The best books to empower kids

Who am I?

Lisa Bournelis is a transformation leader in healthcare, a new author, and TEDx speaker. Prior to this, she worked for the United Nations and NGOs in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Africa. Dealing with the unknown makes her passionate about promoting books that empower children to overcome anxiety. As a mom to a child with a mental health diagnosis, she wanted to help children by writing an uplifting novella based on her son’s experiences with OCD during the pandemic. Her aim is for anxious and neurodiverse kids to see themselves as heroes of their own stories. A portion of the royalties from her book will be donated to pediatric OCD research.

I wrote...

Louie and the Dictator

By Lisa Bournelis,

Book cover of Louie and the Dictator

What is my book about?

Do you hear voices in your head? The one that tells you to check that lock again, and again, or avoid the number seven? Louie and the Dictator is an uplifting middle grade novella inspired by the author’s son’s experiences with obsessive-compulsive disorder during the pandemic. If you love a great adventure, a dog rescue, and tools to help you be the hero of your own story, then this one’s for you!

The books I picked & why

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The Not-So-Friendly Friend: How to Set Boundaries for Healthy Friendships

By Christina Furnival, Katie Dwyer (illustrator),

Book cover of The Not-So-Friendly Friend: How to Set Boundaries for Healthy Friendships

Why this book?

The author is a mom and clinician herself and based on clinical best practices has written a lovely rhyming book to help young children deal with boundaries and bullies in a way that is accessible for younger readers. Ideal for school, daycare, and clinical settings. As a parent of an empathic child, I found this book an easy way to introduce the concepts of self-worth and appropriate relationships. If you have a child that is experiencing bullying or needs to set boundaries at school, then this book is an excellent addition to your library.  


By Jill Dana, Rachel Tan- Hwee (illustrator),

Book cover of Butternut

Why this book?

This is no ordinary trip to the grocery store! What might appear to be an exploration of the variety of vegetables on a shopping trip is actually a bit of metaphorical brilliance. Butternut is a unique reflection of self, identity and belonging wrapped up in a simple story that will help kids learn about different veggies at the supermarket! A fun book to bring with your child to the grocery store and introduce them to the ‘veggie characters’ as you do your shopping! A deeper book for adults sharing with emergent readers exploring the notion of self, belonging, and family.  

Lion Lights: My Invention That Made Peace with Lions

By Richard Turere, Shelly Pollock, Sonia Possentini (illustrator)

Book cover of Lion Lights: My Invention That Made Peace with Lions

Why this book?

In 1998 I had the privilege of working in Tanzania and meeting members of the Masai community. This is a true story that combines perseverance, indomitable spirit, and ingenuity, while allowing leaders to learn more about the unique Massai culture. In this story, the reader is introduced to a Maasai boy in Kenya who must protect his family’s cattle from lions who prowled at night. When your family’s livelihood depends on the number of cattle you keep, and your village relies on their milk and blood for sustenance, you can imagine what a huge responsibility this is for a young boy. Though lacking in formal education, the protagonist comes up with a unique and simple invention to keep the lions away, protecting his village and his family’s wealth. A celebration of culture and innovation!

My Muddy Puddle

By Kristina Nearchou, Tiffany Everett (illustrator),

Book cover of My Muddy Puddle

Why this book?

Do you ever wish you could just splash in the middle of that dark, deep puddle in the middle of your road? My Muddy Puddle is a children's rhyming book that follows a child's love of playing in puddles. The work speaks to that innate desire all of us have to dive into the unknown, get messy, and take a risk. Basic rhymes and language are great for emergent readers.

Andy and the Mask of the Dead

By Carolyn Watson Dubisch,

Book cover of Andy and the Mask of the Dead

Why this book?

This is a unique cultural exploration of how Halloween is celebrated as the ‘Day of the Dead.’ Until the movie Coco came out by Disney, I had no idea of the practices associated with ancestral remembrance. The story engenders curiosity in young readers through the protagonist who goes on a journey to follow a young girl as she explains this celebration through her culture’s lens. A fun read for children aged 3-5. Empowers children to explore cultural diversity with curiosity and without fear.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in bullying, Day of the Dead, and friendships?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about bullying, Day of the Dead, and friendships.

Bullying Explore 48 books about bullying
Day Of The Dead Explore 6 books about Day of the Dead
Friendships Explore 344 books about friendships

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Our Favorite Day of the Year, Anya's Secret Society, and Journey if you like this list.