Peters’ recommended reads for wellbeing

October 8th, 2018

This year, the focus of Libraries Week is wellbeing. Growing up is harder than ever in today’s media dominated world, and children and young people of all ages need the tools and support to prioritise their mental health and ensure their wellbeing. Only then can potential be realised, and a generation of resilient, healthy and confident individuals raised. With this in mind, our librarians have selected a range of books suitable for children and young people of all ages to help schools offer the necessary support.



Willy and the cloud By Anthony Browne

General information – Willy worries about a cloud that keeps growing larger when anxieties hold him back from enjoying himself.

How can Willy get away from the cloud that follows him everywhere? He can’t hide and he can’t escape.

There is only one thing he can do. Willy will have to stand up to it.

From the former Children’s Laureate and twice winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal comes a stunning and perceptive story about worry and anxiety, featuring his much loved chimp, Willy.

– Lovely characterful artwork, the plot doesn’t really work as a story in itself, but could be a great vehicle for discussing worries and how to handle them.



Missing Jack By Rebecca Elliott

General information – A boy reminisces about his beloved pet cat who has died and all the lovely things he remembers about him.

Toby’s cat, Jack, is THE best cat EVER. But Jack is getting old – and Toby will miss his furry best friend terribly when he’s gone.

Then Toby meets a crazy cat called Humphrey…

Review – Pleasant handling of a sensitive issue with expressive illustrations and a clear touch of humour. Lovely addition to PSHE and situation collections.



The cranky caterpillar By Richard Graham

General information – A girl discovers a grumpy caterpillar playing her piano one day and sets about to try and cheer him up.

One day Ezra hears a gloomy blue tune coming from the piano. To her surprise, it’s a caterpillar making the sound: a cranky caterpillar.

Ezra tries to cheer him up with some fresh air, cakes, and new hats, but nothing seems to work…

What can Ezra do to help the cranky caterpillar change his tune?

Children will identify with the struggle the caterpillar goes through, in trying to articulate his emotions, and will delight in the inventive band of friends that succeed in cheering him up.

NOTE : The author/illustrator is an artist who creates characters from everyday objects, including caterpillars made from old pianos. His 3D art is clearly reflected in some of the illustrations.

Review – Simply lovely tale with illustrations that perfectly capture the changing moods of the characters. Beautiful and unique in a subdued, distinctive style. Great for sharing.



Turtle comes out of her shell By Sue Graves

General information – A young turtle learns to overcome her shyness during a talent contest at school

Turtle has a beautiful singing voice, but she feels far too shy to enter the talent show at school. By talking to her friends about it, she develops a way to overcome her shyness in a way that works for her.

This funny, charming story is the perfect way to introduce young children to being brave when they feel shy and help them find ways to feel more confident. Also included are suggestions for activities and ideas to talk through together to help children fully understand how their behaviour can impact on others.

The Behaviour Matters series of picture books provide a gentle means of discussing emotions, boosting self-esteem and reinforcing good behaviour. Supports the Personal, Social and Emotional Development Area of Learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage, and is also suitable for use with children in KS1 and can be used to discuss values. Suitable for children under 5.

Review – Cartoon-style illustrations and story format approach are very accessible to target age group, and advice is positive if a little basic. Useful for one-to-one class use or special situation collections.



My mixed emotions By Elinor Greenwood

General information – A manual to help children recognise their emotions and how to deal with these feelings.

This super-useful book is packed with helpful hints, tips, and techniques showing children how to recognise and express their emotions.

What is going on inside your heart and your head?

Happiness, fear, anger, sadness… with so many feelings to feel, it’s easy to get in a muddle!

Unmix your feelings with this book as you learn how to recognise, express, and deal with each one. You’ll soon discover that feelings are your friends – you just have to get to know them!

Review – What a lovely book!! Great photos and illustrations add to the appeal. Very useful to support LKS2 PHSE discussion.



Feeling mad By Kirsty Holmes

General information – Explores the emotion of anger, why we might get mad, and what we can do to overcome this emotion.

Somewhere, some time ago, the Agents of F.E.E.L.S. were formed. Working together to Feel Every Emotion Like Superheroes, our helpful heroes are here to assist YOU, the unsuspecting reader, understand the emotions that are trying to mess up YOUR day!

Instantly engaging comic-book style will grab young readers. Engaging superhero characters will help children relate to real situations. Easy, comic-style text suitable for all levels of reading ability.

Fun and approachable style helps kids to discover and understand their emotions. Interesting storylines mixed with factual discussion helps young readers talk about feelings.

Review – Photos are horribly staged and the racoon is downright scary at times! But the superhero theme and phraseology will be relatable to target age group. Fine for school or parents collections.



Elmer’s walk By David McKee

General information – Elmer takes the time to enjoy his surroundings as he takes a walk through the jungle, as other animals rush around, too busy to notice.

Elmer is enjoying his walk: smelling the flowers, watching the clouds, listening to the waterfall. But each time he points out one of these lovely things to the other animals, they all say they don’t have time to stop. They’re far too busy. Luckily Wilbur arrives at last and shares Elmer’s enjoyment in the stars.

A celebration of mindfulness from master-storyteller David McKee.

Review – Plot is slight but it’s a great vehicle for showing children how to slow down & be mindful. Gorgeously illustrated as always, good for PSHE discussions.



Ruby’s Worry By Tom Percival

General information – A little girl has a worry that follows her around getting bigger and bigger each day, until she discovers that if she talks about it, the worry shrinks and eventually disappears.

Ruby loves being Ruby. Until, one day, she finds a worry. At first it’s not such a big worry, and that’s all right, but then it starts to grow. It gets bigger and bigger every day and it makes Ruby sad. How can Ruby get rid of it and feel like herself again?

Review – A really sweet story with effective illustrations that covers the theme of worrying in a sensitive and accessible way. Lovely for discussion.



How are you feeling today? By Molly Potter

General information – A guide for children and parents on how to cope with emotional responses to situations

Children have strong feelings, and they can’t always handle them very well. Every parent knows what it’s like to cope with an angry, hurt or wildly over-excited child.

Perfect for sharing, this book is packed with fun, imaginative ways to help children understand and cope with emotions.

It gives you the tools you and your child need to deal with those feelings – without it all ending in tears!

Review – Cute illustrations coupled with useful coping strategies and reassurances for KS1/2. Good for topic support or parents collections.



Big bad owl By Steve Smallman

General information – A group of animals try to make a grumpy owl happy, but learn that the owl actually likes being in a bad mood.

Feeling cranky? Out of sorts? Perhaps a teeny bit tetchy? Then flap off over to Scowl’s grumpy branch for a good old grouch and grumble…

Everybody wants to cheer Scowl up, but there’s one thing that makes him the happiest owl in the world – and that’s being in a good old grump!

Review – Very amusing story with characterful illustrations and an unusual but satisfying ending. A good buy.



The memory tree By Britta Teckentrup

General information – Fox has lived a long and happy life in the forest. One day, he lies down in his favourite clearing, takes a deep breath and falls asleep for ever. Before long, Fox’s friends begin to gather in the clearing.

One by one, they tell stories of the special moments that they shared with Fox. And, as they share their memories, a tree blooms, big and strong, eventually watching over all the friends, just as Fox did when he was alive.

This gentle and comforting tale celebrates life and the memories that are left behind when a loved one dies.

Review – Lovely tale complemented well by gentle illustrations. Sweet without being too cloying & a very useful handling of the issue. Ideal for situation collections.



Slug needs a hug! By Jeanne Willis

General information – A little slug wonders why his mother won’t hug him and endeavours to make himself more appealing to her.

When it begins to bug slug that his mummy doesn’t hug him, he leaves home to find out why.

Kitten suggests he should be furrier, so he puts on a woolly hat while Bird suggests he needs a beak. Soon, Slug has a new look, will his mummy hug him now?

NOTE: Lollies shortlist 2016

Review – Cute main character, driving rhyme and amusing resolution and Ross’ illustrations are the perfect complement. Just begs to be read aloud, buy buy, buy!




A book about depression By Holly Duhig

General information – Explains what depression is, how it affects people and what can be done to help people overcome it.

This informative and supportive series explores in detail some common mental health issues affecting the lives of children today.

Working to tackle and de-stigmatise mental health issues, these creative and factual titles explore conditions such as ADHD, OCD, anxiety and depression. Readers can learn about causes, symptoms and practical coping strategies including mindfulness, talking therapies and when to ask for professional help.

We look at how to look after our own mental health, and support others around you. Developed with support from leading children’s mental health professionals and key workers.

Book banded by publisher

Review – Sensible, objective and accessible advice and information. Some of the stock photos don’t quite fit the text, but overall this is a useful resource.



All Birds Have Anxiety By Kathy Hoopmann

General information – Through text and humorous pictures of birds, imparts information about anxiety, how it affects people and what can be done to manage it.

Life as a bird can be stressful! From worrying about airplanes, windows and getting enough worms to eat, it is clear that birds can be anxious beings.

Through a humorous, quizzical depiction of bird behaviour, this book validates everyday experiences of anxiety, provides an understanding of the associated symptoms and offers compassionate coping strategies.

Review – Maybe a tad long & would be best with adult input but text is measured, reassuring & perfectly offset with humorous pics. Could suit a wide spectrum of age groups/readers.



Fish Boy By Chloe Daykin

General information – A shy, introverted boy develops inner strength and confidence through wild swimming.

Billy is a lonely boy. He’s obsessed with swimming in the sea, which is where he goes to wash his problems far, far away. Thanks to his mum’s mystery illness, his dad has been forced to work extra hours to make ends meet, so Billy locks himself away with David Attenborough films, and ponders the magic of nature.

Meanwhile at school, bullies mercilessly seize on Billy’s ‘otherness’ and make his life as miserable as possible – but then new boy Patrick Green, with “fingers like steel, strength of a bear” joins Billy’s class.

And when a mackerel swims up to Billy’s face, blows bubbles into his Vista Clear Mask goggles and says: ‘Fish Boy’ – Billy’s whole world changes.

Accompanied by gorgeous illustrations by Richard Jones.

NOTE : Billy enjoys wild swimming and often swims alone in the ocean. He is a confident swimmer but, nevertheless, on one occasion, he swims too far out to sea and has to be rescued.

Branford Boase Shortlist 2018

Review – Original, lyrical story of self-realisation. Quirky, dream-like sequences may not appeal to all but the uplifting conclusion is satisfying.



All the things that could go wrong By Stewart Foster

General information – Two boys, one of whom has been bullying the other, are forced to spend the summer cooperating together in the building of a raft.

Dan is angry. Nothing has been the same since his big brother left and he’s taking it out on the nearest and weakest target: Alex.

Alex is struggling. His OCD makes it hard for him to leave the house, especially when Dan and his gang are waiting for him at school.

Then the boys’ mums arrange for them to meet up and finish building the raft that Dan started with his brother. Two enemies stuck together for the whole of the school holidays – what could possibly go wrong?

Overflowing with power and warmth, the second book by Stewart Foster, author of “The Bubble Boy,” will linger long in the mind.

Review – Heart-warming tale of friendship with believable main characters and a pleasing resolution. Slightly too rosy in places but overall a good read.



Exploring emotions By Paul Christelis

General information – Explains the range of emotions people can experience and how to cope with them through a story about a school sports day.

Everyone notices the weather outside, right? But did you realise that weather occurs inside of you too? In fact, it is here right now.

It’s a hot and sunny Sports Day, but Abu’s internal weather is different. He is feeling nervous and scared. For Abu, feeling nervous is like watching a storm approaching: it can be scary. Manisha’s weather is different. She feels angry. Anger is like a burning, hot sun.

Kenton feels sad. For Kenton, sadness feels like a grey, drizzly day that seems to last forever. But they all soon discover that emotions are like the weather, changing throughout the day.

Sometimes the weather feels pleasant; when we feel happy, relieved or excited. And sometimes it feels unpleasant; when we feel anger, sadness or frustration. But we don’t have to worry about getting stuck with unpleasant emotions because, just like the weather outside, the weather inside will change too. This book teaches readers to enjoy the pleasant feelings when they are present, and remember that the unpleasant ones will pass.

The four stories in the ‘Mindful Me’ series explore how a mindful attitude to life can enhance enjoyment, promote a sense of calm and confidence, and provide young people with a ‘friend for life’. In this book, children are gently guided into mindfulness exercises that encourage an exploration of emotions. Mindfulness can help us to improve concentration, calm unpleasant emotions, and even boost our immune systems.

The books can be used at home or in the classroom, for story time or as part of the PSHE curriculum.

Review – Covers a range of emotions which are explained in simple, child-friendly terms. Nice for a low-level introduction to the topic. Better for discussion.



Mental well-being and mindfulness By Katie Woolley

General information – Explains the importance of looking after your mental health.

Your mental well-being is as important as your physical health. Good mental health increases self-confidence and self-esteem as well as helping you to cope with any stressful situations.

Bullying, worry and anxiety can all affect mental health. Learn how to help tackle these problems by looking after your mental health, from finding time to have fun with friends, to eating well, exercising or trying some easy mindfulness techniques.

At the back are notes for parents and teachers that provide additional advice and support as well as further activity ideas and information. These titles support the science curriculum at Key Stage One and Key Stage 2, as well as PSHE topics.

Review – Thoughtful, clear guide that offers good advice and nice illustrations add to the appeal. Useful for both schools and home use. Good for discussion.



Outsmarting worry By Dawn Huebner

General information – Examines ways in which children can be helped to cope with anxiety

Worry has a way of growing, shifting from not-a-big-deal to a VERY BIG DEAL in the blink of an eye. This big-deal Worry is tricky, luring children into behaviours that keep the anxiety cycle going. Children often find it hard to fight back against Worry, but not anymore.

Outsmarting Worry teaches children and the adults who care about them a specific set of skills that makes it easier to face and overcome worries and fears. Smart, practical, proven techniques are presented in language immediately accessible to children with an emphasis on shifting from knowing to doing, from worried to happy and free.

NOTE : Contains US spellings and terminology throughout.

Review – US tone and cheap presentation don’t engage but the information is sensible, well-presented and useful for any young anxiety sufferers. Well worth having if you need the topic.



Dr Christians guide to dealing with the tricky stuff By Christian Jessen

General information – Practical advice on problems adolescents may have worries about such as personal and emotional health, body image, and self-confidence

Stay healthy and active
Keep safe online and in the real world
Deal with peer pressure
Plan for the future
Cope with stress

In his assured, no-nonsense fashion, TV’s favourite doctor, Dr Christian has the answers to all your tricky worries as you try to navigate life and the journey to adulthood.

Review – Approachable and even-handed advice for a wide array of situations and problems. Lively presentation and chatty tone are very engaging. Great.



Understanding anxiety By Holly Duhig

General information – Explains the characteristics of anxiety and how it affects people.
This series takes a look at some common health conditions affecting children. From causes and symptoms to treatments and long-term management strategies, it examines in-depth a range of health issues and the effects they have on children’s lives.
The titles are designed to assist in explaining and understanding a diagnosis. By providing clear facts, statistics, and advice, they thoroughly explore various medical conditions and mental health diagnoses.
NOTE: Book banded by the publisher.

Review – Photos are very staged but the information is clear and supportive with techniques to help. Well worth having if you need the topic.



The colour thief By Andrew Fusek Peters & Polly Peters

General information – Recounts a child’s experience of his father’s struggle with depression.

As the illness takes hold his father disappears into a world of pain and confusion taking with it the once colourful life they both shared. The boy fears that he is somehow to blame for his fathers condition despite reassurances to the contrary.

As the father seeks help a mere glint of colour reappears and with it hope that they can be full of colour once again.

An ideal book for parents and carers to share with children to help them make sense of the devastating effects that depression can cause.

Review – Topic is handled well with suitable language for younger readers. Illustrations support text well. Ideal discussion material for schools & parents collections.



The same inside By Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow & Roger Stevens

General information – A collection of fifty poems dealing with friendship and empathy.

A sweet and thoughtful collection of poems about friendship, empathy and respect by three of the nation’s best-loved poets, Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens.

These fifty poems deal sensitively with tolerance for differences (including race, religion and gender identity), feelings, empathy, respect, courtesy, bullying, disability and responsibility. They are the perfect springboard to start conversations.

Review – Poems are decent though a little worthy, and the sentiments behind them are laudable. Limited leisure appeal though, so best for supporting topics in schools.




Trans Global By Honor Head

General information – Looks at the history of transgenderism and explores how different cultures view transgender people in their society.

This book supports the study of the fascinating long history of transgender around the world. The whole concept of gender identity is being increasingly challenged and words such as non-binary, pansexual, transgender, cisgender and gender dysphoria are becoming commonplace.

This book explores the cultures and people of the past who have embraced, challenged or quietly subverted society’s expectations about gender. It features the current stories of openly transgender people around the world in positions of power and authority, who are helping to increase recognition and acceptance of the trans community. And, as trans people often start their journeys in their teens, the book explores the experiences of some young people just at the start of their journeys.

Review – Thorough and positive with a wide range of historical and current examples. Well worth having for diversity or Wellbeing collections.



The teenage guide to life online By Nicola Morgan

General information – An authoritative guide to navigating the online world for teenagers.

The internet is part of our daily lives – most of us check our phones far more than we’d care to admit. We love our little devices…but too much time online can lead to stress, over-sharing, low self-esteem, loss of concentration and may expose us to online abuse.

Award-winning author Nicola Morgan provides a balanced and well-researched look at what happens to us all, young and old, when we spend time on our screens; the wonderful positives and worrying negatives. The book will empower you to take control of your time online – to keep it from controlling you.

Review – Sensible advice delivered in an approachable manner and it’s good to see topic being covered. Would benefit by the text being broken up a bit but overall well worth having for schools or libraries.



Overcoming fear of failure By Honor Head

General information – Looks at the fear of failure and how it can affect people, with coping strategies and positive advice for overcoming it.

Lots of people suffer from a fear of failure. It is one of the biggest causes of anxiety and stress for school students. Fear of failure can make us afraid to try new things. For some it means that they have to come first at everything they do. For many fear of failure is linked with low self-esteem. It can make people feel inadequate and ruin their self-confidence.

This book explores why we fear failure and how we can overcome it – from understanding that making mistakes isn’t always bad to breaking out of our comfort zones.

This series takes a sensitive and positive look at some of the issues that concern children. It explores issues including sexuality, gender, self-esteem, prejudice and discrimination and promotes and encourages discussion. By thinking creatively and critically, children can learn to accept their differences, embrace diversity and improve their sense of self and how they fit into the bigger picture.

Each title also provides advice in the form of practical ways to cope with distressing or difficult situations.

Review – Gives some useful advice and information without being too patronising. Laid out clearly with concise facts. Useful for teen reference collections.



Dear Katie By Katie Thistleton

General information – Advice on life, adolescence and growing up, from TV and radio presenter Katie Thistleton.

Growing up is hard. This book makes it a little bit easier. Exploring the sometimes challenging issues everyone faces as part of growing up, Katie will answer questions from real kids and teens with real issues.

From falling outs with friends to disagreements with family, trouble at school to concerns about mental or physical health, Katie will cover every topic with thoughtful and emotionally sensitive advice that will resonate with readers.

With additional guidance from TV and radio doctor Radha Modgil, as well as psychotherapist Sally Angel, this book is full of advice and guidance to help kids through the difficult years of growing up.

NOTE: Contains a few fill in pages.

Review – Nice to see this kind of advice being offered at a younger level; tone is warm & friendly & content not too explicit. Worth having for TNF colls.



It’s all in your head By Rae Earl

General information – The author talks about her own experiences with mental health issues and imparts advice for readers experiencing their own issues.

What I hope you take away from this book: good Mexican food deserves to go viral; good underwear never features the word ‘string'; good mental health is the single most important thing you need to live a happy life.

I don’t have a psychology degree – in fact, I once tried to throw a typewriter at a child psychiatrist (this was in the days before MacBook pros) – but I do have experience, understanding and coping mechanisms to help you get your sh*t together.

From anxiety and eating disorders to OCD and psychosis, I want to help break down taboos surrounding mental health conditions (which directly affect 1 in 4 of us each year – you are NOT alone) and help you come out the other side happier and healthier. I’d also like to gift you with a deeper understanding of what’s going on in your head, and how to navigate through life without feeling overwhelmed or isolated.

Review – Accessible and sensible advice in a humorous, likeable voice. Appealing for worried teens, and very supportive. A great addition.



Looking after your mental health By Alice James & Louie Stowell

General information – Explains aspects of mental health, including how to maintain good mental health, mental health conditions and how to seek help if you are suffering.

We all talk about our physical health, but no so much about how we’re feeling, or what we’re thinking and worrying about.

This young person’s guide to good mental health explains why we have emotions, and what can influence them, from friendships and social media, to bullying, divorce and bereavements.

NOTE : The last 2 pages are ruled for the reader to make notes in. If this were filled in it wouldn’t affect the use of the book.

Review – Clear, sensible advice on a range of topics including orthorexia and cyberbullying and also addresses maintaining good general mental health for those not experiencing a crisis. A good all rounder.



Positively teenage By Nicola Morgan

General information – Advice on how to approach your teenage years with positivity and optimism.

Positively Teenage gives you tools to approach your teenage years with optimism and understanding and to develop real wellbeing for life.

Full of practical, proven strategies for physical and mental health, Positively Teenage will show you lots of ways to flourish physically and mentally – from doing things you enjoy to learning new skills; looking after your diet, exercise and attitude to being healthy online; getting great sleep to understanding your personality – allowing you to take control of many areas of your life.

Review – Clear, realistic advice on all aspects of mental & physical health, with internet links offering more in-depth information. Invaluable for exam season and beyond.



Project You By Aubre Andrus & Karen Bluth

General information – Ideas and strategies for strengthening and realigning body, mind and soul.

Find your balance. Make a protein-packed smoothie to energise for a busy day. Centre yourself after a stressful week by taking five minutes to write in your journal.

Strengthen your body and calm your mind with simple yoga poses and breathing techniques. Craft a vision board to help you achieve your goals.

Create a time budget to organise your schedule. Develop an evening routine that will help you wind down before sleep.

Award-winning author Aubre Andrus shares more than 50 do-right-now projects that will help you beat stress, smile big and discover a calmer, more blissful you.

Review – Nice mix of techniques and tips and magazine style approach will engage teens. A great addition to TNF collections.



Open your heart learn to love your life and love yourself By Gemma Cairney

General information – Radio One presenter Gemma Cairney gives advice on physical and mental wellbeing.

Full of honest and practical advice from The Surgery agony aunt Gemma Cairney and a whole host of trained professionals and real people, Open Your Heart is a best friend in a book.

From heartbreak and heartache to body image and everything in between, this book will help you learn to love your body, your friends and your family, and tell you what to do if things go wrong.

NOTE : First published in 2017 as part of ‘Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be.’ This new title contains approximately half the content of the first.

NOTE : Does include some fill-in sections, but not as many as the previous, longer title. Contains strong language and detailed discussion of sex including sexual health and relationships.

Review – Chatty, frank & engaging with lots of appeal to teens. There are a handful of fill-ins but it’s well worth having nonetheless.



You are awesome By Matthew Syed

General information – Gives advice on building confidence and self-esteem to achieve any goal that you set yourself.

I’m no good at sport … I can’t do maths … I really struggle with exams … Sound familiar?

If you believe you can’t do something, the chances are you won’t try. But what if you really could get better at maths, or sport or exams? In fact, what if you could excel at anything you put your mind to?

You Are Awesome can help you do just that, inspiring and empowering young readers to find the confidence to realise their potential. Times journalist, two-time Olympian and best-selling mindset author Matthew Syed, uses examples of successful people from Mozart to Serena Williams to demonstrate that success really is earned rather than given, and that talent can be acquired.

With hard work and determination, practice and self-belief, and, most importantly, a Growth Mindset, there’s no reason why anyone can’t achieve anything. Practical, insightful and positive, this is the book to help young people build resilience, embrace their mistakes and grow into successful, happy adults.

Review – Ideal for teens facing exams/sporting challenges, this chatty, accessible book distills the latest psychological advice for success in an appealing style.



Dr Christian’s guide to growing up By Christian Jessen

General information – A guide to growing up, adolescence and puberty.

In his assured, no-nonsense fashion the author allays the fears and uncertainties of growing youngsters (and helps parents find answers) about puberty, sex, personal and emotional health, and body image.

Review – Wide-ranging and authoritative with sage advice. Clearly presented with manageable informative sections of text including essential myth-busting guidance. Equally of use to schools and libraries.

To order any of our recommended reads for wellbeing, click here

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