Children’s books about resilience, perseverance, and grit. This list of books for children aged 5-13 in primary school years 1-6 in KS1 and KS2 and years 7-8 in KS3 contains recommended topic books to appeal to all reading abilities. We have picked a range of picture books, nonfiction, and children’s novels to read aloud, discuss in groups or individually, or to use as an impetus for discussion in PSHE, citizenship, class time, or book clubs. This list of reading suggestions is revised regularly and includes stories by David Long, Cece Bell, Matthew Syed, Julie Murphy, Esther Pia Cordova, and Barney Salzberg.
Our recommended children’s books about resilience
Be Resilient! by Dr Sharie Coombes & Katie Abey
Including practical exercises and positive thinking activities, this blend of personal doodle diary and illustrated self-help guide includes practical advice on being positive, bouncing back from adversity and building a personal support network. Be Resilient! is a useful resource to help improve confidence, challenge students to realise their strengths and explore what will improve their resilience. Highly recommended for pupils in KS2 and transitioning to secondary school year 7.
The Girl Who Rowed the Ocean by Alastair Humphreys
Lucy isn’t put off by the people that laugh at her dreams of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, she enlists her family to help plan her voyage and faces tremendous hardships and spectacular experiences journeying towards a life-changing and life-affirming achievement. The Girl Who Rowed the Ocean is an inspiring and passionate text, based on the author’s own experiences, that will challenge children to find a way to reach their goals. A compelling blend of adventure, diary, advice and motivation, The Girl Who Rowed the Ocean is also a great looking flapped paperback which uses an accessible typeface and a clever cartoon flip book effect at the bottom of each right-hand page.
Anna Liza and the Happy Practice (4u2read) by Eoin Colfer
Anna Liza enjoys making people happy in her psychiatrist mum’s clinic waiting room. But one day she meets Edward, a boy who she can’t cheer up. Delving deeper, she works with Edward to formulate a madcap plan to help his dad. Covering themes of resilience, family, and depression in a light-hearted yet sensitive and thought-provoking way, this is a good book to discuss in KS2 PSHE lessons.
LOUD! by Rose Robbins
A subtle and engaging picture book story about Abigail, a girl who gets easily distracted in class and assumes the role of class clown. When the music teacher takes a different approach, Abigail’s world is opened up to new opportunities and a chance to shine. A great book for children who get frustrated by the expectations of school life.
The Missing Trick by Robin Jacobs
This charming picture book with vivid narrative illustrations tells the story of a young magician. Frustrated that his rabbit has gone missing, he finds and discards numerous items from his magic hat without realising the butterfly effect of positivity his actions have caused. Eventually, he finds his rabbit, and only then does he notice the huge and appreciative crowd. With a great twist ending and sparse text, this is a fantastic book to use for visual comprehension and discussion with struggling or reluctant readers in EYFS and KS1.
Bartholomew and the Morning Monsters by Sophie Berger and Ruan Van Vliet
Bartholomew’s dad despairs each morning trying to get his son ready for the day ahead. But little does he realise that Bartholomew’s naughty night monsters are to blame. Illustrated in vibrant and revoltingly funny glory, they cause chaos the moment Bartholomew wakes up. Slowly his dad helps him to develop a routine that overcomes the pink and purple hairy creature, the slobbering sock stealer that stops him getting dressed, and the coiled blue grinning snake that steals his hairbrush. With pants and loo roll all over the endpapers, this book is bound to be a winner – and it’s possibly the perfect story for parents with children who just cannot get up in time for school.
Butterfly Brain by Laura Dockrill and Gwen Millword
A charming and sharply funny rhyming narrative poem about Gus, and his experiences as he journeys through stages of grief. A great book to provoke discussion in KS2 PSHE, reading aloud, and for imaginative children in years 5&6. With clever poetic and visual metaphors, this book is beautifully illustrated.
The Longest Strongest Thread by Inbal Leitner
A charming picture book story to share about the bond between a girl and her grandmother. Exploring themes of distance, attachment and love, this is a useful book to read to and discuss with EYFS aged children.
Bibbit Jumps by Bei Lynn
Bibbit is a frog who struggles with his confidence, worrying if his jumping is good enough and thinking that the next task might be impossible. Brightly illustrated and with an uplifting ending, this text is perfect to share with year one or year two. This is a charming and empathetic story to help encourage children to try new things, and not be afraid of what might go wrong.
The Greatest Showpenguin by Lucy Freegard
A heartwarming picture book story about a penguin who sets out to not just satisfy other people, but also ensure she’s happy herself. This clever narrative will push children to think about how to take more control over their lives, deal with things that worry them, and feel more secure in their surroundings. A good book to discuss with children in EYFS and KS1.
The Orangutan Who Sang by Jay Vincent and Stew Wright
A heartwarming story about an Orangutan with big dreams but shyness to overcome. With the help of friends in the jungle, he finds a way to achieve his ambitions and defeat his fears. An ideal book to provoke discussion in KS1 and early KS2.
Survivors by David Long
A visually stunning book with exciting illustrations throughout. Each chapter is a different real-life story detailing heroism, survival against the odds and resilience. This book is compelling, and ideal for using as an impetus in narrative nonfiction writing, autobiographies and PSHE sessions on resilience and grit.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
When 11-year-old Salva has to escape from the war in Sudan, she has to leave everything – her home, her safety, and her familiar life. She is thrust into a world of danger and has to fend for herself. When the story shifts into the future, Salva’s determination and resilience are revealed. A memorable read for upper KS2.
The Dot by Peter H Reynolds
Vashi has convinced herself that she can’t do art. But a creative teacher shows her that even a dot can be art and that there a lot of interesting and exciting ways that Vashi can express herself. Funny and uplifting, this a great book to discuss with children who stubbornly believe they aren’t good at something.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
The amazing story of William Kamkwamba, a boy who lived in rural Malawi, whose family farm failed, leaving them starving. Resisting despair, he went to the library and taught himself how to create a water pump and bring electricity to their farm and home. An inspirational story that is ideal for book club discussion in KS2.
Way Home by Libby Hawthorn and Gregory Rogers
Tackling themes of poverty and homelessness, this story follows Shane, who finds an angry and aggressive stray cat that he pacifies and decides to take home – despite a series of obstacles along the way. A great book to help discuss how to deal with difficult and stressful situations and adversity. The stunning illustrations in this large-format hardback make it ideal to read aloud to classes in KS2.
El Deafo by Cece Bell
A gripping graphic novel that tells the true story of the author’s struggles with deafness as a child, and the unexpected and difficult consequences of using a powerful new hearing aid. Funny, moving, blunt and surprising – this book is ideal for upper KS2 and KS3 and will appeal to both reluctant and able readers. A useful impetus for resilience discussion and artwork.
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
A beautifully illustrated and clever picture book that shows children the power of confronting fears. A great book to read aloud and share with a class in KS2 PSHE.
You Are Awesome by Matthew Syed
An incredibly positive and inspiring book that challenges children to think about what makes people successful. The book uses real-life examples and steps children can take to replicate a positive mindset. A must-have for classroom libraries in upper KS2 and KS3.
Beautiful Oops by Barney Salzberg
A clever and imaginative book, that makes use of flaps, hidden pictures, and pop-up sections to show how every action we might think of as a mistake can lead to unexpected and wonderful results. Useful for allowing children to think laterally and consider new possibilities.
I Can’t Do That, YET by Esther Pia Cordova
Enna is a girl who lacks self-belief. But one day, she dreams of a world in which she develops a more confident ‘can-do’ attitude. A good story to read aloud to a class or share in small groups with KS1.
Fly Flies by Ziggy Hanaor and Alice Bowsher
Fly is quite happy with the way she moves until she spots Blackbird, Seagull, Starling, and Hawk who try to give her more advanced tips but end up undermining her confidence. Eventually, she realises that there’s nothing wrong with her way of flying. A great book to encourage children to consider the effects of criticism and learn not to take it to heart.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
An inspirational story of survival against all odds. When teenager Brian escapes from a crashed plane, he finds himself in the harsh Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet to help him. A great YA novel for book club discussion in KS3.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
A stunning young adult novel about Willowdean, who suffers from fat-shaming and low self-esteem caused by friends and relatives. But then she shocks her classmates by entering the Clover City beauty contest. A moving, candid and affirming novel suitable for upper KS3 and KS4.
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat
The story of Humpty Dumpty’s life after that great fall. Broken and depressed, Humpty can’t face difficulties and avoids situations involving heights or risky acts of balance. Until, one day, he conquers his fears in an incredible and exciting way. Great to read aloud to children in KS1 and lower KS2 – and ideal as a prompt for KS2 PSHE resilience discussion.
How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers
An awe-inspiring picture book about a boy who each night dreams of the night sky and then sets off in a rocket to catch his very own star. Memorable and different, this story is great to read aloud to children and discuss their dreams and aspirations and what they have to do to achieve them.
Tough Guys Have Feelings Too by Keith Negley
A great large-format book with bold illustrations – perfect for eliciting children’s ideas about male stereotypes, macho imagery, and positive male role models. Can wrestlers cry? Are dads capable of love? Can superheroes ever feel vulnerable? Very useful for KS1 and KS2 PSHE classes.
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett
Beatrice is perfect. She always wins, she always succeeds and she has never made a mistake. But then she does… A great book to explore fear of failure, learning from mistakes, resilience and not avoiding the unknown. Ideal to discuss with KS1 and lower KS2.
Iced Out by CK Smouha and Isabella Bunnell
Wilfred and Neville are the odd ones out in their class. They’re not seals – Wilfred is a walrus and Neville is a narwhal. Marginalised and excluded, they don’t like school or each other. But when confident and inspirational Betty Beluga whale arrives, their outlook completely changes. A great book to share and discuss in KS1.
Growth Mindset Lessons: Every Child a Learner by Katherine Muncaster and Shirley Clarke
A really interesting set of ideas to embed a growth mindset culture into the classroom. With ideas that are easy to follow, this book encourages children to embrace and make use of failure rather than to fear and avoid failure. The lessons span EYFS, KS1 and KS2 making this an ideal whole school resilience resource for primary schools.
Looking for more topic books? Try our books for topics in KS1 and KS2 page.
We also have a list of recommended reading books for children aged 3-11.
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