Picture books about overcoming mental illnesses; bipolar disorder

Thanks for joining my “Mommy and Me” Book Club. I hope you’re enjoying my ongoing “stay in bed and read” series. See my previous post on Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder for a book summary and “quotable quotes”.

As you’re reading Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder by Dyane Harwood in bed (or in your favorite armchair), feel free to share these picture books with your children.

For every “mommy book” read, I’ll suggest a “me book” for your children with a similar theme. It is my hope that this “Mommy and Me” book club is a fun activity for you and your children.

Picture Books About Overcoming Mental Illnesses; Bipolar Disorder

The Bipolar Bear Family

1. The Bipolar Bear Family: When a Parent Has Bipolar Disorder (2006) | Angela Holloway 

A young cub struggles to make sense of his mother’s behavior and her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Mirroring the dynamics of alcoholism and addiction, mental illness in adults* can have a devastating impact on the family system. This book helps children of parents with bipolar answer questions like: Is it my fault? Is it catching? Can it be fixed? (Age Range:  N/A)

*According to the National Institute for Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder affects more than 2 million American adults.

A Terrible Thing Happened

2. A Terrible Thing Happened (2000) | Margaret M. Holmes

A Terrible Thing Happened is meant to help children who have witnessed a traumatic event, whether it is abuse, bullying, natural disasters, hospitalizations, suicides, etc.  When Sherman Smith, sees something terrible, he gets nervous – his stomach is upset and he has bad dreams. Eventually, Sherman starts to feel angry and do mean things, which gets him into trouble. This book gives the adult reader ways to help traumatized children like Sherman overcome the terrible thing that happened to them. (Age Range:  4-7 years)

Binky Bunny Wants to Know about Bipolar

3. Binky Bunny Wants to Know about Bipolar (2017) | Kathleen Boros

Mama Bunny explains to Binky Bunny that she is strong, even though she has bipolar disorder. Boros’ book calls attention to the toll it can take on a family when questions are left answered. This book teaches the whole family not to let bipolar get in the way of life’s beautiful everyday gifts and to appreciate one another for who we are. (Age Range:  N/A)

Knock, Knock...Who's There, Bear?

4. Knock, Knock … Who’s There, Bear? A Story about Embracing Bipolar Disorder (2019) | Gracelyn Keys

The story centers around Bear who has bipolar disorder. It celebrates friendship and just being special for who you are. This book helps children understand different bipolar disorder symptoms and what to do about them, which would also be helpful for children with parents who are on the bipolar spectrum. (Age Range:  N/A)

Can I Catch It Like a Cold?

5. Can I Catch It Like a Cold? Coping With a Parent’s Depression (2009) | Written by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Illustrated By Joe Weissmann

Alex’s dad doesn’t work anymore and only want to sleep all the time. When Alex finds out why (his dad’s depressed), he confides in his friend Anna whose mom also has depression. This book promotes therapy for the entire family. (Age Range:  5-8 years)

Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry

6. Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry (2005) | Bebe Moore Campbell

Some mornings, Annie’s mother’s smiles are as bright as sunshine as she prepares pancakes for breakfast and readies Annie for school, but other mornings Annie’s mother doesn’t smile at all and is quick to anger. This book is a reminder, through the voice of Annie’s grandma, that even when Mommy gets angry on the outside, on the inside she never stops loving you. (Age Range:  5-8 years)

My Happy Sad Mummy

7. My Happy Sad Mummy (2015) | Michelle Vasilu

“Sometimes Mummy has happy days, where she talks and laughs all day long. Sometimes Mummy is sad. She cries all day and stays in bed. Sometimes she’s so sad she has to go to the hospital.” 

Processing the highs and lows of a parent with bipolar mood disorder can be a dizzying task for children. My Happy Sad Mummy assists young readers in understanding and becoming more aware of the disorder. This book offers comfort to children who have a parent with bipolar disorder. (Age Range:  N/A)

Why is Mommy Sad? A Child's Guide to Parental Depression

8. Why is Mommy Sad? A Child’s Guide to Parental Depression (2006) | MD Paul D. Chan and Laurie A. Faust

Young children learn what depression is and are given examples of what depression may look like – feeling tired, yelling, wanting to be alone, etc. It’s a good starting point for looking at why Mommy is sad. This book is meant to be a read along for children and parents with depression. (Age Range:  N/A)

Princess and the Fog

9. The Princess and the Fog: A Story for Children with Depression (2015) | Lloyd Jones

Once upon a time there lived a Princess. She had everything a little girl could ever want. That is, until the fog came…

The Princess and the Fog describes the symptoms of childhood depression**, while also providing reassurance that things will get better. Its colorful illustrations, playful sense of humor, and apt metaphorical language will help sufferers of depression cope with their difficult feelings. Even though this book’s primary audience is children with depression and not children who have a parent with a mood disorder, this book is effective in explaining depression to children, especially those who may have a parent or close family member with depression. (Age Range:  5-7 years)

**The essential guide for parents and caregivers by clinical pediatric psychologists, Dr. Melinda Edwards MBE and Linda Bayliss, is invaluable.

How Frederick

10. How Frederick Found His Light (2015) | Katherine McIntyre

Frederick was born with a bright light inside him, the light of happiness, love, and uniqueness. As he gets older though, it dims as Frederick doubts himself and experiences sadness, anger, and loneliness. Much like The Princess and the Fog, this story provides little ones with a unique insight into understanding their depression or that of a family member or close friend. Through the support of his counselor Mrs. Lily and his parents, Frederick sees the light is within him all along. (Age Range:  N/A)

Other Resources

  • Wishing Wellness: A Workbook for Children of Parents With Mental Illness (2006) | Lisa A. Clarke
  • Please Explain Anxiety to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents (2010) | Laurie Zelinger

A Final Thought – From the Pillow

Look to the story of How Frederick Found His Light, for example.

So even at your lowest point, if you look hard enough, you will find the light of your true joyful self within you.

If you’re having trouble finding the light, bibliotherapy is a helpful addition to any treatment plan!

What other picture books would you add the list?

2 thoughts on “Picture books about overcoming mental illnesses; bipolar disorder

Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Dyane Harwood and commented:
    And now here’s part deux, once again reblogged from the super-awesome Stay-In-Bed-Mom.

    This week she shares her selections for the “Mommy and Me” Book Club. The theme is related to the Mommy book written by yours truly. Here you’ll find not books about bipolar, but depression, childhood depression, and childhood trauma/PTSD.

    I love how Stay-In-Bed-Mom explains her unique book club, which doesn’t solely focus on mental health but on other genres too, mainly fiction:

    “Here’s something I hope will make you smile. A favorite literature professor of mine once said, and I’m paraphrasing, people study literature “to one up someone at a cocktail party.” For all you stay-at-home moms and dads out there, the next time someone says, “what do you do all day?”, you can talk about all the great books you’re reading.

    If you’re anything like me, reading is a big part of your identity. But lately, maybe you haven’t been able to read anything outside of laundry care instructions on your children’s clothing. Maybe you’ve been too tired, too busy, or feeling “a little blue”. I’m trying to reclaim reading, as it’s been a source of happiness in my life. Let’s ease back into reading or [fill in the blank with your favorite recreational activity].

    For every “mommy book” read, I’ll suggest a “me book” for your children with a similar theme. It is my hope that this “mommy and me” book club is a fun activity for you and your children.

    A wise person told me “more is caught than taught.” If your children see you reading, then they will read too. Model quiet time in your household where you read quietly or aloud. You may pick one book and read it together as a family, chapter by chapter. Or you may encourage each individual family member to pick out a book to read quietly and independently. The primary goal is for us to read to or with our children. The secondary goal? For you to have some stay in bed time! Happy reading!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I ca change anything in this reblog, lovely Stay-In-Bed-Mom, so please, please do not hesitate to ask me to edit it! I hope you’re okay with the pictures – I love them so my fingers are crossed that you don’t mind.

    And a million, zillion thanks for that fabulous review on Amazon under your husband’s name – I am SO proud of it and that (along with this reblog post) will go up on my Instagram soon. I’ve been behind on everything….ahhhhhhh!!!!!!


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