The best picture books about facing your fears

Lisa Katzenberger Author Of It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship
By Lisa Katzenberger

Who am I?

I’m a picture book writer who struggles with anxiety. Some things that seem like no big deal to most people can become a very big worry for me (like Giraffe worries about Spider in It Will Be OK). I found that identifying and naming our emotions—in this case fear—makes it easier to address our feelings and work through them. I want to share my experience of being fearful of things, both big and small, with children to let them know they are not alone and they can have power over scary emotions.


I wrote...

It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship

By Lisa Katzenberger, Jaclyn Sinquett (illustrator),

Book cover of It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship

What is my book about?

Giraffe and Zebra meet every day under their favorite tree to walk to the watering hole. But today, Giraffe isn't there. Where could he be? Zebra spots him hiding in the tree; Giraffe has seen a spider and is scared silly. Zebra patiently talks to Giraffe and does the very best thing: supports Giraffe for as long as Giraffe needs it.

The books I picked & why

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Me and My Fear

By Francesca Sanna,

Book cover of Me and My Fear

Why this book?

In this beautiful book, Fear is its own character, a soft white blob with minimal facial features. It starts out protecting the main character from danger, and the girl considers Fear a protector. But when the girl travels to a new country, Fear begins to grow and get in her way, preventing her from speaking up or making friends. Then when the girl spots a boy with his own Fear, she faces her own Fear, literally pushing it away so she can go outside and play, until Fear becomes smaller. It is a brilliant depiction of our fears blocking us, the work it takes to overcome them, and the joy we can feel when we do.


Jabari Jumps

By Gaia Cornwall,

Book cover of Jabari Jumps

Why this book?

One of the many things I love about this book is that Jabari doesn’t start out the story afraid. He is ready for the diving board! He passed his swimming test and is feeling brave! But it’s not until he watches other kids walk up the long ladder, looking like little bugs at the end of the diving board that fear sets in. He stalls, takes a little rest, then turns to his dad for comfort, who frames overcoming fear as feeling like a surprise. Jabari loves surprises and this different point of view motivates him to face his fear and go off the diving board. The story is so perfect in that it demonstrates being afraid, shows what avoidance tactics we sometimes use, and then has a wonderfully satisfying moment when Jabari overcomes his fears with a splash!


Truman

By Jean Reidy, Lucy Ruth Cummins (illustrator),

Book cover of Truman

Why this book?

I love that Truman is not your typical first day of school jitters book! In this story, it’s Sarah who goes off to school and her pet turtle Truman who is left alone. He doesn’t know where Sarah went or if she will ever return. Truman is afraid of life without his Sarah! But Sarah means so much to him, he sets out to find her – climbing out of his tank, making the treacherous journey across the living room rug, and finally making it to the door. Seeing how far he travelled over the course of the day made Truman feel brave, and in that instant Sarah arrives home safe and sound. This story shows children that simply setting out to do something we are afraid of is a huge accomplishment in and of itself.


Ruby Finds a Worry

By Tom Percival,

Book cover of Ruby Finds a Worry

Why this book?

As an expert worrier, I really related to this book about a spunky girl named Ruby who one day discovers a worry. What I love about this book is that the worry is illustrated, so we can see its intimidating facial expression and watch it grow in size. The worry follows Ruby to all her favorite places—the school bus, the swing set, the movies—and it prevents her from doing what she loves. But it’s not until she spots another worry sitting with a boy that she is able to face her fear about the worry and do the best thing ever – talk about it. I love how this story shows children that talking about our feelings gives us power and strength to work through them.


There Might Be Lobsters

By Carolyn Crimi, Laurel Molk (illustrator),

Book cover of There Might Be Lobsters

Why this book?

I love this book’s unique approach to sharing a story about fear – it lists all the wild ruminations that can run through our minds. In this case, it’s a dog Sukie who is not enjoying a trip to the beach because, among other worries, there might be lobsters! Sukie’s list of fears grows and grows as the story goes on, and she is paralyzed in the sand – until her precious toy Chunka Munka is swept into the water. Sukie lets love overpower her fear and jumps into the water without a worry to save her precious friend. It’s a wonderful story about what we are willing to do to overcome our fear for the sake of others.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in fear, refugees, and worry?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about fear, refugees, and worry.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Black Dog, Worry Says What?, and Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest if you like this list.