We all know that taking care of our physical health is crucial to surviving. Unfortunately, we don’t always address an aspect of our health that affects us just as much as our physical health does: our mental health.
Young people all over the world are dealing with mental health struggles in many shapes and forms. Today, we are recommending books that contain different portrayals of mental health and the ways in which the protagonists address them depending on their unique situations.
Bird, written by Zetta Elliott; illustrated by Shadra Strickland: In this gentle, award-winning picture book, an African American boy nicknamed Bird uses drawing as a creative outlet as he struggles to make sense of his grandfather’s death and his brother’s drug addiction.
Boy, Everywhere, written by A. M. Dassu: What turns citizens into refugees and then immigrants? In this powerful middle-grade debut, Sami and his family embark on a harrowing journey to save themselves from the Syrian civil war.
Cooper’s Lesson, written by Sun Yung Shin; illustrated by Kim Cogan: Cooper has had about enough of being half and half. And he’s certainly had enough of Mr. Lee, the owner of his neighborhood grocery store, speaking to him in Korean even though Cooper can’t keep up. Why can’t things be simple? Why can’t he just be one thing or the other?
DeShawn Days written byTony Medina; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie: We are swept into ten-year-old DeShawn’s world where we meet his family, his friends, and learn about his hopes and dreams. We experience the death of DeShawn’s grandmother, deeply feeling his sadness and loss. And we share the hope as he and his mother turn to each other for comfort. Readers from all backgrounds will be charmed by this upbeat, compassionate, and creative young boy.
The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story, written by Uma Krishnaswami; illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran: Five-year-old Luna isn’t sure she wants to go school. For all she knows, there might be monsters there. But when her loving parents assure her that she’ll have a wonderful time playing and learning, she agrees to give school a try. An understanding teacher and a group of friendly kids make Luna very, very glad she made the right decision. But what about the monsters?
Moony Luna / Luna, Lunita, Lunera, written by Jorge Argueta; illustrated by Elizabeth Gómez: Five-year-old Luna isn’t sure she wants to go school. For all she knows, there might be monsters there. But when her loving parents assure her that she’ll have a wonderful time playing and learning, she agrees to give school a try. An understanding teacher and a group of friendly kids make Luna very, very glad she made the right decision. But what about the monsters?
That Summer Night on Frenchmen Street written by Chris Clarkson: Set in magical New Orleans, two teens from vastly different worlds discover that sharing their strengths, including the love of their friends and family, may just be the path to finding wholeness within themselves.
Thirty Talks Weird Love, written by Alessandra Narváez Varela: A 13-year-old girl growing up in Mexico is visited by her 30-year-old future self. This thought-provoking, moving verse novel will lead adult and young adult readers alike to vital discussions on important topics—like dealing with depression and how to recognize this in yourself and others—through the accessible voice of a thirteen-year-old girl.
Additional recommended resources:
Social and Emotional Learning Diverse Reading List
Toolkit for Building a Diverse SEL Library
Trauma Informed Diverse Reading List