It’s never too soon to help kids learn how to notice, use, understand, manage and handle emotions. But it’s particularly helpful at the beginning of the school year, when there’s a lot of stuff to be emotional about. The following books are excellent places to start talking about emotional intelligence with kids. They are listed by suggested age and release date. The synopses are provided by the publishers.
AGES 3 AND UP
ONE UPSIDE-DOWNY DAY, by Renée Kurilla, Abrams Appleseed, Aug. 15, 2023, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 3-5)
From Renée Kurilla, author and illustrator of One Springy, Singy Day, comes an exploration of the not-so-great days of toddlerdom and the ways little ones can self-soothe to ease those upside-downy days away.
Eyes still looking sleepy;
You were in no mood to play
When you got out of bed today.
Follow a diverse cast of young children as they experience big feelings—anger, shyness, and sadness—in this patient, rhyming, full-color picture book. One Upside-Downy Day is a love letter to emotional understanding and the sometimes-gray days of being a toddler.
TOO MUCH!: AN OVERWHELMING DAY, by Jolene Gutiérrez and Angel Chang, Harry N. Abrams, Aug. 1, 2023, Hardcover, $15.99 (ages 3-5)
Sometimes everything is too much! Too loud, too bright, and all too overwhelming. Writing from her own experience with sensory processing disorder, award-winning teacher-librarian Jolene Gutiérrez’s compassionate picture book explores the struggles of a sensorily sensitive child and how they settle themselves. Joined by Angel Chang’s beautiful color illustrations, young readers will learn that it’s OK if some days are too much.
An extensive author’s note to caregivers and educators explores sensory systems, sensory processing issues, and specific information about how to support kids with overstimulated nervous systems as they learn to soothe themselves.
AGES 4 AND UP
WHERE DID BENJAMIN GO? by Chris Clarkson and Annalise Barber, Harry N. Abrams, Sept. 19, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)
When the snow falls, Charlie misses his brother more than anything else in the world. Daddy says that any time it snows Charlie can write down his five favorite things to do with Benjamin. The only problem is, there are hundreds of things to remember! Like playing in the pool, eating dessert before dinner, running in socked feet, planting daisies in the garden, and so much more.
As Charlie remembers Benjamin, he remembers a loving and playful big brother, and a house filled with happiness and joy. He soon discovers that Mom and Dad each have their own lists, and they can find their way by relying on one another.
From debut picture book creators Chris Clarkson and Annalise Barber comes an honest and authentic exploration of grief, hope, and family strength.
A powerful poetry picture book about the wonder and possibility contained in a single word: let.
Suppose there was a book full only of the word let . . .
Adapted from a poem called “Book of Genesis” by the award-winning poet Kei Miller and beautifully imagined and illustrated by Diana Ejaita, this provocative and hopeful picture book is an ode to the power of words and of books—of seeing oneself and being seen—and to a world of wonder and possibility.
YOU CAN!: KIDS EMPOWERING KIDS, by Alexandra Strick and Steve Antony, Candlewick, Oct. 11, 2022, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)
You can . . . be brave, challenge yourself, overcome your fears, be kind, be YOU! Come on an amazing journey with fourteen young people as they grow from birth to eighteen, learning new skills, exploring new worlds, standing up for their own and others’ rights, and following their dreams. Created in consultation with real young adults, Alexandra Strick’s narrative will inspire and empower young people of all ages and abilities to believe in themselves and follow their own path, especially during tough times. Complemented by Steve Antony’s inclusive artwork, which introduces fourteen comparable fictional characters and tracks their growth page by page, You Can! is a timely and meaningful gift for any reader marking significant milestones.
WAYS TO PLAY, by Lyn Miller-Lachmann and Gabriel Alborozo, Levine Querido, Aug. 8, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-7)
Riley has plenty of ways to play; like lining up dolls and stuffies by size and shape. Tearing up newspapers and making piles into mountains, using sharp crayons to draw big swirly patterns. But bossy cousin Emma thinks those ways are wrong, wrong, and wrong. And she makes no bones about letting Riley know exactly what her opinion is. Fortunately, Charlie the dog is on hand to help with a breakthrough demonstration that there are MANY ways to play; and all of them are right.
BLUE: THE MANY WAYS I FEEL (The Colors of My Life), by Nancy Johnson James and Constance Moore, Harry N. Abrams, Aug. 1, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 4-8)
In an emotional ode to the color blue—and the blues—The Many Ways I Feel features a colorful collage of watercolor and textile eye-catching art.
Full of feeling and wonder, a child describes all the beautiful shades of blue they feel—from a pale winter sky to a bright ocean wave, from deep twilight to the musical blues—and discovers that one has the power to change one’s many blues into a song or a poem, blue into gold.
ODE TO A BAD DAY, by Chelsea Lin Wallace and Hyewon Yum, Chronicle Books, April 18, 2023, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 4-8)
Oh Too Much Milk in My Cereal!
Soggy, squishy! Boggy, mushy!
You turned my crispy into gushy!
Sometimes the small disappointments and inconveniences in kids’ days can feel much bigger than they are. And when they start multiplying . . . oh, what a bad day it can become! Told in a series of dramatic odes to a day’s annoyances, Ode to a Bad Day lets children and caregivers alike find the humor and compassion in the days that could have gone better—and encourages readers to look forward to a better day . . . tomorrow.
AGES 5 AND UP
INVISIBLE THINGS, by Andy J. Pizza and Sophie Miller, Chronicle Books, July 18, 2023, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 5-8)
If we could put on a pair of magical invisible glasses and see all the feelings, ideas, and other invisible things that populate our world, what would they look like? Could you see an itch? Could you describe hope? From the sound of a dog barking to the rainbow-MAGIC taste of a lollipop, from gratitude to grit, this book will help you meet the many interesting sensations that follow you every day, even if you can’t see them.
Explore the way a sad song can sometimes make you happy and discover that laughs—even fake ones—can multiply faster than you’d imagine. As readers give these unknown forces a name, they’ll also find a gentle invitation to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on the invisible things at work in their own lives.
Copyright © 2023 Cracking the Cover. Unless otherwise noted, all books — digital and physical — have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest and unbiased reviews. All thoughts and opinions are those of the reviewer.