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 an impetus discuss 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 and grit
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 lean 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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