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Now more than ever we need to look after our mental health and books can provide a brilliant way of helping children and young people to understand the world around them as well as what’s going on in their heads. Here is our pick of the best books for 8-12 year-olds to keep young minds healthy.

Mental Health Awareness Week is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and taking place from 18-24 May, this year’s theme is kindness, the perfect antidote to isolation and stress. Find out more

[See our book lists for 0-5s, 5-8s and 12+]

Ella On The Outside by Cath Howe, published by Nosy Crow

Ella is the new girl at school. She doesn’t know anyone and she doesn’t have any friends. And she has a terrible secret. Ella can’t believe her luck when Lydia, the most popular girl in school, decides to be her new best friend – but what does Lydia really want? And what does it all have to do with Molly, the quiet, shy girl who won’t talk to anyone?

A perfectly-pitched, thoughtful story with a big heart.” Katherine Woodfine, author of The Clockwork Sparrow

What is Mental Health? Where does it come from? And Other Big Questions by Lucy Maddox, published by Wayland

Exploring and explaining the range of mental health, from wellbeing through to mental health problems, in a non-stigmatising, accessible and accurate way.

Mental health gets talked about a lot, but what is it? And where does it come from?

This book explains what mental health is, considering how it relates to lots of different experiences, from how we manage really big feelings, to how we get on with each other, how we make choices and how we handle stressful situations. The book thoughtfully examines the things that can help us look after our mental health and the things that might make it feel worse. It has suggestions for the support on offer if we feel we’re

It includes specially-written contributions from Chamique Holdsclaw, US gold medallist basketballer, academics Dr Suzi Gage and Professor Marianne Van Den Bree, poet Fisky, artists Christine Rai and Liz Atkin, mental health advocate Chineye Njoku and Dr Alan Cooklin, psychiatrist and founder of the charity Our Time which helps children whose parents experience mental health problems.

Aimed at young people aged 10 and upwards.

Part of the groundbreaking and important ‘And Other Big Questions’ series, which offers
balanced and considered views on the big issues we face in the world we live in today.

Keep Your Cool: How to Deal with Life’s Worries and
Stress by Dr Aaron Balick and illustrated By Clotilde Szymanski, published by Franklin Watts

The perfect guide to help kids deal with the stress, worry and pressure of modern life.

Does life keep making you stressed, worried and unable to achieve what you want? Then this book is for you!

Deal with bullying, family strife, exam panic and what it means to be you, as well as many other issues with Keep Your Cool. A vast selection of exercises, including yoga, breathing exercises and rationalising activities, will help you to stay focused and in control.

Written by clinical psychotherapist Dr Aaron Balick, who has nearly 20 years in the field,
this book draws on his experience with working with young people directly in schools,
providing answers to real-life issues. By building your life skills and resilience, this book will keep you cool, calm and collected in the modern world.

Brilliant, by Roddy Doyle, published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Gloria and Rayzer must save their Uncle Ben. The black dog has got him.

At least, that’s what they heard their granny say. And she says it’s taken Dublin’s funny bone too.

As Uncle Ben’s Dublin business fails, it’s clear to Gloria and Rayzer that something is wrong. He just isn’t his usual cheerful self. So when the children overhear their granny saying that the Black Dog has settled on Ben’s back and he won’t be OK until it’s gone, they decide they’re going to get rid of it. Gathering all their courage the children set out on a midnight quest to hunt down the Black Dog and chase it away.

Gloria and Rayzer are really brave, but the black dog is really scary – and soon they realize that they can’t fight it alone. Before long loads of other children are searching for it too, because the Black Dog is hounding lots of Dublin’s adults. Together – and with the help of magical animals, birds and rodents – the children manage to corner the Black Dog . . . but will they have the courage and cleverness to destroy the frightening creature?

Roddy Doyle’s ‘brilliant’ Brilliant is a wonderful, heartwarming middle grade tale of friendship and family.

Splash by Charli Howard, published by Nosy Crow

A heart-warming story with an important message of friendship, body positivity, and celebrating who you are.

Molly wants to become a champion swimmer. But when her best friend Chloe tries to make her give up the sport, Molly is forced to practise in secret. And when her mystery mum reappears in her life after years away, Molly is torn… between fitting in and following her dreams.

Find Your Girl Squad Making and Keeping Friends Who Love You for YOU by Dr. Angharad Rudkin & Ruth Fitzgerald and illustrated by Sarah Jennings, published by Wren and Rook

A positive, practical and innovative approach to friendship guides for girls – the first step to building brilliant friendships is to know who YOU are. 

Finding a girl squad that’s as unique and special as you are starts with finding YOURSELF Friendships are SO difficult to get right – and when rumours swirl or dramas unfold, your confidence vanishes and the worries start to take over. In this essential guide to navigating friendships you’ll meet Poppy, who’s juggling all sorts of dilemmas at school. But whether it’s coping with feeling left out, handling bullies or embracing her true weird and wonderful self, friendship expert Dr Angharad Rudkin and author Ruth Fitzgerald are there to help with positive, practical advice. As you follow Poppy’s trials and tribulations, you’ll discover the secrets to finding your own ultimate girl squad – one which loves you for YOU.

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, illustrated by Steven Lenton, published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Shortlisted for the 2017 Carnegie Medal and selected for the Tom Fletcher Book Club, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell-Boyce is an adventure about the

Blythes: a big, warm, rambunctious family who live on a small farm and sometimes foster children. Now Prez has come to live with them. But, though he seems cheerful and helpful, he never says a word.

Then one day Prez answers the door to someone claiming to be his relative. This small, loud stranger carries a backpack, walks with a swagger and goes by the name of Sputnik. Prez is amazed at the family’s response to Sputnik’s arrival. They pat him on the head, call him a good boy and drop food into his mouth. It seems they all think Sputnik is a dog! Chaos is unleashed when Sputnik arrives as household items come to life – like a TV remote that fast-forwards people and a toy lightsaber that entertains guests at a children’s party, until one of them is nearly decapitated by it – and Prez is going to have to use his voice to explain himself.

As Sputnik takes Prez on a journey to finish writing his guidebook to Earth called Ten Things Worth Doing on Earth, each adventure seems to take Prez nearer to the heart of the family he is being fostered by but they also take him closer to the day that he is due to leave them forever . . .

This edition features fantastic cover artwork and black and white inside illustrations from the incredible Steven Lenton.