Empathy is a vital human force which has come into sharp focus during the pandemic. Right now, we’ve never needed it more. The great news is that it’s a skill you can learn, and Empathy Day on June 9 aims to help everyone understand and experience its transformational power. Here are our best books to start conversations about empathy with children 0-8.
[Click here for ages 8-12+]
Odd Dog Out, by Rob Biddulph, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books
For busy dogs
A busy day
Of busy work
And busy play…
But one dog doesn’t quite fit in. It’s lonely being the odd dog out, when all she wants to do is find her place in the world. She’s willing to go to the other side of the world to look for it… but it might take a different kind of journey for her to discover that maybe where she’s meant to be is right back where she started…
A gloriously illustrated story about leaving home and finding yourself, from the bestselling and award-winning Rob Biddulph, author of Blown Away and GRRRRR!
If all the world were memories
the past would be rooms I could visit
and in each room would be my Grandad.
A moving, lyrical picture book about a young girl’s love for her Grandad and how she copes when he dies, written by poet and playwright Joseph Coelho. His powerful and ultimately uplifting text is the ideal way to introduce children to the concept of death and dying, particularly children who have lost a grandparent. Beautifully illustrated by Allison Colpoys.
In Moominvalley everyone is welcome. So when Too-ticky arrives with an unusually invisible guest, Ninny, the Moomins endeavour to make their guest feel at home, armed with remedies to gently draw their new guest into visibility allowing her to regain her once lost voice.
This unique retelling of Tove Jansson’s touching short story The Invisible Child captures Jansson’s wise, perceptive and original voice and includes delicate, painterly illustrations full of character and detail and based on Jansson’s original drawings and colour plates.
We all know that healthy minds are important, but how do we make sure we look after our mental health from a very young age? What’s Going On Inside My Head? is a book for children that explores practical ways we can keep our minds in good shape as well as our bodies.
By talking about positive self-image, emotional intelligence, relationships and mindfulness, this book will help children develop healthy habits and good coping strategies from the start. Presented in a warm, child-friendly but no-nonsense way it will help establish solid foundations for every child’s current and future wellbeing.
Perfect for starting conversations with children about their mental and emotional health, What’s Going On Inside My Head? is a must for every parent who understands the importance of keeping a healthy mind.
Cyril is the only squirrel in Lake Park, and he’s very lonely. Until one day he meets Pat – Pat the big, grey . . . other squirrel. Cyril and Pat have lots of adventures and fun together and Cyril is so pleased he’s made a friend. But everyone says that Cyril and Pat simply cannot be friends, and they soon reveal why: Pat, as the reader has known all along, is actually a RAT!
But Cyril’s life turns out to be a lot duller and quite a bit scarier without Pat by his side, and in the end the two friends learn that some things are more important than being the same, or listening to others.
‘Enormous fun to read aloud.’ Guardian
Detective Dog, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie published by Macmillan Children’s Book
When she’s not cracking cases, Nell goes to school with Peter and listens to the children read. Books about dinosaurs, books about space and even books about dogs – Nell loves them all! But one day Peter and Nell arrive at school to find all the books have disappeared! Who could have taken them, and why? Luckily, Detective Dog Nell, with help from the whole class, is ready to sniff out the thief!
Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by the multi-talented illustrator and print-maker Sara Ogilvie, The Detective Dog is a fast-paced celebration of books, reading, libraries and the relationship between a little boy and his rather special dog.
It can be tough being the only funny-looking Monster in Cutesville, but this Monster is not one to hang around and feel sorry for himself, so he’s off – out into the big wide world to look for someone to love him.
He looks high, he looks low and he looks everywhere in-between, but it’s only when he’s just about to give up that he finally finds what he is looking for…
Featuring an instantly charming main character who will appeal to children and adults alike, LOVE MONSTER is a warm and witty tale about the power of taking action.
In a mansion surrounded by lakes and forests, Frederick is bored. He leads a very sheltered life: and when Emily invites him to play outside he has no choice but to refuse – what if he hurts himself? Much better to stay safely indoors. But Emily is not one to take no for an answer . . .
A series of brilliantly funny and evocative letters between Frederick and Emily tell this unique story which weaves together the colourful, adventurous world of Emily with Frederick’s drab life of boredom and safety.
A new picture book from award-winning performance poet, Joseph Coelho.
This touching picture book subtly deals with big emotions such as loss, with an uplifting and hopeful message about being yourself and the importance of family and talking about worries.
Told through the voice of a little girl who is labelled as quiet and shy, No Longer Alone follows her tumult of emotions as she navigates the world around her. But when she finally shares her feelings and tells her Dad all the things that are worrying her, she no longer feels so alone.
Joseph’s warm, authentic voice offers an insightful take on the way children feel and how they perceive the world and it’s perfectly complimented by gorgeous artwork from talented new illustrator, Robyn Wilson-Owen.
A hugely endearing, very funny story about kindness, friendship and overcoming fears, from award-winning illustrator Maisie Paradise Shearring.
Anna and Otis the snake are great friends and they love having fun together. But Otis knows people are scared of snakes, so he usually just plays at home or in the garden. He is nervous when Anna suggests a new adventure.
At first people are afraid, and Otis feels he isn’t welcome in the town. But Anna encourages Otis not to give up, and it soon turns out that maybe snakes aren’t as scary as people thought! The hairdresser enjoys shampooing a reptile for a change, and at the skate shop Sally has a lot of fun fitting Otis with his own set of awesome wheels.
A very funny and lovable picture book tribute to grandparents and older people.
When you’re small, everybody bigger than you seems really old. But does being older have to mean being boring, or slow, or quiet? NO! Elina Ellis’ wonderful illustrations reveal that the age you are makes no difference to how amazing you can be.
From the winner of the Macmillan Prize for Illustration 2017, The Truth About Old People is an instant favourite with children and grown-ups that tackles ageism without being preachy. Elina has a great talent for characterful illustration: you’ll feel like you’ve known this family all your life.
When someone dies, we can feel a whole host of different emotions and explaining them to a child isn’t so easy. This book uses clear, easy-to-understand language to answer complex questions about death and how a child might feel when someone dies. It covers all manner of tricky subjects with sensitivity and honesty, from what death is to why people die.
Each double page spread takes a child through how they might feel, what they might think and how they might behave. With engaging illustrations, gentle guidance and simple advice for parents and carers, Let’s Talk About When Someone Dies fulfils an important but difficult need for starting conversations with children about death and bereavement, in an accessible and supportive way.
The brilliantly funny fifth book in the SAM WU series, starring the bravest scaredy-cat in the world! Perfect for reluctant readers and fans of Sam Copeland’s Charlie Changes into a Chicken, Tom Fletcher and Pamela Butchart.
There’s hardly anything that Sam Wu is afraid of. Unless you count ghosts, sharks, the dark and maybe even spiders. But definitely NOT zombies. Except for actual real ones maybe.
So when Sam’s arch nemesis, Ralph Zinkerman the Third announces that he has zombie werewolves living in his basement, for the first time ever, Sam really isn’t sure if he wants to be the one to save the day. Ralph has always been pretty mean to him and, well, just one little nibble from the zombie werewolves wouldn’t hurt that much, would it?
Common childhood fears dealt with in a hilarious, sensitive and accessible way.
It’s almost time for the vampire ball, and Isadora can’t wait! There’s just one problem: she’s got to compete in a talent show with the other vampire children. Isadora’s talents aren’t very vampire-y, what if the audience laugh at her? The show must go on, but will Isadora be brave enough to perform?