Young children have a hard time putting their fear into words (umm tantrum anyone?). Sometimes finding a book that adds words to their feelings is just what you need. Here are 16 books about worrying and separation anxiety.
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Parts by Tedd Arnold is so funny. Readers follow along as a 5-year-old boy begins noticing things about his body he’d never noticed before like belly button lint, snot, peeling skin, and more. His anxious assumptions about his body falling apart will have you in stitches. My 2-year-old laughed and got most of the humor but slightly older children will be laughing hysterically at how silly the little boy’s worries are.
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg has a special spot in my heart. It’s a book about not wanting to go to a new school, the first day is always the hardest and it’s easier to just stay in bed! The beauty of this book isn’t just the recognition of the anxiety about the first day but in the end the twist is that it’s the teacher who has the jitters, not a student. I love this book and the power it has to help anxious kids, I have read it more than once to a jittery child and see how it can help first hand.
Don’t Worry Bear by Greg Foley is a short little book about a bear who is so so worried about his little caterpillar friend. Most children will figure out what is really going on and that the bear really doesn’t have anything to worry about but that’s not the beauty of this book. The beauty of this book is the awesome illustrations. They are simple but packed with emotions.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes This book is about a little mouse who is about as anxious as possible. She worries about everything, and it makes her family worried too. This is a fantastic book to read before starting anything new! I read it for the children’s time at my church right before school started last fall. It was a great opener for a talk about anxiety. We all have worries and even though we may not worry as often or as fiercely as Wemberly this book makes it seem okay and normal to feel those feelings. The way the author illustrates both through words and pictures the intensity of her feelings really creates compassion in the reader for this little mouse. And that ability to understand what another is feeling is something that I desperately want to instill in my children.
The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn is an absolute favorite. Chester is a raccoon who like most of us doesn’t like change. In his case it’s starting school. He wants to stay home with his mama and play with the friends he already has instead of going to school away from her and his friends. So his mama explains to him the magic of the kissing hand. The real magic is the message that we have to do things that scare us sometimes but that the love of our family is always with us to help us through. Go get this book.
The Teacher from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler is the original book in the very popular Black Lagoon series. The imaginative story is all about a boy’s worries that his teacher is going to be a terrible child-eating monster. My son giggled through the whole book and loved the gore and dark humor. I do not suggest reading this to very sensitive kids or ones that really are very nervous about school. It’s humor may not be reassuring, but kids comfortable with school will find it hilarious.
Just in Case by Judith Viorst is a funny and spot-on look at the anxious child who must prepare for everything ” just in case”. As a worrier myself who must start at the worst possible scenario and then slowly come back to reality I get this book. It’s funny for kids who aren’t worriers and makes the anxious preparer feel like they aren’t alone. The book also shows kids that they aren’t powerless to their worries.
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell is perfectly written for toddlers who are eager to “do it myself” but still need a loving parent safely within view. Three baby owls wake to find their mom away. As time passes, the three all get more anxious in their own ways. My daughter loves this book and completely related to poor little Bill who repeats “I want my mommy!” over and over. At night she is very much like little Bill, but during the day she is braver like the other two owls Sarah and Percy. No matter what level of separation anxiety your child may have at times they will relate to one or all of the little owls. Of course, the story ends with mama coming back and reassuring her little owl babies that she always will.
Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Melanie Watt. I love Scaredy Squirrel. His crazy anxiety, tendency to play dead and hilarious facial expressions never fail to make me laugh out loud while reading. I love this installment because it talks about something very topical in many preschoolers life nighttime anxiety. I was expecting a funny book but it was also really touching and useful in regards to conquering fears. For any new parent, the bits about sleep deprivation will hit home, trust me.
Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Melanie Watt is hilarious! I laughed from start to finish. My son, who was 18 months old, didn’t get the humor at all but laughed at me laughing! Older preschoolers will get most of the humor though and like my son, will love the pictures! Here is my favorite line: in very small print on the inside cover it reads “*Caution: this story not suitable for walruses”. Oh, how I laughed! The dry humor aside, the book follows an anxious squirrel looking for a friend, but one that is safe and won’t bite! Of course, the message is about taking risks and kids will get it! I love this book!
My Somebody Special by Sarah Weeks is a sweet and simple book about that feeling when everyone else has been picked up from school or daycare except you. The illustrations accurately depict a preschool and I relate very well to and know many children will as well. Of course, the last parent comes running in and all is well and a good reminder to children that sometimes parents are late but they will be there as soon as they can.
Felix and the Worrier by Rosemary Wells Let me start by saying I really love Rosemary Wells but I really really do not love this book. Often when I find books I don’t like I just omit them from round-ups. When I saw this book on the shelf, I thought “I bet this one is great!” because of the author and grabbed it without thinking. The story is about Felix who worries a lot at night but the worries are personified as a freaky little yellow guy that taps on Felix’s window and comes in to scare him out of his happy dreams.
All of the worries are over the top. While I understand what the author was trying to do, the Worrier (the little yellow guy) is just plain disturbing. The other thing I don’t like is how dismissive Felix’s mom was about his worries. Then, in the end, it’s a puppy that fixes everything. If you have read this book and like it please offer an alternative review. I want to think that it might help some children. It just made mine laugh nervously at the smiling but terrifying Worrier.
Love Waves by Rosemary Wells is about as far from the disturbing previous book as you could get. The book is all about those invisible but very real waves of love that connect child to parent no matter how far apart they are. In this one, a little bunny is separated first from mom then from dad while they work outside the home. Readers get to see the parents work and miss the little bunny, then the happy reunion. I loved this book but not as much as my daughter did. Very sweet and exactly what I’d expect from Rosemary Wells.
Piglet and Mama by Margaret Wild is a book I would suggest for the under-3 crowd. My son loved it when he was 2. Piglet is searching for his mom and even though all the other animal mommies offer for him to join them and their babies he wants his mom! The illustrations by Stephen Michael King capture the warmth between a mama and her baby beautifully. My son had the “Mama” scream perfected and quite enjoyed seeing the little piglet do the same thing for her mama when we read this book. Even if separation anxiety isn’t something you are dealing with at your house this is a sweet book.
Mama Always Comes Home by Karma Wilson was a last-minute grab at the library that I am so thankful I saw. It starts off with animal mothers leaving their babies, for all different reasons. A bird gathering food, a dog greeting his master and more. The animal mothers leave, but they also always return to their babies. Then it switches to a child and mother. She reassures the child that she will be back and we watch her leave and return. I loved this book because my son isn’t the best when I leave him. He related to this book immediately and was repeating “Mama always comes home!” halfway through.
I originally reviewed this in 2009 and have since read it many times to my daughter. She sometimes needed those gentle reminders that I would always return.
Jake Starts School by Micheal Wright is such a great book that has just the right amount of sarcasm for the adults reading it and a great message and humor for the kids too. Jake is a little scared about his first day at school. He decides to hold on to his parents and not let go. The day wears on and his parents’ patience is wearing thin as they do everything stuck together including recess. But a great teacher finally gets Jake to connect with a book and become her helper. Finally, he lets go of him poor aching parents.
I really enjoy this author/illustrator because I relate so well to his characters. Jake who is anxious and his parents that love him and will support him. (But aren’t necessarily thrilled to be sitting at his desk in his kindergarten class.) I thought it was touching and my son thought it was funny so it was a win-win for us.
What books about worrying have helped your child?
Thanks again for a fantastic and timely list! My 3-year-old is a bit sad about me going back to work (I’m a teacher) and I think he’ll love many of these books. He’s definitely on the edge of wanting to be independent and wanting to be safe with Mom and Dad. I’ve put a bunch of these on hold at the library, and we’ll probably buy our favourites!
The Educational Tourist says
What a wonderful list. I am putting a list together for nervous and first time travelers and will read those on the list that are new to me. I have high hopes for Just in Case which is new to me!
Thanks for the list. So important to discuss feelings.
Natalie, The Educational Tourist
Rebecca "Franticmommy" Flansburg says
Our daughter is a chronic worrier (like her mother! :0) so this list will be great for her. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I actually love Felix and wanted to use it for a lesson I teach but it’s out of print and I can’t order a class set. I found this entry while looking for an alternative book (I still haven’t found one) that connects worries to losing sleep. That’s the main theme I like about Felix, and that having a pet helped chase his worries away. Clearly it wasn’t a big hit (as it isn’t being printed anymore), but I liked it, and my little one borrowed it from the library multiple times. 🙂