Empathy Day 2020

The 9th of June marks Empathy Day – an annual celebration led by EmpathyLab aiming to highlight the role that literature plays in building real life empathy skills. EmpathyLab was founded by Miranda McKearney, who established The Reading Agency in 2002, and its mission is based on numerous scientific studies linking the development of empathy in children to reading and literacy.

Bonnier Books UK is part of the Empathy Circle – a group of publishers working to amplify the work of EmpathyLab. Alongside working closely with our authors on various digital initiatives, our children’s publishing team has compiled a list of their favourite ‘empathy reads’ from across our imprints.

Picture books

The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas

‘A gentle exploration of feelings for young and old alike. When the Colour Monster wakes up one day, he’s feeling very confused – his emotions are all over the place and he feels angry, calm, happy, sad and scared all at once. He learns to talk through these feelings by using colour.’

Nervous Nigel by Bethany Christou

‘A whimsical story of a small, anxious crocodile coming to terms with who he really is. Featuring a main character who deals with anxiety, competition, pressure and self-acceptance.’

Oof Makes an Ouch by Duncan Beedie

‘A funny and poignant tale about friendship, forgiveness and the importance of communication.’

The Bad Day by Frann Preston-Gannon

‘This hilarious story about the mishaps of a group of woodland friends contains a powerful message about working together.’

My Nana’s Garden by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

‘A lyrical, stunningly illustrated book about family, love and loss.’

Number 7 Evergreen Street by Julia Patton 

‘A story about the importance of nature in an urban environment. This picture book explores themes of gentrification, class and urban redevelopment from a child’s point of view.’

I Really Want to Shout by Simon Philips, illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti 

‘A little girl learns big lessons about managing anger. This picture book explores how children can learn to deal with anger in a light-hearted way.’

FREE by Sam Usher

‘An exploration of living with nature and learning how to enjoy the natural world whilst also letting it be free!’

Wild is the Wind by Grahame Baker-Smith

‘A look into the way wind is used by all different people and cultures all over the world as we follow the movement of one gust of wind.’

Herbert’s Garden by Lara Hawthorne

‘A delightful story about appreciating others and discovering your own creativity, featuring all sorts of minibeasts and garden wildlife.’

Sometimes I Feel by Sarah Maycock

‘A collection of familiar animal similes that explore feelings and emotions and promote emotional awareness and empathy.’

The Mega Magic Hair Swap by Rochelle Humes

‘This heartwarming picture book is about a young girl learning to accept, love, and celebrate her natural hair. A joyful and fun story about celebrating differences and loving yourself from head to toe!’

Activity books

Mindful Kids: Be Kind by Dr. Sharie Coombes, illustrated by Katie Abey 

The Mindful Kids series focuses on encouraging young people to colour, doodle and DIY their way to a more caring, kinder and accepting world. Mindful Kids: Be Kind explores global citizenship and is filled with activities to help children become more aware of their place on planet Earth.

Mindful Kids: Autism and Me by Haia Ironside, illustrated by Ellie O’Shea

Mindful Kids: Autism and Me is designed specifically for autistic children and their friends and family to enjoy. The books also includes activity ideas and discussion points designed to be helpful in encouraging empathy and understanding beyond the pages of the book, the Some ideas might be useful to practice outside of the book in real life, every day situations. There is also guidance for parents and caregivers.

Children’s fiction

The Hotel Flamingo series by Alex Milway

‘Alex Milway’s Hotel Flamingo series is full of positive messages about accepting and welcoming all. The stories focus on the importance of tolerance, as well as working together to achieve success.’

The Cyborg Cat series by Ade Adepitan 

‘When Ade moves to London from Nigeria, he doesn’t always feel welcome in his new community and fitting in is hard – especially when he looks and speaks differently to everyone else. In this series readers join Ade as he confronts school bullies, makes a great group of friends, stands up for himself and is true to his own strengths.’

Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

‘A gorgeous adventure from a Newberry Medal-winning author, inspired by Filipino folklore, about bravery, self-reliance and the choice between accepting fate or forging your own path.’

Cookie! … and the Most Annoying Boy in the World by Konnie Huq

‘A fresh and funny story about Cookie  – a science-mad young British Bangladeshi girl – loosely based on author Konnie Huq’s own experiences growing up in the U.K. Cookie is sure her world is over when she finds out her best friend is moving to Solihull! Then her new next-door neighbour arrives at school and he’s good at everything Cookie is good at! He’s surely the most annoying boy in the world … or is he? Using empathy and understanding Cookie learns to see things from other people’s perspective.’

Eating Chips with Monkey by Mark Lowery

‘A warm, bittersweet, and wryly funny story of a family piecing themselves back together after an accident shatters their lives. Eating Chips with Monkey is a story with a wonderful mix of humour and sadness. The books central narrator, Daniel, is autistic, and the book touches on various important themes and discussions, including the power of family relationships, and restoring and repairing lives after experiencing traumatic events.’

Young adult

Wink by Rob Harrell

‘Based on author Rob Harrell’s own real life experience of eye cancer, and including amazing comic-strip artwork, this poignant and authentic novel is unforgettable, hilarious and uplifting.’

The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery

‘A powerful and emotive story looking at promises made long ago set between contemporary Japan. and Hiroshima in 1945. The Last Paper Crane explores collective trauma and grief through an evocative mix of narrative and verse.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land is the story of two sisters – one in America and one in the Dominican Republic – who only learn of each other when their father dies in a plane crash. Clap When You Land is loosely inspired by accounts from family members of passengers who passed away in American Airlines flight 587. In 2001 flight AA587 was travelling to the Dominican Republic and crashed in Queens, New York, killing two hundred and sixty people. Over ninety per cent of the passengers were of Dominican descent and returning home.

A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell

A Phoenix First Must Burn features sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black female experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.’

For more information on Empathy Day, browse the digital program and download free resource packs, head to https://www.empathylab.uk.

Banner image from the cover of Wild is the Wind by Grahame Baker-Smith.