You've heard the expression, "children are resilient," and while that may be true, their resilience depends on the loving support of those around them who can help them learn to navigate tough times. These children's books about resilience are good tools to help you teach your kids the skills they need to draw upon their inner strength in times of adversity.
Reading the stories of others who have triumphed over adversity through problem solving and determination will teach children to have the confidence to do the same.
This book list includes both picture books for preschoolers on up as well as novels for middle grade readers. While I've focused exclusively on fiction, I encourage to read picture book biographies. Stories of real life individuals are equally inspiring. In each subsection I've included links to additional book lists which offer up even more reading material.
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Picture Books: Preschool-age 8
Be sure to read the following book lists, too:
- Picture books about perseverance
- Picture books about growth mindset
- Picture books about communities coming together
- Picture book biographies
After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again
by Dan Santat
We all know the classic nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty and it's not exactly a story of resiliency. But what if things turned out differently? Santat puts a clever spin on the story with a fun twist that will encourage your children to think outside the box!
What Do You Do With a Problem?
by Kobi Yamada
In this book, a child has a problem and doesn't know how to overcome it. In fact, he goes to great lengths to avoid the problem. But, as we all know, avoiding a problem never makes it go away. When the child finally faces the problem, it turns out to have hidden opportunities.
by Maribeth Boelts
Jeremy wants the latest pair of trendy shoes. All his friends have them but his grandmother can't afford to buy him a pair. Jeremy finds a pair at a thrift store and buys them even though they are too small. When he makes friend with a kid at school who needs them more than he does, he gives them to him. I love how this book is honest about the struggles Jeremy has about giving the shoes away. He really wants to keep them for himself but in the end does the right thing on his own. Jeremy feels embarrassed about the shoes he does have to wear and that doesn't disappear, making the act of kindness even more powerful.
Lubna and Pebble
by Wendy Meddour
Lubna and her father are refugees. They arrive at the "World of Tents" to live temporarily. Lubna has no toys so she picks up a pebble, gives it a face and turns it into her friend. This book is surprisingly emotional, highlighting Lubna's creativity and resiliency. In the midst of her unstable situation, Pebble provides comfort. When Lubna meets Amir, a boy refugee on his own, the two become friends and play with Pebble. When Lubna and her father then get word they will travel to a new country, Lubna finds the courage to give Pebble to Amir.
by Bernard Waber
This is a sweet and gentle book that is often recommended when parents are looking for books to teach resiliency. It explores what it means to have courage and all the different kinds of bravery there are. The story emphasizes how courage most often exists in the every day moments, like learning to ride a bike, or "being the first to make up after an argument." Parents will easily be able to reflect and chat with their kids on how kids were brave and resilient throughout the day.
A Chair for My Mother
by Vera B. Williams
This gorgeous book is about familial love and how families play an important role in the development of resiliency. The narrator, a young girl, describes how her family lost everything in a fire. They found a new home and their neighbors donated furniture but what they lacked was a comfortable chair for her mother to rest in after her days of work as a waitress. The family saves their change in a jar and when the coins finally reach the top, they set off to buy the perfect chair. The story is quietly appealing and shares a valuable lesson not just about perseverance and love, but about recognizing that for many families, having a good chair is a luxury.
Middle Grade Books: Ages 9 and up
For further reading check out these book lists:
- Books that address mental illness
- Historical fiction for ages 8 and up
- Contemporary fiction novels for middle grade grade readers
- Books that address divorce and separation
- Middle grade biographies and memoirs
by Kelly Yang
Mia Tang lives in a motel where her immigrant parents are the managers for an exploitative owner. Mia wants to be a writer but worries about her English skills. She takes over running the front desk of the motel and makes friends wherever she goes. She dreams of winning a writing contest so her parents can own their own hotel instead of working endlessly for little pay. Yang based the novel on her own experiences growing up in similar circumstances. A winning, funny and heartwarming novel; not to be missed.
Beverly, Right Here
by Kate DiCamillo
Fourteen-year-old Beverly has run away. Now that her beloved dog is buried, she wants to escape from her alcoholic mother who offers her no love or affection. Beverly wants to live without the help of others, but finds herself making friends and gathering a community of people around her. Beverly's new friends form a eclectic support group and she learns to trust and rely upon others.
Genesis Begins Again
by Alicia D. Williams
This poignant book looks at a host of issues as they concern the thoughtful, intelligent 13-year-old Genesis. Genesis is concerned that her skin is "too dark." She believes her family and society value lighter brown skin over hers to the point that she attempt harmful actions to try and lighten her skin with lemons or bleach. At home, her father can't stop spending the rent money on gambling and alcohol. But Genesis has started a new school in a "better neighborhood" and meets new friends and teachers who help her learn to value herself. Highly recommended!
by Carlie Sorosiak
I really enjoyed this book. It's very unique in that it is narrated by the elderly family golden retriever. Cosmo considers himself to be Max's big brother and his life's work is to keep Max safe. But the family is in turmoil. Max's parents are fighting and Max and his sister are feeling anxious. Max gets the idea to enter a contest by teaching Cosmo a dance routine, which he hopes will make his parents take notice of him and stop fighting. He gets through tough times with the help of his uncle's wisdom and his inner determination.
Stanley Will Probably Be Fine
by Sally J. Pla
I find myself recommending this book again and again, I just really loved it and it's quite funny, too. Stanley Fortinbras (love that name!) struggles with anxiety and sensory processing disorder. He even sometimes faints–how embarrassing! However, he loves comics trivia and pushes back against his worries to join in a a giant comics-trivia treasure hunt with his quirky new neighbor. Trivia Quest takes the pair all over the town, and Stanley works hard to overcome his difficulties and win the day.
A Long Pitch Home
by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
Bilal and his family move from Pakistan to Virginia. His father, however, stays in Pakistan. Back in Pakistan, Bilal was an excellent cricket player; in Virginia he joins a summer baseball team, but of course he must figure out the differences and adjust to the new game. This is a wonderful story about be resilient during times of great change as well as adjusting to a new culture.
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