The best picture books that explore emotions from a child’s perspective

The Books I Picked & Why

The Rabbit Listened

By Cori Doerrfeld

The Rabbit Listened

Why this book?

The Rabbit Listened takes readers on an emotional journey through a calamity’s aftermath. Well-meaning characters try to help, but Taylor isn’t ready. When the rabbit just listens, Taylor finds the strength to express all the feelings that have been bottled up inside. The soft color palette and spare text leave a lot of room for readers to put themselves into this story of healing.


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Coming on Home Soon

By Jacqueline Woodson, E. B. Lewis

Coming on Home Soon

Why this book?

Woodson and Lewis weave a rich tapestry of lyrical text and lush watercolors to give readers a glimpse into the life of Ada Ruth, a girl growing up in the Midwest during World War II. Her mama has to leave home to find work. Ada Ruth and Grandma wait for word while caring for a stray kitten. This story overflows with longing, loneliness, empathy, worry, and, above all, love.


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Sometimes I'm Bombaloo

By Rachel Vail, Yumi Heo

Sometimes I'm Bombaloo

Why this book?

Katie Honors is a happy preschooler, most of the time. She’s proud of all the things she can do independently, like picking up her toys and brushing her teeth. But sometimes, like when her baby brother knocks over her block castle, Katie’s happy self vanishes and she becomes Bombaloo. Vail’s description of a tantrum is spot on and reflects both the strong feelings of the moment and the frightening feelings in its wake. As Katie says, “It’s scary, being Bombaloo.”


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Jabari Jumps

By Gaia Cornwall

Jabari Jumps

Why this book?

First experiences pack a big emotional punch. Jabari is so proud to have passed his swimming test. Now he has his sights set on the high dive. He’s not scared! Jabari’s nerves show up in his actions; he stays at the back of the line to think about his best jump. When he starts to climb the ladder, he’s tired and needs a little rest. His father supports Jabari’s choices without pressure, but he does give Jabari a bit of advice that bolsters his courage. And… Jabari Jumps!


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Lena's Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-Of-School Dilemma

By Keith Calabrese, Juana Medina

Lena's Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-Of-School Dilemma

Why this book?

Starting school often comes with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Lena’s big imagination displaces her first-day jitters onto her shoes. This child-centric plot puts Lena in complete control as she facilitates a listening session between her headband and her shoes. With some encouragement, her shoes decide they don’t want to be left behind. Calabrese and Medina give Lena agency, stopping short of anthropomorphizing her clothes and allowing her to work through her big emotions in her own special way.


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