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Mental Illness: Picture Books For Kids

This list of the best picture books about mental illness is sure to include a new favorite for the voracious young reader in your life! From The Tide to The Day Abuelo Got Lost there's something here for everyone's tastes. Do you have a favorite book about mental illness? Let us know!

The Tide book
#1
The Tide
Written by Clare Helen Walsh and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

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.

The Remember Balloons book
#2
The Remember Balloons
Written by Jessie Oliveros and illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

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.

Grandma book
#3
Grandma
Written and illustrated by Jessica Shepherd
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Newspaper Hats book
#4
Newspaper Hats
Written by Phil Cummings and illustrated by Owen Swan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

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.

My Grandfather's War book
#5
My Grandfather's War
Written and illustrated by Jenny Cooper, Glyn Harper
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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