Picture books are a great resource to use when exploring feelings with children. As 12th June marks Empathy Day I wanted this piece to be about picture books which explore empathy well. I find it really tricky (as you know) to whittle down blog posts to “Top 10 books on…” but I did it and I have attempted to give a varied selection of picture books echoing empathy which you may like to share with your little ones.
This Zoo Is Not For You by Ross Collins.
The Zoo Is Not For You is a brilliant book written and illustrated by Ross Collins. A small platypus visits the zoo but all the animals think he is there for a job. The animals are quick to interview him, rather harshly, not knowing that he is actually visiting for a completely different reason. It will be sure to encourage much discussion about how to treat others and the sense of belonging. I have previously written a blog post on this book that you can find here.
How To Train The Perfect Parents by Rebecca Ashdown. *
This super picture book written and illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown does a great job at introducing empathy to young readers. It is a fun, colourful read that has a less serious tone then some of the picture books I have shared in this piece and will be a book that makes you giggle, especially the parents. Mimi is the adorable main character who appreciates that parents try but states that they don’t completely understand kids. “You cant blame them. Its because they’ve been trained.” Mimi has the solution though and believes if you follow her steps, parents will be trained to perfection. However, what if the tables are turned and you have to be a parent? This book is witty and fun but also has a great message of being empathetic. I’m sure it will have made Mimi think about all that her parents do for her and that actually learning together can be a great way of forming positive relationships.
Dogger by Shirley Hughes.
Dogger by Shirley Hughes is a book I have enjoyed since I was a child. It is a great pick for an empathetic text, filled with Shirley Hughes talented illustrations and a storyline that really makes you feel for the main character Dave who loses his favourite toy. Thankfully his big sister is on hand to help. First published in 1977, Dogger is still a well loved picture books in many homes.
Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival
This is a fantastic, diverse book with a great message for children. The story is centered around Norman who one day grows wings. He is amazed and delighted at his new wings but then it suddenly dawns on him that he is now “different” and worries how everyone will react. He feels the best thing to do is to disguise his wings but in doing this he becomes very sad. Enough is enough and Norman realizes that actually he should celebrate his wings and embrace what he has. He is a lot happier in doing so and finds that there are other children who also share his new feature.
Most People by Michael Lennah and illustrated by J.E. Morris.
This is a wonderful inclusive, diverse read that is a positive reminder that “Most people love to smile. Most people love to laugh. Most people are good people.” The book follows two families interacting with neighbours and strangers through the course of their day. The book highlights that we shouldn’t judge others by their appearance and whilst there are some people who do wrong the message of hope is echoed through out the book. The book is filled with brilliant illustrations that features people from varied backgrounds providing daily acts of kindness within their community and showing empathy so well.
Elmer by David McKee.
It is great to be you and it is great to be unique too. Whilst reading Elmer you can’t help but feel for this colourful elephant who realises that he is different from his fellow herd. He wants to look like everyone else and even disguises himself but in turn a day is dedicated to dressing up and appreciating individuality in this classic picture book.
The Last Chip by Duncan Beedie *
The Last Chip written and illustrated by Duncan Beedie is such a thought provoking read. Hunger and homelessness are not a popular theme for picture books but this is a book that has been completed so well. Duncan Beedie has produced a gently written story based on a very hungry pigeon who finds food in an unexpected place. I have previously written a blog post on this book which you can find here.
Lionel and the Lion’s Share by Lou Peacock and illustrated by Lisa Sheehan.
Lionel is a cake loving lion who has a little problem…he really cannot share. Lionel seems to be attracted to whatever is in his friends hands and eventually it results in a big upset. This is a brilliant picture book to share with particularly young readers exploring sharing, kindness and empathy. I have previously written a blog post about this book which you can find here.
Cinderella of the Nile by Beverley Naidoo and illustrated by Marjan Vafaeian. *
Tiny Owl publishers have announced a new series of picture books, One Story Many Voices which the book Cinderella of the Nile is part of. Many children are familiar with the story Cinderella and indeed Walt Disney and Grimm’s Fairy Tales have introduced many of us around the world with their version of Cinderella but what about a version that includes a Greek girl who is sold into slavery? Beverley Naidoo opens up your eyes to a different culture and it’s poetic retelling will have readers engaged and intrigued. Combined with Marjan Vafaeian’s illustrations this is a book that will have many readers exploring a range of feelings and introduce them to the red haired, blue eyed Rhodopis. I would recommend this picture book for children aged 7 years and up.
My Name is not Refugee by Kate Milner. *
This is such a moving book that will help young readers understand how some children are forced to leave their home. It is a powerful read that has questions on each page to encourage discussion, comments and conversation surrounding how we are so blessed with what we have but what if…? Kate Milner has created a book that is truly thought provoking and my list of picture books on empathy would not be complete without it.
Disclaimer: Books titled with * were received from the publishers however, all words and opinions are my own.