father suddenly can’t play like they used to.
Together Things will resonate with the thousands of young children who know what it’s like to live with a parent experiencing mental illness, helping them to understand — in an age appropriate and sensitive way — that it is okay for them to feel mad or sad about their parent’s illness, but that, while their parent is getting better, they may have to do different things together to preserve their relationship, such as reading stories or drawing pictures, instead of the imaginative play their parent cannot currently envision through the haze of mental illness.
Through wondrous illustrations and a compelling story, young children can understand the importance of mental health discussions and that sometimes they must adapt their interactions while the people in their lives focus on their mental health.
In the style of Harold and the Purple Crayon comes a picture-book primer in emotional literacy and mindfulness that suggests we approach the feeling of sadness as if it is our guest. Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who we are—an overwhelming, invisible, and scary sensation. In When Sadness Is at Your Door, Eva Eland brilliantly approaches this feeling as if it is a visitor. She gives it a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. She suggests activities to do with it, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to “get over” it or indicates that it’s “bad,” both of which are anxiety-producing notions. Simple illustrations that recall the classic style of Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crayon) invite readers to add their own impressions. Eva Eland’s debut picture book is a great primer in mindfulness and emotional literacy, perfect for kids navigating these new feelings—and for adult readers tackling the feelings themselves!
A young boy helps his beloved grandmother remember an important family story
Tosh loves listening to Grandma Honey tell family stories. His favorite is about the special tea cakes that smell like vanilla and sunshine. They were great-great-great-great-grandma Ida’s specialty when she was a cook in the big house of a plantation. Unlike Tosh, the slave children weren’t allowed to have any of the treats, though Grandma Ida always found a way to put the sugary sweetness into their hands anyway. It was a promise and taste of freedom to come.
Tosh knows this is an important story and he takes care to remember every word. And when grandma Honey begins to forget, he can return the gift of tea cakes and stories. A touching family tale, Tea Cakes for Tosh celebrates the important bond between grandchild and grandparent and the stories that make a family strong.
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.
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.
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.
Finding Granny - Every two seconds, someone in the world suffers a stroke. In Finding Granny, that someone is Edie’s beloved grandmother. When Edie comes to the hospital, she is confronted by the physical changes in her grandmother: muddled words, a crooked face, a woman confined to bed. This isn’t the ‘playtime, bedtime, story-time pantomime Granny’ that Edie knows. “That’s not my Granny,” she says, as she waits outside in the corridor during her mother’s visits. But when her mother takes Edie to watch one of Granny’s art therapy sessions, Edie starts to understand that the Granny she loves is still there. Finding Granny is a heart-warming story of changing relationships and the bond between children and grandparents. It’s also a sensitive exploration of coping with illness and disability that will offer children much-needed comfort.
Go on a school-time adventure with Eppie, the elephant who is allergic to peanuts!
It’s the first day of school for Eppie the elephant, and she’s a bit nervous about one thing: that her new classmates won’t understand her allergy to nuts. Like many kids today, this fun-loving elephant can’t partake in peanuts, pecans, or pistachios and has to be careful about what she eats. Eppie makes fast friends with Allie the alligator and Pearl the squirrel, but when Eppie’s allergy is explained at lunch, will her friends still stand by her side? Readers of all ages will relate to this heartwarming, lyrical story of understanding and acceptance.
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.
Some mornings, Annie’s mother’s smiles are as bright as sunshine as she makes pancakes for breakfast and helps Annie get ready for school.
But other days, her mother doesn’t smile at all and gets very angry. Those days Annie has to be a big girl and make her own breakfast, and even put herself to bed at night. But Annie’s grandma helps her remember what to do when her mommy isn’t well, and her silly friends are there to cheer her up. And no matter what, Annie knows that even when Mommy is angry on the outside, on the inside she never stops loving her.
The night that Rachel and Toby’s parents are taken away by the Nazis, they give their daughters three gold coins. “Use these wisely to help save your lives,” they tell them. They also ask the girls to promise that they will always stay together. This compelling true story follows the girls as they confront the daily horrors of Auschwitz, protecting one another, sharing memories, fears and even laughter. Always together. But when Rachel becomes ill and is taken away by Nazi guards, likely forever, Toby risks her life to use the wellhidden gold coins to rescue her little sister.
Presents an illustrated poem from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”
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.
Eight Times Up - Ever since his mom left, Riley has been a mess. He feels nervous all the time. His heart pounds, his neck is tight, and he can’t seem to turn off his brain. His dad signs him up for aikido, hoping it will help. In the dojo, Riley meets boys who are much rougher than he is and a girl who is tougher than all the rest of them put together. For Wafaa, aikido is not her first choice. She was disqualified from competing in judo for wearing a hijab. From the first time she steps on the mat, it’s clear she is far more skilled than anyone expected. Through the teachings of their sensei, Riley and his classmates come to understand that aikido is not about winning or losing or about being perfect. Sensei shows them how to tap into their inner strength and find their place in the universe.
A Plan for Pops - Lou spends every Saturday with Grandad and Pops. They walk to the library hand in hand, like a chain of paper dolls. Grandad reads books about science and design, Pops listens to rock and roll, and Lou bounces from lap to lap. But everything changes one Saturday. Pops has a fall. That night there is terrible news: Pops will be confined to a wheelchair, not just for now, but for always. Unable to cope with his new circumstances, he becomes withdrawn and shuts himself in his room. Hearing Grandad trying to cheer up Pops inspires Lou to make a plan. Using skills learned from Grandad, and with a little help from their neighbors, Lou comes up with a plan for Pops.
How Tickles Saved Pickles - Esther the Wonder Pig meets Little Book of Sloth in this charming true story about the adorable Instagram stars, Pickles the pig and his friend—the hog-turned-hero—Tickles. Pickles the Pig (@LivingwithPickles) has been featured on The Dodo, Inside Edition, and People! Pickles is a pig, rescued as a wee one and now living it up at his forever home. But one day Pickles becomes very sick. His only hope? One big sow with an even bigger heart on a faraway farm…but will she get to Pickles in time? Learn the true story about one extraordinary pig and his savior in this inspiring photographic picture book!
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.
Squirrel, Mouse, and Hare are getting ready for Christmas. While Mouse is out looking for the perfect gift for Hare, she finds Swallow sick in the snow. The three friends bring Swallow home and try to nurse the bird back to health. Squirrel and Mouse realize their Christmas gifts will help Swallow get well. As they give up their presents to help Swallow, they find the Christmas spirit.
Playful words lead you into this beautiful children’s book and invite you to celebrate our gifts,our weaknesses,our differences and our sameness. Fitch displays her wit and mastery of words in quick, rollicking rhymes that are complemented by Emma Fitzgerald’s lively illustrations. EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street was originally produced in 2001 as a fundraiser to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Festival of Trees in support of the Nova Scotia Hospital and to raise awareness for mental illness and addiction.
A gentle introduction to the issue of poverty, On Our Street explores the realities of people living with inadequate resources. Using age-appropriate language, this book addresses mental illness, homelessness and refugee status as they are connected to this issue. Insightful quotes from individuals and organizations such as unicef are included to add further perspective on the issue. A section on how kids can help empowers readers to take what they have learned and use it to make a difference. Child psychologist Dr. Jillian Roberts created this series to guide parents/caregivers through conversations about difficult issues in a reassuring and hopeful manner and help children understand their expanding awareness of the world around them.
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?
A Day with Parkinson's - Ever since Grandpa got Parkinson’s, Noah has noticed he hasn’t been the same. He doesn’t have as much energy as he used to, and sometimes when he’s excited or happy, he can’t smile. Noah worries that Parkinson’s is his fault, but Grandpa assures him it’s not—and it won’t stop him from having fun at the beach!
The Dollhouse Fairy - What if a little girl looked in her dollhouse and found an injured — and very untidy — fairy? A sweet story from celebrated illustrator Jane Ray. (Ages 3-7) When Rosy discovers a real fairy living in her beloved dollhouse — the one her dad made just for her — she can’t believe her eyes. But Thistle is no ordinary fairy. Despite a hurt wing, she’s turned all the tiny furnishings topsy-turvy, and she’s starving for raspberries and chips and other treats to eat. Rosy loves nurturing the mischievous fairy back to health, and can’t wait to introduce her to her dad when he returns from his hospital stay. With a true flair for visual detail, Jane Ray offers a tale of family and friendship that touches on illness with a lighthearted tone — and celebrates the healing power of the imagination.
Ruby in the Ruins - From beloved British storyteller Shirley Hughes comes a touching tale of unconditional love as a family puts itself back together in postwar London. Ruby and Mum cling to each other while they live through the terrifying London Blitz, waiting for Dad to come home from the war. Day after day they hope for his return — but when the moment to meet him at the station finally comes, Ruby hardly recognizes the tall man who steps off the train. He’s big and sunburned, and he doesn’t seem to be as engaged as he once was. It’s easier to play outside in the wreckage of the bombings than to stay at home with a dad she doesn’t know anymore. But when Ruby hurts her knee in the ruins, there’s only one person who can rescue her and make her feel all right.
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