Posted in Book List, Resource

BOOK LIST: Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness month and there are some really great books available for kids and teens to read to help them understand themselves and others. Here are a few well written and relatable books. I hope you enjoy them!


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Grades K – 3rd

In partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Tundra is proud to launch an important series of books for children who have to cope with adult-sized problems. 

Young Alex’s father had been a policeman until he began to suffer from depression, perhaps the most common mental health issue we face. Alex’s questions are those that are often asked by the children of parents who have depression: is the parent simply lazy? Does he no longer care? And is it something I can catch, like a cold?

In simple, straightforward language, the book explains what depression is and how it is treated. It also prepares a child for working with a helping professional. And perhaps most important, it reassures a child that he or she is not alone.

Written by Canada’s foremost experts in the field, this is an important book to spur discussion and allay fears of those affected by depression.

The Princess and the Fog is picture book to help sufferers of depression aged 5-7 cope with their difficult feelings. It uses vibrant illustrations, a sense of humour and metaphor to create a relatable, enjoyable story that describes the symptoms of childhood depression while also providing hope that things can get better with a little help and support. The story is also a great starting point for explaining depression to all children, especially those who may have a parent or close family member with depression.

With an essential guide for parents and carers by clinical paediatric psychologists, Dr Melinda Edwards MBE and Linda Bayliss, this book will be of immeasurable value to anyone supporting a child with, or affected by, depression, including social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, arts therapists, pastoral care workers and school staff, as well as parents and carers.

Over one million children and adolescents in the US suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a baffling illness that can be debilitating for the child in school, with friends and family. Help is now available! Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the gold standard of treatment for OCD, and offers youngsters and their families the path to mastery over OCD. In this uniquely creative and heart-warming book, Dr. Wagner, an internationally recognized expert in the treatment of childhood OCD, uses the powerful real-life metaphor of the Worry Hill to describe OCD and its treatment clearly and simply through the eyes of a child. Children and adults will identify with Casey’s struggle with OCD, his sense of hope when he learns about treatment, his relief that neither he nor his parents are to blame, and eventually, his victory over OCD.Parents and Professionals can use this book alone or together with the companion book, What to do when your Child has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This is the only children’s OCD book that has a companion book for parents.

Parents, educators, therapists, and social workers alike have declared The Invisible String the perfect tool for coping with all kinds of separation anxiety, loss, and grief. In this relatable and reassuring contemporary classic, a mother tells her two children that they’re all connected by an invisible string. “That’s impossible!” the children insist, but still they want to know more: “What kind of string?” The answer is the simple truth that binds us all: An Invisible String made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love. Does everybody have an Invisible String? How far does it reach? Does it ever go away? This heartwarming picture book for all ages explores questions about the intangible yet unbreakable connections between us, and opens up deeper conversations about love.

Recommended and adopted by parenting blogs, bereavement support groups, hospice centers, foster care and social service agencies, military library services, church groups, and educators, The Invisible String offers a very simple approach to overcoming loneliness, separation, or loss with an imaginative twist that children easily understand and embrace, and delivers a particularly compelling message in today’s uncertain times. This special paperback edition includes includes vibrant new illustrations and an introduction from the author.

The Bipolar Bear Family is a story about a young cub who struggles to understand his mother’s behavior and her subsequent diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. The story of The Bipolar Bear Family helps children of bipolar parents address such questions as: Is this my fault? Is it contagious? Can I fix it?According to the National Institute for Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder affects more than 2 million American adults. Further, we know that the dynamics of Mental Illness closely mirror the dynamics of alcoholism and addiction in its impact on the family system. By compassionately educating parents and children, the author hopes to make a life-long difference for these courageous families.

The children’s issues picture book Why Is Dad So Mad? is a story for children in military families whose father battles with combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After a decade fighting wars on two fronts, tens of thousands of service members are coming home having trouble adjusting to civilian life; this includes struggling as parents. Why Is Dad So Mad? Is a narrative story told from a family’s point of view (mother and children) of a service member who struggles with PTSD and its symptoms. Many service members deal with anger, forgetfulness, sleepless nights, and nightmares.This book explains these and how they affect Dad. The moral of the story is that even though Dad gets angry and yells, he still loves his family more than anything.

Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her – in a big blue bag. They are with her all the time – at school, at home, when she is watching TV and even in the bathroom! Jenny decides they have to go, but who will help her get rid of them?

A funny and reassuring look at dealing with worries and anxiety, to be used as a spring board into important conversations with your child.

In short statements and vignettes, Cory describes what it’s like to have ADHD: how it affects his relationships with friends and family, his school performance, and his overall functioning. He also describes many ways of coping with ADHD: medication, therapy/counseling, and practical tips for school, home, and friendships.

Feelings are neither good nor bad, they simply are. Kids need words to name their feelings, just as they need words to name all things in their world. The Way I Feel uses strong, colorful, and expressive images which go along with simple verses to help children connect the word and the emotion. Your child will learn useful words, and you will have many chances to open conversations about what’s going on in her/his life. Recommended by parents, teachers and mental health professionals, The Way I Feel is a valuable addition to anyone’s library. This book is ideal for children with autism. (Ages 2-8)

It’s the principal Mr. Slipper’s birthday, and while the rest of the class gets busy writing cards for the occasion, Stan becomes frustrated when his letters come out all in a muddle. Stan is afraid to ask for help, until a friend assures him that nobody’s good at everything. And after lots and lots of practice, Stan’s letters come out the right way round and the right way up.

This delightful book deals with a common childhood frustration and will remind readers that practice pays off and that everyone has to ask for help sometimes.

A blue crayon mistakenly labeled as “red” suffers an identity crisis in this picture book by the New York Times–bestselling creator of My Heart Is Like a Zoo and It’s an Orange Aardvark! Funny, insightful, and colorful, Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall, is about being true to your inner self and following your own path despite obstacles that may come your way. Red will appeal to fans of Lois Ehlert, Eric Carle, and The Day the Crayons Quit, and makes a great gift for readers of any age!

Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let’s draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries! Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He’s blue! This funny, heartwarming, colorful picture book about finding the courage to be true to your inner self can be read on multiple levels, and it offers something for everyone.

Armond doesn’t want to go to Felicia’s birthday party. Parties are noisy, disorganized, and smelly—all things that are hard for a kid with Asperger’s. Worst of all is socializing with other kids. But with the support of Felicia and her mom, good friends who know how to help him, he not only gets through the party, but also has fun. When his mom picks him up, Armond admits the party was not easy, but he feels good that he faced the challenge—and that he’s a good friend. A great book for anyone to learn about coping with autism or Asperger’s.

Grades 4th – 8th

The fifth and final book in the groundbreaking Joey Pigza series brings the beloved chronicle of this wired, wacky, and wonderful boy to a crescendo of chaos and craziness, as everything goes topsy-turvy for Joey just as he starts to get his feet on the ground. With his dad MIA in the wake of appearance-altering plastic surgery, Joey must give up school to look after his new baby brother and fill in for his mom, who hospitalizes herself to deal with a bad case of postpartum blues. As his challenges mount, Joey discovers a key that could unlock the secrets to his father’s whereabouts, a mystery that must be solved before Joey can even hope that his broken family might somehow come back together―if only it doesn’t pull him apart first.

Arthur T. Owens grabbed a brick and hurled it at the trash picker. Arthur had his reasons, and the brick hit the Junk Man in the arm, not the head. But none of that matters to the judge—he is ready to send Arthur to juvie forever. Amazingly, it’s the Junk Man himself who offers an alternative: 120 hours of community service . . . working for him.

Arthur is given a rickety shopping cart and a list of the Seven Most Important Things: glass bottles, foil, cardboard, pieces of wood, lightbulbs, coffee cans, and mirrors. He can’t believe it—is he really supposed to rummage through people’s trash? But it isn’t long before Arthur realizes there’s more to the Junk Man than meets the eye, and the “trash” he’s collecting is being transformed into something more precious than anyone could imagine. . . .

Inspired by the work of folk artist James Hampton, Shelley Pearsall has crafted an affecting and redemptive novel about discovering what shines within us all, even when life seems full of darkness.

Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. While using a stick to snag grocery bags left on the porch, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did. 
As their friendship grows deeper, Norah fears she’s being selfish. Doesn’t Luke deserve a normal girl—one who isn’t so screwed up? 
Readers will fall in love with Norah in this deeply engaging portrait of a teen struggling to find the strength to face her demons.

Pete’s dad is being pursued by a secret organisation and both their lives are in danger. That’s why they never stay in the same place long, and always stay out of sight. Pete knows he leads an unusual life for a twelve year old boy, but he’s never dared to ask questions before. Now he needs some answers. He’s clever, he starts to piece the scraps of information together, but he isn’t prepared for the truth.

Entering 7th grade is no big deal for Marley Sandelski: Same old boring classes, same old boring life. The only thing he has to look forward to is the upcoming Star Trek convention. But when he inadvertently draws the attention of Digger Ronster, the biggest bully in school, his life has officially moved from boring to far too dramatic . . . from invisible to center stage.

Ever since Jack can remember, his mom has been unpredictable, sometimes loving and fun, other times caught in a whirlwind of energy and “spinning” wildly until it’s over. But Jack never thought his mom would take off during the night and leave him at a campground in Acadia National Park, with no way to reach her and barely enough money for food. Any other kid would report his mom gone, but Jack knows by now that he needs to figure things out for himself – starting with how to get from the backwoods of Maine to his home in Boston before DSS catches on. With nothing but a small toy elephant to keep him company, Jack begins the long journey south, a journey that will test his wits and his loyalties – and his trust that he may be part of a larger herd after all.

Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new tattooed teacher named Mr. Acevedo, who doesn’t believe in tests or homework and who likes off-the-wall projects, the more “off” the better. They also find themselves with a new basketball coach: Mr. Acevedo! Easy-going Rip is knocked completely out of his comfort zone. And for Red, who has autism and really needs things to be exactly a certain way, the changes are even more of a struggle. But together these two make a great duo who know how to help each other―and find ways to make a difference―in the classroom and on the court.

With its energetic and authentic story and artwork, this is a fresh, fun book about school, sports, and friendship.

Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac. 

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in. This paperback edition includes The Sketchbook of Impossible Things and discussion questions.

When Natalie’s science teacher suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie thinks that this might be the perfect solution to all of her problems. There’s prize money, and if she and her friends wins, then she can fly her botanist mother to see the miraculous Cobalt Blue Orchids–flowers that survive against impossible odds. Natalie’s mother has been suffering from depression, and Natalie is sure that the flowers’ magic will inspire her mom to love life again. Which means it’s time for Natalie’s friends to step up and show her that talking about a problem is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light. With their help, Natalie begins an uplifting journey to discover the science of hope, love, and miracles.

A vibrant, loving debut about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too. Think THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

Annie Richards knows there are a million things to look out for—bicycle accidents, chicken pox, runaway zoo animals. That’s why being careful is so important, even if it does mean giving up some of her favorite things, like bike races with her best friend and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. Everyone keeps telling Annie not to worry so much, that she’s just fine. But they thought her brother, Jared, was just fine too, and Jared died.

It takes a new neighbor to make Annie realize that her plans for being careful aren’t working out as well as she’d hoped. And with a lot of help from those around her, Annie just may find a way to close her umbrella of sadness and step back into the sunshine.

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems. 

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the futures they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

To twelve-year-old Molly Nathans, perfect is:

―The number four
―The tip of a newly sharpened No. 2 pencil
―A crisp white pad of paper 
―Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines

What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are sometimes broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Poetry Slam Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with white tablecloths. Molly is sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?

But as time passes, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control. In this fresh-voiced debut novel, one girl learns there is no such thing as perfect.

Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?


Astronomy-loving Calliope June has Tourette syndrome, so she sometimes makes faces or noises that she doesn’t mean to make. When she and her mother move yet again, she tries to hide her TS. But it isn’t long before the kids at her new school realize she’s different. Only Calliope’s neighbor, who is also the popular student body president, sees her as she truly is―an interesting person and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public?

As Calliope navigates school, she must also face her mother’s new relationship and the fact that they might be moving―again―just as she starts to make friends and finally accept her differences.

Partially in verse and partially in prose with two intertwined points of view, Ellie Terry’s affecting debut will speak to a wide audience about being true to oneself.

Teen & Young Adult

Audrey wears dark glasses all the time, even in the house. She almost never goes out, doesn’t talk to new people, and finds making eye contact to be nearly impossible. 

But then one day she meets Linus. Linus is her brother’s friend and a sensitive spirit with whom she can talk through her fears. He makes her laugh and doesn’t leave her feeling like she’s being judged. As their friendship deepens, Audrey’s recovery gains momentum, and she and Linus begin to develop feelings for each other. But how can they have a future together when Audrey hasn’t dealt with her past? And how could anyone ever love her once they’ve seen her at her worst?

Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.

Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at meal time, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.

Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she, too, will end her life.

Paperweight follows seventeen-year-old Stevie’s journey as she struggles not only with a life-threatening eating disorder, but with the question of whether she can ever find absolution for the mistakes of her past…and whether she truly deserves to.

Seventeen year-old Jonah Daniels has lived in Verona Cove, California, his whole life, and only one thing has ever changed: his father used to be alive, and now he is not. With a mother lost in a deep bout of depression, Jonah and his five siblings struggle to keep up their home and the restaurant their dad left behind. But at the start of summer, a second change rolls in: Vivi Alexander, the new girl in town.

Vivi is in love with life. Charming and unfiltered, she refuses to be held down by the medicine she’s told should make her feel better. After meeting Jonah, she slides into the Daniels’ household seamlessly, winning over each sibling with her imagination and gameness. But it’s not long before Vivi’s zest for life begins to falter. Soon her adventurousness becomes all-out danger-seeking.

Through each high and low, Vivi and Jonah’s love is put to the test . . . but what happens when love simply isn’t enough?

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off. 

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

Happy reading,

Posted in Resource

AUDIO: Susan Verde interview with The Children’s Book Podcast

I am super excited to share with you The Children’s Book Podcast’s conversation with Susan Verde as she talks about third book in the “I AM” series, I Am Human. Verde is a NYT bestselling author and as she put it, a mindful human (totally using that!). Enjoy!

Podcast: https://lgbpodcast.libsyn.com/susan-verde

Here are the books in the “I Am” series. (Psst….there’s another coming out in September!)

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To learn more about Susan Verde and her other AMAZING books, check out her website.

Don’t forget to connect with her on her social media channels too!

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Special thanks to Matthew Winner, host of The Children’s Book Podcast for allowing me to share his PHENOMENAL content on my blog. You can find him on his blog, Instagram, or Twitter. There’s a wealth of literary resources that I’m sure you’ll find very helpful on his blog. He is by the way an elementary school librarian, podcast host, and overall talented human being.

Happy reading,