We asked children’s book publishers to tell us about some of their more recent efforts to market and promote books that encompass social and emotional learning themes. In addition to sharing how they connect with educators, librarians, caregivers, and counselors, publishers also pointed to some of the top titles they’ve been spotlighting in this area, and we’ve compiled them as a resource list.
Though there are surely many books focused on SEL themes—including some that are very well-known and loved—this list intentionally focuses on publishers’ most recent SEL-related titles.
Abracadabra!: The Magic of Trying by Maria Loretta Giraldo, illus. by Nicoletta Bertelle (Magination), shines a light on perseverance and the discovery of one’s inner magic. Ages 4–8.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illus. by Suzanne Kaufman (Random/Knopf), follows a group of diverse children through a day at their school, where everyone is welcomed, supported, and encouraged, and friends from a wide variety of cultures share their traditions with each other. Ages 4–8.
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan (S&S/Salaam Reads). Amina, a Pakistani-American Muslim struggles with whether she should hide her true self to try and fit in and be more American like her best friend has done, as she copes with middle school dramas and a devastating vandalism attack on her local mosque. Ages 9–up.
Be Mindful, Donald!: A Mickey & Friends Story by Vickie Saxon, illus. by Disney Storybook Artists (Lerner/Disney Learning) is one of four titles in the Disney Everyday Stories series, which features Disney characters tackling various SEL themes. Ages 4–7.
Being Edie Is Hard Today by Ben Brashares, illus. by Elizabeth Bergeland (Little, Brown, spring 2019). A girl imagines transforming into different animals to deal with the challenge of managing her emotions at school.
Being You by Alexs Pate, illus. by Soud (Capstone, Oct.). Two children discover that they have a choice about how the world sees them in a story that delivers a message of love, self-discovery, and optimism.
The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates, illus. by Juniper Bates (S&S/Wiseman). A smiling umbrella grows wide enough to accommodate everyone who needs its shelter, no matter what they look like—even when it seems like there won’t be room—in this picture book about tolerance and inclusion. Ages 4–8.
Boo-Boo! by Carol Zeavin and Rhona Silverbush, illus. by Jon Davis (Magination, Oct.), launches the Terrific Toddlers board book series, in which readers see kids experiencing different emotions and learning to cope with them. Ages 2–3.
A Box of Butterflies by Jo Rooks (Magination). Ruby explains emotions to her robot who doesn’t know what they are or what they might feel like. Ages 4–8.
The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul (Macmillan/Roaring Brook). When bad news breaks over the TV and everyone becomes upset, a girl discovers how one small act of kindness can help unite a community in resilience and optimism. Ages 4–8.
The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions by Anna Llenas (Little, Brown, Sept.). A girl helps Color Monster understand the jumble of emotions he’s experiencing by explaining what each feeling means through color. Ages 3–6.
Colors of the Rain by R.L. Toalson (Little Bee, Sept.). In this novel in verse, a 10-year-old boy and his family deal with loss and discover family secrets during the desegregation struggle in 1972 Houston. Ages 10–14.
The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi (Chronicle, Aug. 21). Crocodile has a toothache but is afraid to go to the dentist. The dentist wants to help but is afraid of Crocodile. Both learn to overcome their fears. Ages 3–5.
Crunch, The Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap, illus. by Greg Pizzoli (Random House), features a sensitive and quiet brontosaurus who would like to make a new friend. Ages 3–7.
Give Me Back My Book! by Travis Foster, illus. by Ethan Long (Chronicle, 2017), offers a humorous take on conflict resolution. Ages 3–5.
Good Rosie! by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Harry Bliss (Candlewick, Sept.). When Rosie, a timid dog, is taken to a dog park by her owner, she tries to figure out the trick to making friends.. Ages 5–8.
Grow Happy by Jon Lasser and Sage Foster-Lasser, illus. by Christopher Lyles (Magination, 2017). Young Kiko demonstrates for readers how she grows happy, by doing such things as making good choices, taking care of her body and mind, and paying attention to her feelings. Ages 4–8.
Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang, illus. by Max Lang (Random House). Jim Panzee loudly insists he’s not grumpy when his friends try to cheer him out of a funk, realizing sometimes you just have to ride out a wave of unexpected emotions. Ages 3–7.
Harrison P. Spader, Personal Space Invader by Christianne Jones, illus. by Cale Atkinson (Capstone/Picture Window). Harrison the hippo learns a “space saver” credo that helps him recognize appropriate personal space and change his behaviors of sitting too close, hugging too much, and high-fiving too hard. Ages 3–6.
Hazelnut Days by Emmanuel Bourdier, illus. by Zaü Zaü (Minedition), chronicles a boy’s weekly visits with his father in prison. Ages 5–7.
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, illus. by Shawn Harris (Chronicle, 2017). This nonfiction title explores the history of the Statue of Liberty and reminds readers of the message of welcome and acceptance that it stands for. Ages 6–9.
How to Be a Lion by Ed Vere (Random/Doubleday). Leonard, a gentle lion, and his best friend Marianne, a duck, use thoughtfulness—and a poem—to stand up for their individuality and their friendship when a pack of bully lions questions whether it’s appropriate for a duck and lion to be pals. Ages 3–7.
How to Be an Earthling: One Small Step for Spork by Lori Haskins Houran, illus. by Jessica Warrick (Kane Press), is the latest in this sci-fi/fantasy/adventure chapter book series that focuses on a positive character trait (e.g. patience, cooperation) for each book. Ages 6–9.
I Feel Teal by Lauren Rille, illus. by Aimée Sicuro (S&S/Beach Lane), encourages young readers to express their feelings through color. Ages 3–8.
I Just Like You by Suzanne Bloom (Boyds Mills, Nov.) features a cast of animals who like and accept each other despite, and because of, their differences. Ages 4–8.
I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black, illus. by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (S&S). When Flamingo is sad, his friends—a girl and a potato—try to cheer him up, but more importantly they just stick by him, no matter how he feels. Ages 4–8.
I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët (Random/Schwartz & Wade). In this wordless picture book inspired by a true story, a fellow student sees new girl Vanessa beset upon by bullies and decides to go to her house and offer to walk her to school the next day. Ages 4–8.
In It Together: A Story of Fairness by Kristin Johnson, illus. by Mike Byrne (Lerner/Cloverleaf), is one of seven titles launched earlier this year in the Stories with Character series. Ages 4–8.
In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner (Macmillan/Wednesday). Seventeen-year-old Klee wakes up in a mental health facility and begins working his way back to wellness after a breakdown, which may have been triggered by grief over his father’s suicide. Ages 15–up.
Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings by Naseem Hrab, illus. by Josh Holinaty (Owlkids, Oct.). Ira experiences a wave of emotions after a disagreement with his best friend. Ages 5–8.
Jack (Not Jackie) by Erica Silverman, illus. by Holly Hatam (Little Bee, Oct.). Jackie asserts that she doesn’t like dresses or long hair and would rather be called Jack. Ages 4–8.
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Candlewick). When young Julián observes three women on the subway spectacularly dressed up as mermaids, he wants to do the same, and expresses himself with his own fabulous DIY mermaid costume. Ages 4–8.
Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More by Mallika Chopra, illus. by Brenna Vaughan (Running Press Kids, Aug. 28), kicks off a series that includes practical exercises for self-soothing, meditation, yoga, and other self-awareness practices. Ages 8–12.
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, Oct.). Twelve-year-old Louisiana copes with change yet again when her granny wakes her in the middle of the night to move them to a small town in 1977 Georgia filled with colorful characters and, thankfully, an empathetic new friend. Ages 9–13.
Marwan’s Journey by Patricia de Arias, illus. by Laura Borràs (Minedition), tells the tale of young Marwan, a child refugee bravely traveling an uncertain path fleeing war and in search of safety in a new land. Ages 5–7.
Me and Mister P by Maria Farrer, illus. by Daniel Rieley (Sky Pony, Nov.). A polar bear with a suitcase shows up to help Arthur deal with the feelings he experiences living with a sibling with a disability, in this middle grade novel. Ages 8–12.
Mindful Me: Mindfulness and Meditation for Kids by Whitney Stuart, illus. by Stacy Peterson (Albert Whitman), is a guide that introduces mindfulness as a way of managing stress, handling difficult emotions, and navigating personal challenges. Ages 9–12.
Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung (Macmillan/Holt). An argument about which color is best leads to a resolution that provides a message of acceptance, unity, and embracing differences. Ages 4–8.
Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown (Shadow Mountain, 2017). Twelve-year-old Maddie faces middle school drama and her newly diagnosed life-threatening brain tumor with her bold imagination and quirky sense of humor, including a fondness for sporting fake mustaches in this novel inspired by the true story of the authors’ daughter. Ages 8–11.
My Mixed Emotions: Help Your Kids Handle Their Feelings, with a foreword by Maureen Healy (DK, Oct.), is a guide that helps kids explore the four main emotions—happiness, anger, fear, and sadness—and the science behind why we feel each one. Ages 7–10.
My Year in the Middle by Lila Quintero Weaver (Candlewick). In 1970 Alabama, sixth grader Lu discovers her talent for running as she navigates the challenges of racial tensions as well as the friendships and cliques of middle school. Ages 8–12.
No Swimming for Nelly by Valeri Gorbachev (Holiday House). Nelly’s swimming champion grandma helps her overcome her fear of the water. Ages 4–8.
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex (Chronicle, 2017). Orange feels left out when a fruit parade makes up rhyming songs about how wonderful they are in this book about celebrating difference and inclusion. Ages 5–8.
One Wave at a Time: A Story about Grief and Healing by Holly Thompson, illus. by Ashley Crowley (Albert Whitman). Kai experiences a variety of feelings after his father dies and his family tries to adjust to life without Dad. Ages 4–8.
Quiet by Tomie dePaola (S&S, Oct.), reminds readers that in a busy, hurried world, mindfulness—described as “being quiet, still, and present with one another”—is a special and important thing. Ages 4–8.
Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton (Random/Knopf). The creators of The Invisible Boy introduce a boy who won’t stop talking, until he gets laryngitis and can finally hear what other people have to say. Ages 5–8.
Rescue and Jessica: A Life Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illus. by Scott Magoon (Candlewick, 2017). Jessica, whose left leg was recently amputated, forms a close bond with her service dog, Rescue, as they overcome their fears together. The authors are both survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing and are both amputees. Ages 5–9.
Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans by Tina Cho, illus. by Keum Jin Song (Little Bee), is a true story of bravery and compassion as a girl and her community in South Korea deliver rice via balloons to their starving neighbors to the north. Ages 4–8.
Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson (Carolrhoda, 2016), tells the true tale of a six-year-old girl who survived the Aug. 9, 1945, bombing in Japan and chronicles her long journey to find peace. Ages 12–18.
Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illus. by Jennifer Zivoin (Magination), follows two families—one black, one white—as they discuss the shooting of a black man in their community by a police officer. Ages 4–8.
Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown (Shadow Mountain, Oct.). As he gradually loses his eyesight due to disease, 13-year-old Flint, aka Squint, copes with bullying and rushes to finish his beloved comic book project so he can enter it in a contest. Ages 8–11.
The Story Circle/El círculo de cuentos by Diane Gonzalez Bertrand, illus. by Wendy Martin, trans. by Caroline E. Alonso (Arte Público/Piñata, 2016), depicts a teacher and a classroom of children coping with the devastation from the flood that ravaged their school. Ages 4–7.
The Thank You Book by Mary Lyn Ray, illus. by Stephanie Graegin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sept.), celebrates the positive impact of gratitude and explores the numerous ways that thankfulness can manifest during a child’s day. Ages 4–8.
This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World by Matt Lamothe (Chronicle, 2017) depicts how children from various places may play different games or eat different food, but all have a similar rhythm to their days. Ages 4–9.
This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From by Jamie Lee Curtis, illus. by Laura Cornell (Workman, 2016), which addresses immigration and identity issues in a story that encourages readers to imagine what they might pack in a small suitcase if it was all they could take from their home when they moved to a new country. Ages TK.
What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers, illus. by Shawn Harris (Chronicle, Sept.), explores what it means to be a good citizen and challenges readers to get involved. Ages 5–8.
What Happens Next by Susan Hughes, illus. by Carey Sookocheff (Owlkids). An unnamed narrator relates the experience of being bullied at school and how they confront the bully with an opportunity to find common ground. Ages 4–up.
What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee (Atheneum/Dlouhy). Three years after his father’s suicide, 16-year-old Will decides to stop being complacent in his grief and to perform kindnesses and do good in the world. Ages 14–up.
When the Cousins Came by Katie Yamasaki (Holiday House). Lila’s great expectations for a fun visit with her cousins are dampened when they arrive and she realizes how different they are from her: they eat with chopsticks, they prefer skateboards to bikes, and they don’t want to camp outside. But the trio of kids, who are based on the author’s own multicultural family, become friends as they introduce each other to new ideas. Ages 4–8.
Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez, illus. by Sabra Field (Triangle Square, 2016), is a poem about the questions and emotions that manifest when coping with death and grief. Ages 3–7.
Who Needs a Hug?: A Finding Dory Story by Beth Sycamore, illus. by Disney Storybook Artists (Lerner/Disney Learning) is one of four titles in the Disney Everyday Stories series, which features Disney characters tackling various SEL themes. Ages 4-7.
Why the Face? by Jean Jullien (Phaidon), provides a guessing game of facial reactions that encourages readers to practice empathy and build emotional intelligence. Ages 2–4.
Will Bear Share? (Scholastic/Cartwheel) and Will Giraffe Laugh? (Scholastic/Cartwheel, Jan. 2019) by Hilary Lueng are two board books in a series that introduces the concept of paying it forward. Ages 1-4.
Yoga for Kids: Simple First Steps in Yoga and Mindfulness by Susannah Hoffman, foreword by Patricia Arquette (DK, Sept.), contains more than 50 poses and activities such as mindful games designed to support a child’s positive mental health. Ages 6–9.