15 Visual Books to Help Students Grapple with Big Feelings

These picture books and graphic novels for elementary students through high schoolers show the power of illustration to convey complex emotions.

These picture books and graphic novels for elementary students through high schoolers show the power of illustration to convey complex emotions.




Alien Nation by Sandro Bassi. Levine Querido. 2021.
Gr 2-12A wordless picture book about an urban subway overcome by cellphone-addicted aliens who may remind us of ourselves. A great starter for conversations for all ages about technology and loneliness.

Alice in Wonderland: A Popup Adaptation by Lewis Carroll, illus. by Robert Sabuda. S. & S./Little Simon, revised edition, 2003.
PreK-12This dynamic 3D adaptation invites self-reflection on identity, friendship, and fear—inspiring conversations for all ages on psychological well-being.

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg. Workman. 2010.
PreK-12This playful pop-up book with universal appeal promotes self-compassion and embracing the beauty in imperfection.

Small Things by Mel Tregonning. Pajama Pr. 2021.
Gr 2 UpThis wordless black-and-white picture book about a boy’s childhood anxiety received three starred reviews, including from SLJ, and is compelling enough to use with all ages.

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow. 2010.
PreK-3Wemberly worries about back-to-school—and just about everything—in this sensitive portrayal of a family supporting a child with “too much worry.”



Middle grade

Guts by Raina Telgemeier. Scholastic/Graphix. 2019.
Gr 3-6A bright, sensitive middle school girl faces and heals from anxiety— and its accompanying gastrointestinal distress.

Growing Pangs by Kathryn Ormsbee, illus. by Molly Brooks. Random. 2022.
Gr 3-6An autobiographical novel about a homeschooled girl with intrusive thoughts and OCD.

Just Roll With It by Lee Durfey-Lavoie, illus. by Veronica Agarwal. Random/Graphic. 2021.
Gr 3-6Maggie seeks treatment for OCD as she adjusts to middle school with the support of her close-knit Southeast Asian family.

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Square Peg. 2020.
Gr 4 UpAlthough written for adults, sophisticated middle grade and teen readers will embrace this alienated, endearing insect’s existential woes.




Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid: A Baopu Collection by Yao Xiao. Andrews McMeel. 2020.
Gr 8-12A queer Chinese immigrant grapples with coming out to family, loneliness, and depression in an ultimately uplifting story about finding a home within yourself.

Everything Is OK by Debbie Tung. Andrews McMeel. 2022.
Gr 10 UpAn Asian British young adult’s depression feels like black scribbles or a hoodie she can’t remove. But as she assures us: “You won’t feel this way forever…Trust that good things can still happen.”

Flamer by Mike Curato. Holt. 2020.
Gr 8 UpAt summer camp, a queer teen who experiences bullying and wrestles with suicidal ideation chooses life and works towards self-acceptance.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Mariner. 2007.
Gr 10-12This celebrated graphic memoir about a queer girl’s personal awakening in the aftermath of her closeted gay father’s suicide explores generational trauma and compulsive behavior.

Hello Grief: I’ll Be Right With You by Alessandra Olanow. Harper. 2022.
Gr 8-12Poem-like texts and spare pencil drawings take us on a woman’s internal, unpredictable grieving journey. Individual drawings can be a starting point for conversations about grief. Though the protagonist is an adult, most of the drawings, about her inner journey, are relatable to all ages.

The Talk by Darrin Bell. Holt. June 2023.
Gr 10-12A coming-of-age memoir about the psychological manifestations of racism by a Pulitzer prize-winning political cartoonist.

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