Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to violence. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about violence.
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 violence, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Gossamer to popular sellers like Matilda to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Day War Came.
We hope this list of kids books about violence 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.
The President Sang Amazing Grace - Lyrical account of the day President Obama sang with a grieving nation following the 2015 shooting in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina When nine people were killed in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, the nation grieved as one, and when President Barack Obama sang “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, it was acknowledged as one of the most powerful moments of his presidency. Singer/songwriter Zoe Mulford was so moved that she wrote the song “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” which was then illustrated by filmmaker and painter Jeff Scher for a video that has been viewed countless times. This book presents the lyrics to the song, Scher’s paintings, excerpts from Obama’s eulogy, biographies of those who were killed, historical context, and sheet music.
Hey, Dog - A boy cares for, feeds, and helps an abused stray dog to learn to trust humans again.
The Invisible Boy - If no one sees him, does he exist? This superhero-inspired adventure story explores friendship and what it means to be truly brave. Nadia looks for adventure in the pages of her Superman comic books, until a mysterious boy saves her dog from drowning during a storm and then disappears. Now she finds herself in the role of Lois Lane, hunting down the scoop of the Invisible Boy. Suddenly she’s in a real-life adventure that’s far more dangerous than anything in her comic books. The Invisible Boy is a mystery and an adventure story, as well as a story about child labor trafficking. Like Katherine Applegate, author of Crenshaw and Wishtree, Alyssa Hollingsworth takes a difficult subject matter and makes it accessible for middle-grade readers. Featuring illustrations by Deborah Lee
Hawk and the Dove, The - The hawk is sad. He is tired of war. So, he changes his face and puts on gloves. Whoosh! He has become a gentle dove. And all around him, the world is at peace. No more canon blasts. No more bombs. Planes turn into butterflies. Soldiers’ guns sprout dazzling flowers. Everyone is joyful as a blanket of calm envelops the world. However, though happy now, the dove still worries. Will it last? The late Paul Kor, an internationally acclaimed Israeli author-illustrator, sought to create a miracle with this book borne out of his own brutal experiences of war. With its striking illustrations, the simple but powerful story offers a hopeful message of peace in a time of uncertainty. Clever paper cuts allow readers to play an active role in the transformations with every turn of the page, thus encouraging children to recognize they have the power to affect change, including when it comes to choosing peace over war in the future. This book provides an accessible look at the concepts of war and peace and would make a terrific discussion starter on the subject. It could also be a model for an art lesson on papercutting. A note at the end of the book details the inspiration behind the story and the book’s creation, accompanied by photographs.
Matilda - From the bestselling author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG! Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!
Before the Devil Breaks You - The Diviners are back in this thrilling and eerie third installment by #1 New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray. New York City.1927.Lights are bright.Jazz is king.Parties are wild.And the dead are coming… After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten—ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows. With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation—a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves. Heart-pounding action and terrifying moments will leave you breathless in the third book of the four-book Diviners series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.
Dreamland Burning - A compelling dual-narrated novel that asks, how far have we really come with race relations in the last 100 years? Now in paperback. When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal, century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past… and the present. Nearly 100 years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against African Americans and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns. Through intricately interwoven alternating perspectives, this “unflinching, superbly written story” (Kirkus) brings the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 to blazing life, raising important questions about the complex state of U.S. race relations.
Mockingbird - Ten-year-old Caitlin, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, struggles to understand emotions, show empathy, and make friends at school, while at home she seeks closure by working on a project with her father.
Nobody Knew What to Do - Straightforward and simple, this story tells how one child found the courage to tell a teacher about Ray, who was being picked on and bullied by other kids in school. Faced with the fact that “nobody knows what to do” while Ray is bullied, the children sympathetic to him feel fear and confusion and can only hope that Ray will “fit in some day.” Finally, after Ray misses a day of school and the bullies plot mean acts for his return, our narrator goes to a teacher. The children then invite Ray to play with them, and, with adult help, together they stand up to the bullies.
Night on Fire - Thirteen-year-old Billie Simms doesn’t think her hometown of Anniston, Alabama, should be segregated, but few of the town’s residents share her opinion. As equality spreads across the country and the Civil Rights Movement gathers momentum, Billie can’t help but feel stuck—and helpless—in a stubborn town too set in its ways to realize that the world is passing it by. So when Billie learns that the Freedom Riders, a group of peace activists riding interstate buses to protest segregation, will be traveling through Anniston on their way to Montgomery, she thinks that maybe change is finally coming and her quiet little town will shed itself of its antiquated views. But what starts as a series of angry grumbles soon turns to brutality as Anniston residents show just how deep their racism runs. The Freedom Riders will resume their ride to Montgomery, and Billie is now faced with a choice: stand idly by in silence or take a stand for what she believes in. Through her own decisions and actions and a few unlikely friendships, Billie is about to come to grips with the deep-seated prejudice of those she once thought she knew, and with her own inherent racism that she didn’t even know she had.
On the News - On the News gently introduces young children to the realities of natural disasters, terrorism and other forms of tragedy. In age-appropriate language and tone, Dr. Roberts explains what tragedy is, the feelings it may create and how to manage those feelings. She also emphasizes the good that can come out of tragedy, looking at how people help one another in caring, compassionate and heroic ways. The book’s question-and-answer format will help parents have a meaningful conversation about these difficult topics with their children and equip them to better handle questions that arise when children are exposed to the news. The World Around Us series introduces children to complex cultural, social and environmental issues they may encounter outside the comfort of their homes, in a way that is straightforward and accessible.
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 House in Poplar Wood - Haunted Mansion meets Stranger Things ★ “A smart, thrilling mystery” -Publishers Weekly, starred review ★ “Magical elements, evocative, intelligent writing, and ever-ratcheting suspense.”-Kirkus Reviews, starred review “The foreboding atmosphere perfectly matches the dark mystery and high stakes confronting the middle-schoolers.” –Booklist For as long as the Vickery twins can remember, Lee and his mother have served Memory, while Felix and his father assist Death. This is the Agreement. But one Halloween, Gretchen Whipple smashes her way into their lives. Her bargain is simple: If the twins help her solve the murder of local girl Essie Hasting, she’ll help them break the Agreement. The more the three investigate, however, the more they realize that something’s gone terribly wrong in their town. Death is on the loose, and if history repeats itself, Essie’s might not be the last murder in Poplar Wood. Simultaneously heartwarming and delightfully spooky, The House in Poplar Wood is a story about a boy’s desire to be free, a girl’s desire to make a difference, and a family’s desire to be together again.
Lock and Key: The Final Step - The New York Times bestselling author of the Peter and the Starcatchers and Kingdom Keepers series, Ridley Pearson, brings us the thrilling conclusion to the Lock and Key trilogy. Before James Moriarty and his sister Moria enrolled in Baskerville Academy, they were inseparable—as close to best friends as a brother and sister could be. But since setting foot on the boarding school’s campus, James has been different. At Baskerville, he’s become cunning, deceptive, ruthless, sometimes reckless. And now that his roommate Sherlock Holmes has been expelled, there’s no one left to help Moira figure out what’s going on with her brother or to uncover the connection between a recent string of deaths. To Moria, it seems obvious that someone has it out for the Moriarty family. First their father and then their family driver and now their legal guardian—clearly something is afoot. But to get the answers they need, they’ll first have to deal with an incriminating photograph, secret safe houses, and powerful enemies. It’s a highly original and satisfying take on the Sherlock Holmes series as only master of suspense Ridley Pearson could envision.
The Red Pencil - “Amira, look at me,” Muma insists.She collects both my hands in hers.”The Janjaweed attack without warning.If ever they come— run.” Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala— Amira’s one true dream. But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey— on foot— to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind— and all kinds of possibilities. New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.
The Forgiveness Garden - A long time ago and far away—although it could be here, and it could be now—a boy threw a stone and injured a girl. For as long as anyone could remember, their families had been enemies, and their towns as well, so it was no surprise that something bad had happened. Hate had happened. Revenge had happened. And that inspired more hate and more calls for revenge. But this time, a young girl decided to try something different… Inspired by the original Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon, and the movement that has grown up around it, Lauren Thompson has created a timeless parable for all ages that shows readers a better way to resolve conflicts and emphasizes the importance of moving forward together.
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