The best children's books around courage, friendship, and social anxiety

Elly Swartz Author Of Dear Student
By Elly Swartz

The Books I Picked & Why

The Bridge Home

By Padma Venkatraman

Book cover of The Bridge Home

Why this book?

The Bridge Home is a powerful story of friendship and resilience. It shines a light on the heart-wrenching decisions people must make to take care of those we love the most. And while this story brilliantly shares the challenges of homelessness, and the trepidations, fears, and despair that often accompany it, it also conveys the courage and love that finds us in the most unsuspecting places. The Bridge Home embraces what home truly means. 

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Violets Are Blue

By Barbara Dee

Book cover of Violets Are Blue

Why this book?

Violets are Blue is told from the heart of twelve-year-old Wren. It explores the confusion and heartache that comes from an unexpected divorce, shifting friendships, and a mom’s alarming and erratic behavior. It is an emotional story that uniquely shares life’s messy feelings while gently and thoughtfully introducing the difficult topic of opioid addiction. It also introduces readers to the world of special effects make-up. Violets are Blue is beautiful, complex, and full of heart. Wren’s journey will spark challenging conversations and promote empathy.

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Fish in a Tree

By Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Book cover of Fish in a Tree

Why this book?

Fish in a Tree is an inspirational story of one girl's courage to accept and embrace her dyslexia. It is a story that embodies the importance of kindness, friendship, and the power of compassionate teachers. Ally's journey will surely open readers' hearts and minds as many will see themselves or those they know on the page. 

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Ghost Boys

By Jewell Parker Rhodes

Book cover of Ghost Boys

Why this book?

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is an important and powerful story that touched my heart and is a must-read for grown-ups and kids. This story reminds us all of the importance of empathy, understanding, and kindness. In the book, the character Jerome asks, “When truth is a feeling, can it be both? True and untrue?” I found this question to be such a powerful and thought-provoking sentiment and one that will certainly spark discussion. And in the back matter, author Jewell Parker Rhodes says, “Through discussion, awareness, and societal and civic action, I hope our youth will be able to dismantle personal and systemic racism.” That is my hope, too. I truly believe this book is a foundation for courage and change.

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Rain Reign

By Ann M. Martin

Book cover of Rain Reign

Why this book?

Rain Reign is a story that moved my soul and stayed with me long after I read the last page. Rose has OCD and Asperger’s, a dog named Rain, and a giant heart. Rose is someone I think readers will love and root for. She has courage and strength, in addition to challenges. And she shines and sacrifices for the one she loves the most – her dog Rain. This is a story of triumph and courage. And a reminder that we are all working on something.

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