Books to Explore Feelings With Children

Feelings are like the weather—everyone talks about them, but what can we do about them? Books can help children think about and express ideas they don’t yet have words for. 

Big Heart World’s partners at School Library Journal recommend the following “feelings” books to explore ideas of sadness and frustration, loss and pride, fear and happiness with children.

Valentina and Monster, Written and illustrated by Ángeles Ruiz Reycraft

Valentina, who suffers from nightmares, befriends a monster selling beautiful smelling bright pink cotton candy. One day, Monster does not answer Valentina’s calls, and other animals comfort her: “We leave this world to start a new journey. It was Monster’s time to journey on.”
Age Groups: Little Kids
Skills: Empathy, Feelings, friendship, Loss, Sadness

Discussion Questions

  • How do you think Valentina feels when Monster is gone?
  • What do the other characters do to help Valentina feel better?
  • Have you ever lost something or someone?
  • How did it make you feel?

Toasty, by Sarah Hwang

A funny story of Toasty, a piece of bread who wants to be a dog. Toasty goes to the park to play with dogs and possibly become one. In the end, he finds a new owner and learns that, just as he suspected, he’s a perfect dog (for some).
Age Groups: Little Kids
Skills: Feelings, Identity, self-esteem

Discussion Questions

  • How does Toasty feel in the beginning of the story? Have you ever felt that way?
  • What does he want?
  • What surprises him when he tries to play with real dogs?
  • Were YOU surprised by the ending?
  • How do you think Toasty and his new owner feel at the end?

I Talk Like a River, Written by Jordan Scott & illustrated by Sydney Smith

When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he'd like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice.
Age Groups: Big Kids
Skills: communication, differences, Feelings, Identity

Discussion Questions

  • How does the boy feel at the start of the story when he can’t use words to communicate with others?
  • Have you ever felt that way?
  • What helps the boy feel better?
  • What are some things WE could do to help other people who are feeling lonely or unable to fit in?

See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog by David LaRochelle & illustrate by Mike Wohnoutka Candlewick

Is it a cat? Is it a dog? Does it matter? It DOES — especially to Max who is a DOG, not a CAT! This is a funny trio of books about Max for emerging readers.
Age Groups: Little Kids
Skills: Feelings

Discussion Questions

  • Who is Max?
  • Why is Max frustrated?
  • Have you ever felt frustrated?
  • What happens at the end of the story, and how does it make Max feel?

Magnificent Homespun Brown, Written by Samara Cole Doyon & illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

A joyful ode to JOY and the color brown, this book uses poetry, alliteration, and unusual vocabulary to explore feeling at home in one’s own skin.
Age Groups: Little Kids
Skills: differences, Feelings, Identity, self-esteem, similarities

Discussion Questions

  • Describe the characters in the story.
  • How do they feel? What clues can you find that they feel that way?
  • Have you ever felt the way the characters feel? Have you ever felt different?
  • Every person, of every color, is beautiful! What are the things you love about the characters in the story? What are some of the things you love about YOURSELF?

I Do Not Like Yolanda, Written & illustrated by Zoey Abbott

Bianca, a young girl with pale skin and a curly black ponytail, writes letters to far away family and friends. She loves everything about sending letters, except for Yolanda, who works at the post office. How she gets past her hate and fear is a lesson in living, full of little wonders that hold readers’ attention from page to page.
Age Groups: Little Kids
Skills: Confidence, Empathy, Feelings, friendship

Discussion Questions

  • Do you ever write and send letters?
  • What does Bianca feel about Yolanda at the start of the story?
  • To get past her hate and fear, Bianca has to do something brave. What does she do? And what does she find out?
  • Is there anything brave YOU could do to get over something? What do you think would happen if you tried?
School Library Journal

The School Library Journal is an American monthly magazine with articles and reviews for librarians, media specialists, and other educators who work with young people. It publishes 6,000-plus reviews each year, plus other features on literacy, technology, and education policy that are of interest to the school library and greater educator community.

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