Picture Books about Facing Fears | Read, Learn, Explore

Happy Halloween! I figured the spookiest day of the year is the perfect time to share a list of picture books about characters who learn to face their fears.

For this list, I tried to find books where a character has a specific fear that he or she (or it) learns to overcome. While some of the characters find courage on their own, most do so with loving support from a friends or family members.

If I’ve missed one of your favorites, please share in the comments! For my master list of book lists, click/tap here.

Note: After each author’s name, I’ve designated the book’s general age range (P=Preschooler, EE=Early Elementary, LE=Late Elementary).

Picture Books about Facing Fears


Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo (P, EE).
A young boy can’t understand why his grandma would move to the city, which is full of frightening sights and sounds. Yet after he explores the city while wearing the red cape his grandma made him, the boy discovers that the city is filled with extraordinary things–in fact, it’s the perfect place for a grandma to live.

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall (P, EE).
Jabari can’t wait to jump off the diving board..until the time comes to actually do it. With help from his supportive dad, Jabari eventually overcomes his fear and takes the plunge. [Note: I’ll be honest here–this is my favorite book on the list. It’s awesome.]

Sheila Rae, the Brave by Kevin Henkes (P, EE).
Sheila Rae believes that she’s fearless…until she gets lost on her walk home from school. It’s up to her seemingly scaredy-cat sister, Louise, to rescue Sheila Rae and lead her home. When they arrive, they conclude that they’re both brave and fearless.

There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer (P, EE).
Tired of succumbing to fear of a “nightmare” in his closet, a boy decides to take action and confront it. (Spoiler: the boy and the nightmare become fast friends.) For a similarly empowering story by Mercer Mayer, try There’s an Alligator under My Bed.

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully (P, EE).
In 19th-century Paris, Mirette longs to walk the high wire with the famous daredevil Monsieur Bellini–but first she must help him overcome his recent fear of the wire. Mirette on the High Wire won the Caldecott Medal in 1993.

If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade (EE).
“If in all of forever, / I never endeavor / to fly, I won’t know if I can.” A little bird wonders if trying to fly is worth the risk of failing–or of giving up its comfortable life in the nest.

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco (EE, LE).
When a threatening thunderstorm scares a young girl, her grandma teaches her to make Thunder Cake rather than indulge in fear. This story, taken from Patricia Polacco’s own childhood, concludes with a recipe for Thunder Cake.

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat (P, EE)
In this fabulous and inspiring “sequel” to the Mother Goose rhyme, Humpty Dumpty is put back together again–but he’s not the same as he was before. His fear of heights makes him feel unable to sit on the wall even though it will bring him closer to the birds he loves. As the book concludes, Humpty triumphs by conquering his fear and climbing the wall, where he discovers his true destiny.

The Dark (P, EE) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Lazlo is afraid of the dark, but when his nightlight goes out one evening, the dark guides him to the basement for a new light bulb. Once Lazlo discovers the dark can be a friend, it never bothers him again.

Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt (EE).
Scaredy Squirrel likes staying safe in his tree, but when a “killer bee” arrives and disrupts his carefully created peace, Scaredy Squirrel discovers that a little bit of the unknown isn’t such a bad thing (in small doses, of course).

Sam, the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World by Mo Willems (P, EE).
In this follow-up to Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Sam is afraid of nearly everything except his monster friend, Leonardo. When he meets Kerry, another angst-ridden kid, they manage to overcome their mutual fear–of each other!–to form a delightful friendship.

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett (EE).
Orion is scared of many things, but especially the dark. One night, the Dark (in the form of a harmless-looking monster) comes to befriend Orion and show him that dark places can be fun, interesting, and even magical.


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