The best picture books about (more elusive than ever) kindness

Leslie Kimmelman Author Of The Eight Knights of Hanukkah
By Leslie Kimmelman

Who am I?

I am no expert on kindness—though more than twenty years at Sesame Workshop, working on a TV show that focuses on kindness, may give me a slight edge. And I am not unfailingly kind, though I try my hardest. But I am passionate about nurturing this quality in children. At the risk of sounding naive, I feel that it’s our last best hope of solving some of the world’s biggest problems.  

I wrote...

The Eight Knights of Hanukkah

By Leslie Kimmelman, Galia Bernstein (illustrator),

Book cover of The Eight Knights of Hanukkah

What is my book about?

It’s a Hanukkah story, of course! But it’s also about the importance of putting kindnesses out into the world, both spectacular brave deeds and those of the smaller, barely noticed variety. The book tells the story of eight knights who, at the request of their mother, the Lady Sadie, ride out into the countryside to perform acts of “awesome kindness and stupendous bravery.” All this while seeking out the ferocious dragon who’s getting in the way of the last-night-of-Hanukkah party scheduled at the castle that evening.  Gadzooks! What are eight knights to doeth?!

The books I picked & why

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How Kind!

By Mary Murphy,

Book cover of How Kind!

Why this book?

This charming story showcases kindness pared down to its most basic: Kindness feels great to both the giver and the receiver, and it’s easily passed from one person (or, in this case, animal) to another.  Hen is kind to Pig, who in turn is kind to Rabbit, and so on, until the circle is complete. The simple, repetitive text and joyful, brightly-colored illustrations make me smile—and make this book an ideal choice for sharing with very young children.


By Alison Green,

Book cover of Kind

Why this book?

It’s the perfect choice for anyone who wonders, “But what can I do? I’m just a kid!” The book is filled with kid-friendly, practical ideas of ways to be kind: offering a smile or a hug; sharing; letting someone else take the first turn; learning words in a new arrival’s language; and much, much more. Each page features work by another terrific artist—it’s absolutely a visual feast for anyone who appreciates good illustration. The bonus is that sales of the book help raise money for a charity that assists refugees trying to make a new start. What could be better than feeling kind just for buying yourself a new book!

We Don't Eat Our Classmates

By Ryan Higgins,

Book cover of We Don't Eat Our Classmates

Why this book?

Yes, kindness is essential. But it’s even better when served up with a huge side serving of humor.  A young T-rex named Penelope can’t understand why she’s unable to make friends. Perhaps if she didn’t find them so delicious, it would be easier.  The author takes a universal situation—going off to school for the first time—and turns it into a hilarious lesson (and I hesitate to even use that word) about kindness and empathy. It’s all done with an economy of word and a deadpan tone. Pitch perfect!

The Rabbit Listened

By Cori Doerrfeld,

Book cover of The Rabbit Listened

Why this book?

Kindness is only part of the story here; the issue is also how to be kind. When Taylor has a bad moment and sinks into despair, the chicken, the bear, the elephant, and all the rest of the animals instinctively want to reach out. They offer suggestions, encouraging Taylor to talk it out, shout it out, try again, seek payback, and so on. Only the rabbit understands that what is needed most is a listening ear.  The book goes so much deeper than kindness, and does it beautifully.  

We're All Wonders

By R.J. Palacio,

Book cover of We're All Wonders

Why this book?

Adapted by the author from her bestselling Wonder, this book is more of a wish for kindness than an actual portrayal of kindness. Auggie looks different from anyone else, but inside he wants the same things: to have friends, to go on adventures, to be loved for himself. Besides, isn’t everyone different in one way or another? It’s a lovely book to read with young children, leading them to the realization that acceptance is not only the best choice, but also the choice that opens up an enormous world of possibilities. As the author concludes, Look with kindness and you will always find wonder.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in kindness, farms, and school?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about kindness, farms, and school.

Kindness Explore 16 books about kindness
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School Explore 159 books about school

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Each Kindness, I Walk with Vanessa, and A Flood of Kindness if you like this list.