Tough Topics Book List

by Kirsti Granholm

No one enjoys having tough conversations with kids. It certainly is difficult, but nevertheless important. When it comes to bullying, loss or trauma, talking about it is crucial to ensure your children can deal with these emotional stresses. If your kid is going through a tough time, try guiding them through it with a book. It may even make them feel a little more understood.


Anxiety: Deal With It Before It Ties You Up in Knots, written by Joey Mandel, illustrated by Ted Heely (James Lorimer, 2014) Ages 9 and up.

Anxiety manifests in many different ways, from nervousness in social situations to separation from close peers to panic attacks. Understanding anxiety and talking about it is one of the best ways to tackle it, both in children and adults. Anxiety: Deal With It Before It Ties You Up in Knots will help teach children how to identify anxiety, and what to do when those feelings come up. The practices within this book will set your child up for long term success when challenging situations arise. Anxiety is a must-read for all anxiety prone children.


Bullying: Deal With It Before Push Comes to Shove, written by Elaine Slavens, illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan (James Lorimer, 2014) Ages 9 and up.

This book is another title from the Deal With It series. Whether your child is being bullied at school, or they are getting to that age where bullying starts to begin—the conversation on bullying has to happen. Bullying offers insight and support for students who witness bullying or are being bullied. This title was originally published in 2003, but has since been revised to include comics and quizzes for young readers to learn from.


Dreaming In Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (Annick Press, 2014) Ages 12 and up.

Dreaming In Indian is a powerful anthology, created by Indigenous authors, illustrators and artists from across North America. This title highlights the stereotypes faced by Indigenous people across North America. This book is included on the tough topics list for anyone who has been impacted by intergenerational trauma from residential schools, or for those who want to learn more about Indigenous history. Dreaming In Indian will open up your perspective on the treatment of Indigenous people, in the past and the present. This title is highly recommended for young adult readers and older ones, too.


Minding Nana, written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi (Pearson Canada, 2015) Ages 10 and up.

Minding Nana is a part of the Well Aware: Reading, Talking, and Thinking About Mental Well-Being series by Pearson Canada. In this book, a young girl observes her grandmother suffering from dementia. This book is recommended for any child who is struggling with their parents’ or grandparents’ Alzheimer’s or dementia because it is written so personally. Dementia is a tough illness to navigate but I am sure this book will bring young readers comfort and understanding.


Dealing With Loss (Straight Talk About…), written by James Bow (Crabtree Publishing, 2015) Ages 10 and up.

Losing a loved one is one of the toughest things anyone can go through, sometimes even more so for a child. Trouble processing grief can hinder your child from their everyday activities. Dealing With Loss is all about managing loss as a young person. This book is written from a sympathetic point of view, but it also educates children on topics like the grieving process and moving onwards in life after loss. If a child in your life is dealing with these unfortunate circumstances, try offering them a book like Dealing With Loss to help them through the tough times.


Stress Less! A Kids Guide to Managing Emotions, written by Rebecca Sjonger (Crabtree Publishing, 2015) Ages 5 and up.

Children feel stress just the same way adults do. Intense emotions and high anxiety are just as prominent in kids as they are in us, the only difference is children do not always have the skills to deal with their emotions. Stress Less! is an effective guide to navigating everyday stressors that children may face. It also offers solutions to improve tense situations for young children. Grab this book for your children or students to ensure they have a reliable resource to turn to!


When We Were Alone, written by David A. Robertson,illustrated by Julie Flett (HighWater Press, 2016) Ages 4 and up.

When a young girl and her grandmother are working in the garden, she begins to ask her grandmother about her braided hair and colourful clothing. Her grandmother then begins to describe a time when Indigenous people were not allowed to celebrate their culture, during the residential school era. Although this book describes a dark part of North American history, it offers hope and strength for those dealing with the aftermath of residential schools. Julie Flett’s stunning illustrations make this piece even more powerful. It is no surprise that this book was nominated for multiple prestigious awards.


Why Do Families Change? Our First Talk About Separation and Divorce (Just Enough), written by Jillian Roberts, illustrated by Cindy Revell (Orca Book Publishers, 2017) Ages 4 and up.

Dr. Jillian Roberts is a child psychologist who has created the Just Enough series for children going through difficult situations. In Why Do Families Change? Roberts explores the confusion young children face when families are split or changing. This title offers support for young children, and looks to ensure that they do not place the blame on themselves, as many children do. If there is a child in your life experiencing a change in their family dynamic, try guiding them through the emotions with this informative book.

What do you think of this tough topics book list? Are there any other titles that you would suggest? Let us know on social media @kidsbookcentre.