The best books for littles with anxiety

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm not really an expert on anxiety other than being an adult who suffers from it. I thought I was normal and everyone felt the way I did until I started looking for books to help my daughter with her panic attacks and I realized I have it too! I've since been diagnosed and lead a pretty great life with the help of therapy and medication. What parents share with their children during nightly story reading or on the couch to read a few books is very bonding and intimate. I think that's the best time for kids to ask their parents questions and share their emotions. My goal is to help those conversations happen.


I wrote...

It's Not About You, Little Hoo!

By Brenda Ponnay,

Book cover of It's Not About You, Little Hoo!

What is my book about?

This is a story of a little anxious owl who thinks everything is his fault. His friends run off, he thinks they don’t like him, his bike doesn’t work, he thinks he’s a bad bike rider, he gets picked last for the soccer team, he feels rejected… but his father, Papa Hoo, tells him gently why each scenario is actually not about him at all. His friends had to go home for dinner, his bike needed a tune-up, and somebody has to get picked last. Not everything is personal. 

As an adult I was excluded accidentally from a group trip and it hurt my feelings. The more I sat with these feelings, I realized they came from childhood feelings of being left out. I wrote this children’s book to help other anxious people like me. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Scaredy Squirrel

Brenda Ponnay Why did I love this book?

This book is adorable and hilarious. It takes worries to the nth degree which can help children realize they are not the only ones filled with anxiety. Scaredy Squirrell thinks about the pros and cons of taking risks and eventually figures out a way to get what he wants in spite of his worries. I think this is really helpful to teach coping skills. Anxiety doesn’t always go away but we can learn tools to deal with it. 

Both my daughter and I have issues with anxiety except I didn’t know I had it too until I started trying to help her navigate her fears. This book was a fun way to laugh about both of our aversions to taking risks.

By Mélanie Watt,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Scaredy Squirrel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

The first book in the Scaredy Squirrel series is a comical story of an endearing squirrel who learns what can happen when he’s brave enough to take a risk.


Book cover of What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety

Brenda Ponnay Why did I love this book?

This workbook has a wealth of helpful tips on how to deal with overwhelming anxiety. It’s written simply with great illustrations that really help littles figure out the scary world that surrounds them. I love the example of worries growing like tomato plants. If we want the worries to stop growing, we stop watering them! At the time my daughter was four and we had a huge over-producing tomato garden so this was a perfect illustration for both of us. We set up a time to talk about worries and we kept to that time limit. It helped both of us go through the anxiety instead of getting overwhelmed by it. There is no cure for anxiety and medication is not really an option for small children so dealing with it head-on was the only way that worked for us. This book really gave us both tools. It’s practical and really well done. I would recommend it to anyone dealing with overwhelming fear.

By Dawn Huebner, Bonnie Matthews (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What to Do When You Worry Too Much as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What to Do When You Worry Too Much is an interactive self-help book designed to guide 6-12 year olds and their parents through the cognitive-behavioral techniques most often used in the treatment of generalised anxiety. Engaging, encouraging, and easy to follow, this book educates, motivates, and empowers children to work towards change.

It includes a note to parents by psychologist and author Dawn Huebner, PhD.


Book cover of Snaily Snail

Brenda Ponnay Why did I love this book?

This is the sweetest little book. It’s super short with only 15 pages and only a simple sentence on every other page but the illustrations are adorable!! It’s about a snail and the narrator loves the snail. Each page reiterates their love and the illustrated snail is full of movement and character. I love the art style. It’s brushy and rushed but accurate and full of energy. I love the rhythm of the simple sentences. It’s fun and cute and perfect for reading aloud to a little. You can read it over and over and it never gets old.

When my daughter was afraid to go to kindergarten I would read it to her every day and tell her that I loved her like snaily snail. The last page says, “I love you when I work. I love you snaily snail!” and that really hit home for me because I was a single mom who had to work. It was very important to me that my daughter knew that when she was at school and I was at work I was still loving her. I even sent a little snail illustration in her lunchbox to remind her that I was at work I was thinking about her and loving her.

By Chris Raschka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Snaily Snail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 2, 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

Snaily Snail is loved all the time, no matter what he is doing.


Book cover of Yoko

Brenda Ponnay Why did I love this book?

Yoko is a little Japanese cat who goes to school and encounters all kinds of fellow students who are very different from her. She brings a lunch packed with sushi and her classmates turn up their noses and make fun of her. Thankfully, Yoko has a great teacher and she uses this experience to teach the students about culture. They have a potluck lunch and everyone brings something. Even the bullies of the class bring something that might seem strange and unfamiliar to Yoko. In the end, they learn that we are all different and it’s our differences that make us fun.

I love this story because kindergarten can be very frightening to young children. Their brains are growing exponentially learning to count and read and sort colors etc… but they are also learning new social skills and that can be difficult to navigate, especially when it comes to food, the one thing that children usually have a strong opinion about! I loved this story because it highlighted different cultures and how they might seem funny or weird to others who are not used to them. It talked about being shy and dealing with bullies. That’s a lot for one book to cover but it’s done brilliantly with beautiful illustrations and useful accurate language.

By Rosemary Wells,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Yoko as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

The charming, acclaimed book about a cat who is teased for the food she brings for school lunch—and that launched the beloved series about Yoko—is about accepting and embracing our differences.

Mmm, Yoko's mom has packed her favorite for lunch today--sushi! But her classmates don't think it looks quite so yummy. "Ick!" says one of the Franks. "It's seaweed!" They're not even impressed by her red bean ice cream dessert. Of course, Mrs. Jenkins has a plan that might solve Yoko's problem. But will it work with the other children in class?

"This brightly colored schoolroom charmer [is] a perfect…


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By Kathryn Betts Adams,

Book cover of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

Kathryn Betts Adams Author Of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

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Why am I passionate about this?

I was first a clinical social worker and then a social work professor with research focus on older adults. Over the past few years, as I have been writing my own memoir about caring for my parents, I’ve been drawn to memoirs and first-person stories of aging, illness, and death. The best memoirs on these topics describe the emotional transformation in the writer as they process their loss of control, loss of their own or a loved one’s health, and their fear, pain, and suffering. In sharing these stories, we help others empathize with what we’ve gone through and help others be better prepared for similar events in their own lives.

Kathryn's book list on Memoirs illness aging death moving vivid prose

What is my book about?

The Pianist's Only Daughter is a frank, humorous, and heartbreaking exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her mother, an English scholar and poet, and her father, a pianist and music professor. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' newly single father flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Their daughter watches in disbelief…

The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

What is this book about?

Grounded in insights about mental health, health and aging, The Pianist’s Only Daughter: A Memoir presents a frank and loving exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her English scholar and poet mother and her pianist father. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' father finds himself single and flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with…


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