7 Great Children’s Books About Courage and Bravery

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Abby Hargreaves

Staff Writer

Abby Hargreaves is a New Hampshire native living and working as a Children’s Librarian in Washington, D.C. She fulfills the gamut of the librarian stereotype with a love of cats, coffee, and crocheting (and likes a good run of alliteration). Her MLIS degree enjoys the company of a BA in English from Hollins University, making Abby an advocate of women's universities. Her favorite color is yellow.

As a kid, I was known for being the fearful one out of any group of kids. When I think back to that time, it makes me cringe to imagine what adults in my life likely thought about me. While not everyone may have had frustrations with my fearful nature, it wasn’t uncommon to pick up on that general vibe from folks. This is a cultural issue, to some extent, no doubt. In my experience, we have a tendency to judge people who are — or who we perceive to be — fearful, regardless of their age. There’s value in fear and we should honor that emotion, but it’s also reasonable to want to help someone in overcoming their fears. One great way to do that is with books about courage. Children learn from example, so it’s natural to want to exemplify courage and bravery for them, and what better approach than with children’s books about courage and bravery? This list of children’s books about courage will help set you and your little loved one off in the right direction.

7 Great Children’s Books About Courage and Bravery

Let's Go to Taekwondo by Aram Kim

Let’s Go to Taekwondo!: A Story about Persistence, Bravery, and Breaking Boards by Aram Kim

In taekwondo class, Yoomi knows just what to do. She even teaches the new kids their way around the dojang. But when it comes time to try breaking a board in preparation for a yellow belt test, Yoomi is intimidated. What if it hurts? With a great example set by her grandmother who is also struggling with a new task, Yoomi just might find the courage to stick with taekwondo and break a board. This book also includes a little on Korean culture and language.

Courage by Bernard Waber

Courage by Bernard Waber

This poetic picture book walks through what courage can look like across a spectrum. From small to big, funny to serious, simple to complex, these many examples are accompanied by charming illustrations in simple ink line art and watercolor. People and animals alike face their fears and discomfort all for the better within beautiful, rhythmic, anaphoric prose.

Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson

Testing the Ice: A True Story about Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson and Kadir Nelson

Drawing from her family history, Jackie Robinson’s daughter Sharon recounts her father’s courage as the first Black American to play Major League Baseball and, in a personal anecdote, his bravery in checking the thickness of ice on a lake for ice skating fun. Robinson describes her father’s quiet nerves, knowing he can’t swim, accompanied by stunning illustrations. The captivating story of Jackie Robinson and his legacy gets a special personal touch in this heart-bracing picture book. 

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Today’s the day! Jabari is ready to jump from the diving board at the local pool. Only, when he gets there, he starts to reconsider. After all, it is pretty high up. But as Jabari stalls, he remembers that he loves surprises — and what is the result of his courage but a big surprise? Paired with dynamic and energetic illustrations, Jabari’s story includes supportive parenting and the fun of summer packed into a memorable story.

Ayobami and the Names of the Animals by Pilar Lopez Avila

Ayobami and the Names of the Animals by Pilar López Ávila and Mar Azabal

Now that the war is over, Ayobami is so excited to return to school where she will learn to read and write. But the path to school is treacherous. The hippopotamus on her journey says so, but suggests if she continues through the jungle without stopping, she will make it to school safely. Soon, Ayobami is introduced to all sorts of animals, agreeing to return with their names written on paper if they allow her to pass without harming her. If Ayobami is brave enough to make the deal, she will be rewarded with her lessons in this folktale-like picture book with creative and captivating illustrations.

Max the Brave by Ed Vere

Max the Brave by Ed Vere

Despite looking extremely sweet, Max the Brave will be quick to tell you he’s a “fearless kitten” — a “brave kitten!” He’s so brave that he chases mice. Or, he would, if he could find one. As Max searches for a mouse to chase, he encounters a monster and soon, readers will discover if Max is so brave after all. Adorable and hilarious, this story includes bold and simple illustrations that are as unforgettable as Max’s unrivaled courage.

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do by Ashley Spires

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires

Lou loves going on imaginative adventures with her friends and she has big plans for her future. But when it comes to climbing trees, she’s not so sure she can do it. When her friends’ game of pretend turns to dire circumstances that only Lou can solve, she must steel herself for potential failure and scaling the tree to come to their rescue. This sweet and funny picture book reminds readers the importance of courage in the face of defeat.

Go beyond children’s books about courage with these 25 must-read picture books for 2021.