Kids & YA books to read during Mental Health Week

In recognition of Mental Health Week (7-13 October) and World Mental Health Day (10 October), we recommend six books for kids and teens that explore aspects of mental health.

We’ve also gathered together a broad range of books exploring mental health in our collections below this post.


Mr Huff by Anna Walker

Bill is having a bad day, the kind where everything seems to go wrong, and something tracks his every move. That something is the little grey cloud of Mr Huff, and the more Bill ignores him, the bigger, clearer and more person-like Mr Huff grows. It’s only after Bill loses his temper and decides to make friends with Mr Huff, that Mr Huff gradually shrinks and becomes small enough to fit in Bill’s hand.

This is a sweet and empathetic story about accepting and being kind to yourself when you’re experiencing a low mood.

For ages 3 and up.


Hey Warrior by Karen Young & Norvile Dovidonyte

Gorgeous illustrations and clear text introduce the physiology of anxiety and simple techniques to minimise and manage unhelpful thoughts and other symptoms of anxiety. The amygdala is characterised as a fierce and friendly personal warrior, and its action (or sometimes, over-action) is explained in a way that will enable kids to understand why they can feel scared, sweaty, shaky and have a racing heart.

Breathing and other ways to calm the nervous system are described well in this reassuring and colourful picture book – the idea to place a toy on your stomach and watch it rise and fall is inspired!

For ages 4 and up.


The Secrets We Keep by Nova Weetman

Clem’s house has burned down, and she has to move into a new place with just her dad, and attend a new school too. Keen to make friend, Clem lies to Ellie – whose mum has cancer – about the whereabouts of her own mum, and has to cope with the consequences when the truth comes out.

This is a thoughtful exploration of the effects of mental illness within a loving family, showing Ellie’s confusion and hurt over her mum’s absence, and also the possibilities of understanding and forgiveness.

For ages 9 and up.


The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Twelve-year-old Matthew grapples with obsessive compulsive disorder, and spends most of his time indoors at home. When a little boy, Teddy, goes missing from his neighbour’s house, Matthew’s observations from his window may prove key to solving the toddler’s disappearance.

The events that led to Matthew developing OCD, the hard work he does with his doctor, his slow path to recovery, and the new friendships he makes are all sensitively depicted in this whodunnit mystery.

For ages 9 and up.


Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert

Suzette has spent the year at boarding school, but now she’s returned to LA and her family for the summer. Her semester ended under difficult circumstances when her relationship with her roommate Iris was made public against her wishes, and back home, she remains confused about what this relationship and two new crushes mean for her sexual identity. She’s also worried to hear that her brother Lionel has stopped taking the medication prescribed for his recently-diagnosed bipolar disorder.

Suzette is a loving big sister struggling to find the best way to support and respect her brother at the same as grappling with some big questions about herself. Little and Lion is a big-hearted slice of teenage life that manages to balance realism and optimism perfectly.

For ages 13 and up.


Clean by Juno Dawson

In this novel’s bracing opening, teenager Lexi is bundled off unceremoniously to a luxury private rehabilitation facility on a British island. She’s burnt out from endless partying, and addicted to heroin and other substances. A rich, smart and mouthy party girl, Lexi at first seems to be a wholly unsympathetic character, but as she withdraws from heroin, participates in challenging therapy sessions, and forms close attachments to the other residents, a more vulnerable side emerges.

This is not just a story about addiction; the difficulties of family dysfunction, grief, intimacy and healthy communication are explored in an empathetic and realistic way.

For ages 14 and up.

Leanne Hall is a children’s and YA specialist at Readings Kids. She also writes books for children and young adults.

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The Goldfish Boy

The Goldfish Boy

Lisa Thompson

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