Picture book picks for Empathy Day


Empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s place - seeing the world through their eyes, understanding and being sensitive to their feelings and experiences. It’s our amazing capacity to connect with someone else at a deep level no matter how different their life experiences may be.

Stories have such an important role to play. They let us inhabit new worlds. They break down barriers. They spark conversations and a shift in perspective that inspires acts of kindness. Picture books are a wonderful way to nurture empathy in children. In honour of Empathy Day on 11th June, here are some of my top picks. Brace yourself. It’s a LONG list.

Acceptance and self-acceptance

  • Beegu by Alex Deacon

  • The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

  • The New Neighbours

  • Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph

  • How to be a Lion by Ed Vere

  • Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival

  • Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

  • We are all Wonders by R.J. Palacio

  • There’s Room for Everyone by Anahita Teymorian

Understanding what it’s like to be a refugee or to live in a world of conflict

  • The Day War Came by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb

  • The Journey by Francesca Sanna

  • Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan

Understanding loss and grief

  • If all the world were… by Z and Y

  • The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

  • Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies

Moments of kindness

  • Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee and Pascale Lemaître

  • The Last Chip by Duncan Beedie

  • KIND by Alison Green (various illustrators)

A shift in perspective - seeing the world through another’s eyes

  • Is it a Mermaid? by Candy Gourlay and Francesca Chessa

  • The Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward

  • Space Tortoise by Ross Montgomery and David Litchfield

Understanding feelings

  • Feelings by Libby Walden and Richard Jones

  • In My Heart by Jo Witek and Christine Roussey

  • My Many Coloured Days by Dr Seuss (paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher)

  • Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival

here we are.jpg

Stories take so many forms. Some are made up but others are about the incredible world we live in. Children’s nonfiction can be invaluable in inspiring and encouraging empathy. Books like Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers are a celebration of the world in all its richness - there’s a beautiful, inclusive spread in that book with people from all over and from all walks of life. Picture book biographies like the Little People, Big Dreams books take us through the lives of so many wonderful people. We can step into their shoes and share their journeys, their dreams, and their hopes. Books like these shine a light on worlds we may never experience but which we can still connect to. They can still move us. And they can still inspire us to make a difference in this world in whatever small way we can.

There are so many beautiful pictures books out there today - this is really just a starting point. I’d love to hear which ones you’d add to the list! In the meantime, click here to find out more about Empathy Day, this year’s Empathy blog tour, and the Empathy Lab’s top picks for children’s books (picture books and beyond!).