According to the National Institute on Mental Health, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a “common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” Mental health issues can be difficult for families to discuss, especially because they are almost never featured in books geared toward children. But recently, I came across two children’s books that addressed the issue head-on. These children’s books about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder will help families talk about this common issue.
Children’s Books About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Picture Book: Unraveling Rose by Brian Wray and Shiloh Penfield
Rose is a stuffed bunny. Life is just how Rose wants it: the books are straight, the tea cups’ handles are all turned the same way, and there is not a single wrinkle in her polka-dot dress. Everything is just right, until one day Rose notices a thread hanging from her arm. Rose is overcome with thoughts of the thread, but it just gets longer and longer when she pulls on it. She knows she should stop, but she just keeps pulling. Soon, her white stuffing is falling out. Rose realizes that her obsession with the thread is keeping her from doing the things she love most. She sews up her arm and slowly learns how to live with that one dangling thread.
UNRAVELING ROSE is both direct about the issue of obsessive behavior, and patient in its tone. The book is clear about how hard it can be for kids who suffer from OCD, but also hopeful that they can learn to live with imperfections. It will be a welcome addition for families looking for resources to start a conversation about obsessive behavior with young children. The book closes with four examples of coping mechanisms parents can offer their children who suffer from OCD.
Middle Grade: Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
REAL FRIENDS is a middle grade graphic novel about author Shannon Hale’s experience navigating tenuous friendships in elementary school. Shannon’s daily school life fluctuates between having fun with friends and being tormented by their exclusive behavior. She becomes more confused every day, often choosing to hide in the bushes at recess rather than subjecting herself to the girls’ antics. As her problems mount, Shannon notices some behaviors she can’t control. Shannon must navigate her escalating obsessions all while figuring out who are her REAL FRIENDS.
REAL FRIENDS is perfect for upper-elementary and middle school readers dealing with OCD (or friendship!) issues. It is less direct in its dealings with Shannon’s possible OCD, but her obsessive behaviors come up repeatedly as the girl copes with her growing stress. REAL FRIENDS won’t teach kids how to deal with obsessive thoughts and behaviors, but it will help them see that there are others like them.
Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book. As always, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links, which means that Lu and Bean Read may receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) on products purchased through external vendors.
THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141st STREET is a cute new middle grade book that introduces a cast of lovable siblings hoping to save their beloved Harlem apartment after their landlord decides to end their lease. The catch is that the siblings have never met the landlord, despite the fact that he lives right upstairs from them. This is unusual, since the Vanderbeeker children know everyone who lives within a few blocks of home. They set out to learn why their landlord locks himself in his lonely apartment, and along the way they discover that home is much more than a place. It’s the people who make home special.
THE VANDERBEEKES OF 141st STREET is full of rich character development. The young Vanderbeekers are relatable—good kids, but not perfect. They make mistakes, they get angry, and yet they are always looking out for one another. I enjoyed the depiction of this area of Harlem as one big family—we don’t just get to know the Vanderbeekers, we understand that this is a neighborhood where people know, love, and support one another.
I only wish we had a similar glimpse into the life of the landlord, Mr. Biederman, before the conflict with him was resolved. In their attempt to resolve the situation with their landlord, the Vanderbeekers made a series of mistakes that made “The Biederman” more angry. The resolution, on the other hand, happened so quickly that it felt anti-climactic.
Overall, though, it’s a quick, enjoyable read that will entertain many middle grade readers.
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Morrigan Crow is a Cursed Child. Like all children born on Eventide, she attracts catastrophes wherever she goes. She is a burden on her family and particularly to her father’s burgeoning political career. And she’s doomed to death on her 11th birthday—that is until a peculiar man named Jupiter North rescues her from her certain demise. Their destination is Nevermoor, a magical land where all of Morrigan’s childhood troubles seem to disappear. That is, until she learns of Jupiter’s plans to enroll her in the mysterious and exclusive Wundrous Society. As Morrigan progresses in the entrance trials, she slowly learns that her so-called curse is actually a hidden talent—and that there are dark forces that want her to use it for evil.
NEVERMOOR is full of magic, whimsy and fun. The odd, lovable characters live in an enchanting world that seems a surprise even to them. The city of Nevermoor has enough connection to real life to make it seem plausible (the characters celebrate holidays like Hallowmas and Yuletide) but its magical elements make it so much more exciting. Morrigan’s room adapts to her feelings and interests, for example, and the chandelier in the lobby of the hotel she lives in grows on its own. Morrigan’s best friend is an 11-year-old dragon tamer, though thankfully the dragons live in a different pocket of the state.
There is also dark magic in NEVERMOOR, but the book has an overall fun and delightful feeling. None of the scenes is overly frightening, and the most devilish characters takes the form of a man, not a monster.
NEVERMOOR is clearly the first book in what will be a series, which many readers will be excited about. The downside is that the reader finishes the book with unanswered questions and at least one unresolved major issue, which is unusual even in series writing. The upside is that we get to meet these characters in another book. (And, likely, a movie.) We will be looking forward to both!