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Reaching Your Potential (self-actualization): Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about reaching your potential (self-actualization)?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to reaching your potential (self-actualization). To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about reaching your potential (self-actualization).

Our list includes picture books and chapter 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. 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.

When it comes to children’s stories about reaching your potential (self-actualization), there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The Pink Refrigerator to popular sellers like Matched to some of our favorite hidden gems like What Do You Do with a Chance.

We hope this list of kids books about reaching your potential (self-actualization) can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!

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What Do You Do with a Chance
Written by Kobi Yamada & illustrated by Mae Besom
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The award-winning creators of New York Times bestsellers What Do You Do With an Idea and What do You Do With a Problem return with a story of a child who isn’t sure what to make of a chance encounter—then discovers that when you get brave, take chances, and say yes to new experiences, amazing things can happen.

In this story, a child is visited by his first chance―and not being sure what to do with it, he lets it go. Later on, when a new chance arrives he reaches for it, but this time he misses and falls. Embarrassed and afraid, he begins ignoring each new chance that comes by, even though the truth was that he still wanted to take one…

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The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel
Written & illustrated by Natasha Lowe
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Penderwicks meets Edward Eager in this charming coming of age tale about a young witch found in a flowerpot who’s on a journey to discover her roots.

The morning Nora Ratcliff finds a baby in the flowerpot on her front steps her life changes forever. She had always wanted a child, but after her husband passed away, Nora never thought she would have one, but her flowerpot child was a miracle and she decided to name her Mabel. As Mabel grew up, she showed a distinct talent for magic.

When Mabel is accepted to the prestigious witch school, Ruthersfield Academy, she excels at the magic curriculum but is constantly in trouble for experimenting and inventing her own potions. One day she is asked to write a paper on her magical roots and discovers the truth about her birth after a mean classmate blurts out what everyone seems to know except Mabel. Mabel is shocked but the revelation does explain a lot. In rebellion, Mabel changes her name to Magnolia and tries to understand why she was left in the flowerpot and who her birth family might be.

Will Mabel find the answers she’s looking for—or will she discover that families are people who love each other and look after each other and that’s most important of all.

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The Pink Refrigerator
Written & illustrated by Tim Egan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

“Try to do as little as possible.” This was Dodsworth’s motto. One morning, on his daily trip to the junkyard, he discovers a pink refrigerator.

There’s not much to say about a pink refrigerator, except this one had a note on it. The note said, “Paint pictures.” And so Dodsworth did.

The next day, a new note appeared on the pink refrigerator. And the day after that, and the day after that.

Dodsworth liked doing as little as possible. But the pink refrigerator had big plans for him . . .

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Believe
Written & illustrated by Robert Sabuda
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Consummate pop-up master Robert Sabuda offers an elegant ode to possibility that will inspire anyone setting off on a new life chapter. All of life’s possibilities are just a page turn away in this beautiful pop-up book from renowned paper artist Robert Sabuda. Throughout, phrases and images evoking potential (an acorn, an egg, a paper airplane) are answered by a glorious 3-D image on the following spread (a towering tree, a flock of birds, a rocket soaring upward). An ideal gift for graduates from kindergarten to college and beyond, Believe is the perfect way to celebrate life’s passages and look forward to new horizons.

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Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow
Written by Michelle Cuevas & illustrated by Sydney Smith
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A brave shadow finds a more colorful life in this joyous picture book by the acclaimed author of The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles and illustrator of Sidewalk Flowers.

Smoot the shadow has been living a yawn-filled life for years. His boy never laughs and never leaps, so Smoot never does either . . . until the day he pops free, and decides to hit the road in search of the life he dreams about. And as he enjoys his first colorful day—singing, dancing, and playing—other shadows watch him, and they become brave, too. The frog’s shadow takes the shape of a prince, the dragonfly’s shadow that of a dragon. Even the rock’s shadow gets in on the excitement. But what will become of the timid beings their shadows have left behind? Will they finally be inspired to find their own daring?

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  • The North Star - Ideal for graduates! A gorgeous new edition of the universal fable that has inspired seekers of all ages to follow their heart’s desire. Ask yourself where it is you want to go. . . . It is often said that life is a journey, and it’s true. But sometimes it’s hard to know which path to follow, when signs point in so many directions. In this beautifully illustrated book, Peter H. Reynolds once again encourages readers to observe, to wonder, and to consider diverging from the well-worn path—to pursue their dreams. Originally published ten years ago, The North Star has had a profound effect on its many readers. This edition, featuring all-new art, celebrates the book’s own decade-long voyage connecting people around the world. It has inspired classroom activities, a musical, and thousands more thoughtful journeys.

  • Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life - Everyone’s favorite cat shares a collection of his favorite inspirational and feel-good quotes in Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life. Pete’s glass-half-full outlook on life shines through as he adds his fun take on well-known classics attributed to luminaries from Albert Einstein to Confucius to Abraham Lincoln to Shakespeare and more! Fans of Pete the Cat will delight in this amusing look at quotes that are accompanied by Pete’s witty responses and Pete illustrations by New York Times bestselling artist James Dean.

  • Rock What Ya Got - A child reminds everyone to embrace their own special something in this joyful expression of self-love.

  • Maybe: A Story About the Endless Potential in All of Us - “You are the only you there ever has been or ever will be. You are unique in all the universe. Just the odds of you being here at this exact place and this exact time are so great and so rare that it will never happen again. Written by New York Times best-selling author Kobi Yamada, this is a story for everything you will do and everything you can be. It’s a story about all the possibilities ahead of you. It’s for who you are right now and it’s for all the magical, unbounded potential you hold inside. With its beautiful visual storytelling and timeless message, Maybe is an inspiring story for kids of all ages. “

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A Monster Calls
Written by Patrick Ness & illustrated by Jim Kay
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 12-17

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor. <BR>At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

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The Missing Piece Meets the Big O
Written & illustrated by Shel Silverstein
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From Shel Silverstein, the celebrated author of The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends, comes The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, sure to delight fans of all ages with Silverstein’s iconic drawings and humor.

This companion tale to The Missing Piece is an inventive and heartwarming book where the missing piece is in search of its perfect match.

The missing piece sat alone…waiting for someone to come along and take it somewhere. All it wants is to roll along with its perfect match, but some are too small, others too big, and some fit yet don’t roll. The missing piece feels sad and lonely until it meets the Big O, and learns that all it ever needed was a little encouragement and determination to fulfill its dreams.

And don’t miss Runny Babbit Returns, the new book from Shel Silverstein!

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The Missing Piece
Written & illustrated by Shel Silverstein
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From Shel Silverstein, the celebrated author of The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends, comes The Missing Piece, a charming fable that gently probes the nature of quest and fulfillment. It was missing a piece. And it was not happy. What it finds on its search for the missing piece is simply and touchingly told. This inventive and heartwarming book can be read on many levels, and Silverstein’s iconic drawings and humor are sure to delight fans of all ages. So it set off in search of its missing piece. And as it rolled it sang this song— Oh I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece Hi-dee-ho, here I go, Lookin’ for my missin’ piece. And don’t miss Runny Babbit Returns, the new book from Shel Silverstein!

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Ghost
Written by Jason Reynolds
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-13
A National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.
Nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read.
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Knockout
Written & illustrated by K. A. Holt
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

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?

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  • Beverly, Right Here - Revisiting once again the world of Raymie Nightingale, two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo turns her focus to the tough-talking, inescapably tenderhearted Beverly. Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.
    This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away.
    Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her — and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes. In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.

  • Dream Big and Other Life Lessons from the Enormous Crocodile - A darkly funny gift book based on Roald Dahl’s beloved story The Enormous Crocodile, featuring art by Quentin Blake. The Enormous Crocodile has been employing “secret plans and clever tricks” for years, hoping to one day score his favorite meal: a juicy little child. And finally, he shares his wit and wisdom with a world hungry for his sage advice. Find out all of our devious villain’s tips and advice in this grim, but humorous gift book perfect for fans of All My Friends Are Dead. And with Quentin Blake’s illustrations, this full-color book will have readers plotting their own clever tricks in no time.

  • Listening for Lions - A critically acclaimed historical novel "that roars" (Kliatt), from the author of the National Book Award-winning novel Homeless Bird.

  • Aim - As World War II threatens the United States in 1941, fourteen-year-old Junior Bledsoe fights his own battles at home. Junior struggles with school and with anger–at his father, his insufferable granddaddy, his neighbors, and himself–as he desperately tries to understand himself and find his own aim in life. But he finds relief in escaping to the quiet of the nearby woods and tinkering with cars, something he learned from his Pop, and a fatherly neighbor provides much-needed guidance. This heartfelt and inspiring prequel to the author’sBlue andComfort also includes an author’s note and bibliography.

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Princess Pigsty
Written by Cornelia Funke & illustrated by Chantal Wright
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Tired of being a princess, the youngest of three sisters throws her crown out the window and finds happiness working in the royal kitchen and pigsty.

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Pebble: A Story About Belonging
Written & illustrated by Susan Milord
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

There once was a pebble on a rocky shore. It was small and round and nearly smooth.

Amid a seascape dotted with endless rocks, one pebble yearns to be special.

Can you find the pebble?

Susan Milord’s clear prose and exquisite collages offer a timeless message about finding one’s place in the world.

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Golden Goblet
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

“Ranofer tried the box first. He found nothing there… The chest looked no more promising… There was something dark and curving in a corner, wrapped in a scarp of cotton rag… He tugged it out, jerked the cloth away impatiently and went numb all over with the shock of what he saw. There in his hand lay a gold goblet, he knew it must have been stolen from one of the great tombs in the City of the Dead. Ranofer also knew that in order to win his freedom he would have to prove that Gebu, his greedy half-brother, was the thief. The events that follow will surely excite the adventurous reader.

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The Water Bears
Written & illustrated by Kim Baker
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
With warmth and humor, Kim Baker conjures a magical tale of finding the most elusive creature of all: one's true self. --Kirby Larson, author of the New York Times bestseller and Newbery Honor winner Hattie Big Sky and the Audacity Jones series

A quirky, empowering story about a boy recovering from a bear attack with the help of his friends and maybe, some magic. For fans of Lemons by Melissa Savage, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, and The Canning Season by Polly Horvath.

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Project Me 2.0
Written & illustrated by Jan Gangsei
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

An eleven-year-old boy on a quest to impress his suddenly cute, longtime friend accidentally manifests a tiny internet guru into existence in this hilarious MAX novel!

All class clown Farley Andrew Turner (yes, that spells FAT) wanted the summer before seventh grade was to give his image a little boost…and maybe, just maybe, impress his oldest pal, whom he has a secret crush on.

But when Farley accidentally manifests a tiny internet guru into existence (think genie, but far more annoying and without any ability whatsoever to grant wishes), his entire plan goes sideways.

Now, in order to rid himself of the four-inch tall pest spouting ridiculous self-help advice and doing yoga on his mouse pad, Farley must complete all “Seven Steps to a Whole New You!”—no matter how embarrassing they may be. Which is how Farley finds himself outfitted in too-small spandex and suffering through daily jogs with his super-athletic dad, attempting to read War and Peace, and agreeing to play toy guitar in his best friend Burt’s newly formed off-pitch boy band. Unfortunately, it only goes downhill from there…

But hey, no one ever claimed the path to enlightenment would be easy, did they?

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  • Fish Girl - The triple Caldecott winner David Wiesner brings his rich visual imagination and trademark artistry to the graphic novel format in a unique coming-of-age tale that begins underwater. A young mermaid, called Fish Girl, in a boardwalk aquarium has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank. Sparkling with humor and brilliantly visualized, Fish Girl’s story will resonate with every young person facing the challenges and rewards of growing up.

  • Matched - "[A] superb dystopian romance." - The Wall Street Journal

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