Children's Books About Feelings Recommended by the Teen Reading Ambassadors

By Rachel Roseberry, Manager, Young Adult Literacy Programs
July 13, 2021

NYPL’s Teen Reading Ambassadors program brings together 10th–12th grade students from across New York City to learn about the Library and help further its mission to inspire lifelong learning in others, particularly young children. Below are book recommendations for kids ages 5 –12 selected by Ambassadors that explore all of the big feelings we experience as we grow up. From figuring out what to do when you have your first big fight with your best friend to learning how to get through frustration when something doesn’t go your way to celebrating what makes you unique, these books showcase all of the emotions that make us human. 

The Rabbit Listened written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld

Ages 5–8Recommended by Natalie U.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld begins with Taylor’s big tower getting knocked down. Taylor doesn't know what to do, but soon different animals come to give him advice. A chicken, a bear, an elephant, a hyena, an ostrich, and a snake all tell Taylor the different ways he could handle his disappointment and frustration. But then a rabbit comes and just sits with Taylor to listen. The rabbit doesn't speak or leave Taylor but does his best to let his presence be enough. Through all these different animals and their responses, the story teaches the power of empathy and listening. Like Taylor, people struggle with how to react when something doesn't go their way or work out. This picture book is the perfect way to show young kids how to handle situations with compassion and the stages it takes to get there.

Pokko and the Drum written and illustrated Matthew Forsythe

Ages 5–8Recommended by Jessica Y.

Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe is a colorful adventure where a young frog explores one of her many dreams: drumming. Pokko’s mom and dad are very supportive of Pokko’s dreams, but even the kindest parents have their limits. The three of them make up a happy and quiet froggy family deep in the woods, and Pokko’s dad wants it to stay that way. But Pokko wants to drum; she drums up a storm in the middle of dinner, she drums up a party wherever she goes, and she drums so much that her dad starts to get mad. In this whimsical world of colorful patterns and textures, the music, the animals, and the forest all come to life to hear Pokko’s drum. Pokko wants to try out many things, and right now she wants to try the drums. Will her dad let her continue to play? What will her forest friends think? Follow the beat of Pokko’s drum as she drums up the magic of the forest in Pokko and the Drum

My Brother Charlie written by Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete and illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Ages 5–8Recommended by Emma S. 

Beautifully written and illustrated, My Brother Charlie offers a glimpse into the complex world of autism, but also into family relationships more generally. Above all else, it is a story of acceptance. Callie’s twin brother Charlie has autism, and she explains the struggles and beauty that come along with that diagnosis—from playing hand games to saying "I love you," and all the little moments in between. Though sometimes Callie wished she could rearrange Charlie’s brain, she helps us to understand that everyone is perfect in their own unique way, and that her brother is not defined by his autism. Callie and Charlie know that love is more important than anything else and that it does not discriminate. 

Spork written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Ages 5–8Recommended by Isabella B.

Have you ever felt like you don’t quite fit in? If you have, you may have something in common with Spork, a spork who just doesn’t fit in with all of the other utensils. He’s not a spoon, yet he’s not a fork either, which makes him different from others around him. Although this book is only 36 pages long, it is packed with adventure and self-discovery. Throughout this story, Spork goes on a journey on the road to figure out where he fits in in a community filled with forks and spoons. Lively illustrations will guide you through the world of utensils who each have a mind of their own. As conflict strikes in a seemingly peaceful utensil community, will Spork be able to help the utensils tame the chaos? Will Spork ever truly fit in with the other utensils? Read Spork by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault to find out!

Big Feelings written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

Ages 5–8Recommended by Tsering S.

How are you feeling? Are you feeling happy or sad? Maybe you're feeling excited or tired? Or are you feeling something completely different? In the picture book Big Feelings by Alexanda Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, children of all backgrounds identify how they are feeling, and every single kid is feeling something different! This picture book has colorful visuals which represent all of our feelings and emotions. Whether it’s being as scared as a cat or as calm as a butterfly, we all have big feelings that we need to express. Every one of us feels different in certain situations, and we may feel like no one will understand. So, how do we come together and understand everyone’s feelings? And how do we manage these feelings that we all have? You will have to read the book all the way to the end to find out!

You Matter written and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Ages 5–8Recommended by Nayesha K.

You Matter by Christian Robinson is an amazing book. It paints the world around us—the insects, the parks and the roads we cross to get to school.  At the same time it also looks at the world inside us—the times we feel lost or when something is out of reach or when everyone is so busy and they forget about us. The book has such beautiful pictures of places we know and visit everyday. It’s a great book for those moments when you just want to look at pictures or be read to. And it's also a book for those times when it just hasn’t been your day and you want to fly away to another world!

Best Friends in the Universe written by Stephanie Watson and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Ages 6–9Recommended by Shazia C.

Do you have a best friend? What is their name? Don’t you just love spending time with them? Then, you have to read this book! Best Friends in the Universe is about two best friends (Hector and Louie) who wrote the book together! They tell us all about their friendship and just why they are best friends. But wait! Have you ever gotten into an argument with your best friend?! Oh no, Hector and Louie are mad at each other! What do you think will happen? You just HAVE to open it up and see for yourself! P.S. This book will make you giggle until your tummy hurts, and it has epic drawings!

Arlo & Pips: King of the Birds written and illustrated by Elise Gravel

Ages 5–9Recommended by Lisa W.

In this fun and colorful graphic story by Elise Gravel, Arlo the Crow tries to convince his new bird friend, Pip, how awesome he is. As the new bird in the city, Arlo doesn’t know how to make proper friends and comes off as extremely self-centered. Pip isn’t so sure about Arlo’s claims and is highly suspicious of how prideful Arlo can be. Eventually, the pair learn more about authentic friendship building, and Pip decides to be his first pal and tour guide around the city! However, Arlo still wants to prove himself and all the cool things he can do. After all, crows are the king of the birds! In their newfound friendship, Arlo and Pip fly around the city to collect shiny objects, eat fries, and so much more. Follow along this light-hearted yet educational story–it’ll surely have you chuckling and learning so much more about crows.