Best kids' picture books about difficult subjects

Child reading
From sharing and the democratic process to divorce and bereavement, these picture books all tackle tricky subjects with warmth, humour and understanding. Some are more suitable for younger children and others will be appreciated by tweens, but they all make difficult things easier to talk about and understand.

Divorce and separation

Mum and Dad Glue by Kes Gray

(£6.99, Hodder)

A rhyming story about a boy coming to terms with his parents' divorce. Very moving, with wonderful illustrations.

Dyslexia and learning differences

If You're So Smart, How Come You Can't Spell Mississippi? by Barbara Esham

(£2.15, Kindle, Mainstream)

Why does Katie's very smart dad struggle with one of her weekly spelling list words? A positive, reassuring book about dyslexia.

Grief and legacy

The Copper Tree by Hilary Robinson

(£6.99, Strauss House Productions)

A sensitive story about the power of memory as a means of healing, as a a class learns to remember a beloved teacher.

Dementia

Really and Truly: A story about dementia by Emilie Rivard

(£6.99, Franklin Watts)

An inspiring, tender portrayal of a child dealing with his grandfather's dementia, with beautiful illustrations.

Illness

What's Up with James? Medikidz Explain Depression by Dr Kim Chilman-Blair and Shawn Deloache

(£8.99, Medikidz)

Superhero stories set inside the human body, Medikidz comic-book tales explain medical conditions in an exciting but factual way. As well as depression, conditions covered include asthma, epilepsy, autism and lots more.

Bereavement

The Coat I Wear by Mel Maxwell

(£7.99, I Am Somewhat Ltd)

A simple story that uses the analogy of having to wear a very big, heavy and uncomfortable coat to symbolise the weight of grief. Highly recommended.

Bravery and the right to freedom

Malala a Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal a Brave Boy from Pakistan by Jeanette Winter

(£10.99, HarperCollins)

An inspirational non-fiction picture book about courageous children, bravery and human rights.

Immigration

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

(£10.99, Hodder Children's Books)


A silent graphic novel which tells the story of every migrant, every refugee and every displaced person with amazingly intricate, haunting illustrations. A must-read for adults as well as children.

Living with distance from loved ones

My Daddy's going away by Christopher MacGregor

(£6.99, Picture Corgi)

A comforting, wise book written to help explain why parents sometimes have to go away for work or other reasons. In support of the charity Combat Stress.

Elderly care

Christmas Surprise by Hilary Robinson

(£6.99, Strauss House Productions)

Primary-school children discover fascinating stories about the lives of the elderly residents of their local care home when they visit them.

Anxiety

Silly Billy by Anthony Browne

(£5.99, Walker Books)

The perfect, reassuring read for a child who worries, written with empathy and warmth and offering a child-friendly 'action plan' for anxiety.

Friendship and jealousy

On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah

(£6.99, Simon & Schuster)

Best friends, jealousy and accepting someone new, all presented in a simple story about friendship and childhood.

Democracy and politics

The Election by Eleanor Levenson

(£7.99, Fisherton Press)

A picture book to explain our democratic election process, from voting and political parties to canvassing and the announcement of results. A great introduction to a system children will be part of throughout their lives.

Real world vs virtual world

Dot by Randi Zuckerberg

(£6.99, Corgi)

The importance of real-world life and interactions, playfully shown in picture book format for the virtual-world generation.

Feelings and emotions

Feelings can be friends by Gail Maisel

(£5.99, Panoma Press)

Presenting feelings as friends to know, this book empowers children to help them figure out their emotions and understand that their feelings, including the uncomfortable ones, can be assets.

Disability

Mermaid by Cerrie Burnell

(£6.99, Scholastic)

Luka can't swim, but his new friend Sylvia can glide through the waves like a mermaid though on land she uses a wheelchair to move around. A wonderful celebration of difference and friendship from children's author and CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell.

Inappropriate adult behaviour

My Underpants Rule! by Kate and Rod Power

(£6.99, Kids Rule Publishing)

Developed by an ex-police officer, My Underpants Rule! aims to help parents talk to their children about private body parts and inappropriate adult behaviour from a young age. With vibrant colour illustrations, rhymes and scenarios and advice about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, the book empowers children without alarming them.

Suicide

Luna's Red Hat by Emmi Smid

(£11.99, Jessica Kingsley Publishers)

A beautifully illustrated storybook designed to be read with children who have experienced the loss of a loved one by suicide. Including a guide for parents by a bereavement counsellor, Luna's Hat is a celebration of the power of memory and love and suitable for ages 6+.

The refugee crisis

Rachel's Story

(£8.99, Wayland)

Originally produced as BBC animations, the BAFTA award-winning Seeking Refuge stories are now available in book form, telling the stories of five young refugees who are seeking asylum and adjusting to life in new countries all over the world. Hamid's Story, Juliane's Story, Navid's Story and Ali's Story are also available.

Equality

Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

(£12.99, Penguin Random House)

A beautifully illustrated, picture-book version of Malala's now famous story of fighting for girls' right to an education and to have their voices heard. Empowering, hopeful and perfectly pitched for a young audience, this is an inspiring read for children everywhere.