Picture Books about Risk-Taking and Courage

Picture Books about Risk-Taking and Courage

These picture books about risk-taking and confidence follow characters approaching new and unfamiliar situations, seeking new ideas, making good decisions, communicating their opinions and standing up for their beliefs.

Picture Books about Risk-Taking and Courage

Why Read Picture Books about Risk-Taking?

What is a risk-taker and how can we help our students take appropriate risks? According to the IB, risk-taking students “approach uncertainty with forethought and determination; [they] work independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies. [They] are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change.

Risk-takers approach unfamiliar situations with confidence and enthusiasm. In these books, you will follow characters who explore new environments and ideas, who are courageous and stand up for their beliefs. Some suffer from fear and anxiety but find ways to overcome their doubts.

Your students are always going to come across times when they have to take risks, whether or not they want to. We can prepare them for these moments. The benefits of being a risk-taker include:

Picture Books about Confidence and Risk-Taking

Many of the situations in these picture books will help your students discuss how they feel about taking risks. They bring up the positives, but also the fear and reluctance involved in trying something new. You will see characters:

  • trying something new despite their fears
  • making new friends
  • exploring their curiosity
  • reflecting on how it felt to try something new
  • experimenting with solving problems in different ways
  • confronting difficult situations 
  • standing up for their beliefs, themselves and others
  • exploring new environments and ideas

Some of the book characters are reluctant to take risks, going through a thought process children will be familiar with. You will see characters who are:

  • Reluctant to step into the unknown
  • Worried they are doing something wrong
  • Prevents or delays decision making
  • Feelings of embarrassment
  • Fear of failure and making mistakes
  • Reluctance to try new things
  • Second guesses, limiting growth

Questions to Use With Picture Books About Risk-Taking

  • Describe how a character in the book is a risk-taker.
  • Were the characters brave enough to stand up for their beliefs? Why do you think they may have found this difficult?
  • Is there a connection between [character’s] risk-taking and their creativity? Explain.
  • How would you have handled this situation?
  • How do you know [character] was taking a risk?
  • Was [character’s] risk-taking positive or negative? Explain.
  • As a class, did you have different views or perspectives on [character] risk-taking? Why do you think this is the case?
  • Will the [character] find this situation easier next time? Why?

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Picture Books About Risk-Taking and Courage

Alec's Primer by Mildred Pitts Walter

Alec Turner, born into slavery in Virginia, was forbidden to learn to read. The granddaughter of his owner taught him so and he eventually become a free man. He joined the Union army during the Civil War before settling in Vermont. Every night he told his family of his story and their heritage. Based on actual events.

Read to discuss risk-takers, being knowledgeable and slavery.

Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid

Althea Gibson grew up in Harlem and tennis was her passion. Every time she lost a match, she worked harder. Through her determination and resilience, Althea overcame racist and sexist attitudes to become the first black winner of Wimbledon, US and French Open tennis championships.

Read to promote discussions on racism, overcoming adversity, commitment, and perseverance.

The Barnabus Project by Terry Fan

Strange animals kept in glass bell jars in a mysterious laboratory are failed attempts to make the perfect pets. Destined to be recycled, Barnabus, half mouse, half elephant, takes action to reach his goal of freedom. Through teamwork with his fellow captives, he does what it takes to reach the outside world.

Use to discuss self-acceptance, cooperation, courage, following your dreams, friendship and embracing imperfections.

The Bird In Me Flies by Sara Lundberg

Berta Hansson grew up on a Swedish farm and dreams of being an artist. With her frail mother ill in bed with tuberculosis, she had to take on extra responsibilities. Her childhood builds a determination to follow her dreams to be an artist… “Because I have a bird inside me, that must fly where it will…”

This translated biography prompts discussions on believing in yourself, following your dreams, courage, and determination.

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

A family is afraid of a large black dog outside their home. As they each spy a dog through their window, it grows in size and menace. It is the smallest member of the family who discovers the dog is not what the rest of the family imagined.

A book to promote a growth mindset, open-mindedness, risk-taking and courage.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

The dark frightens Lazlo. When his nightlight goes out the dark beckons him to come to the basement. Lazlo tentatively goes into the basement where he thinks dark lives, and the dark leads Lazlo to a drawer full of light bulbs.

Promotes confidence, risk-taking, perseverance and overcoming fears.

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

An art teacher encourages Vashti to make a mark, a dot, prompting Vashti to create a wide range of dot paintings. She displays her work at the school art show and inspires a young boy to make his own unique mark.

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

Serenity Strainer fights her fears to save her family from the dreadful (belly button) fluff, along with courage and a vacuum cleaner.

Read to discuss confidence, courage, and overcoming fears.

Drummer Girl by Hiba Masood

Najma dreams of being a musaharati, the drummer who wakes families in her Turkish village for the pre-dawn meal during Ramadan. No girl has ever taken on this role and Najma has to show determination and self-belief to follow her dreams.

Promotes courage, overcoming fears, and risk-taking.

The Earth Shook: A Persian Tale by Donna Jo Napoli

In Iran, Parisa is woken by a powerful earthquake. She finds everything around her has been destroyed. Frightened, Parisa knocks on some doors, only to be faced with animals who have previously been hurt by humans. Alone, she dances, laughs, cooks food and waters the plants. One by one the distrustful animals gradually come to join her.

Read to discuss risk-taking, sharing, resilience, loneliness and courage.

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

People dismissed Emmanuel because of his deformed leg, but his mother’s belief gave him the courage and determination to be himself. As he got older he became a cyclist, eventually cycling 400 miles across Ghana to promote the message that disability is not inability.

Fearless by Colin Thompson

A family name their new bulldog Fearless because of how he looks, except is scared of everything! He finally lives up to his name when, by accident, he startles a burglar in the kitchen.

Promotes overcoming our fears, risk-taking and self-esteem.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae

Giraffes Can’t Dance? Or can they? Gerald is determined to take part in the annual Jungle dance. While the other animals laugh he shows perseverance, determination, and confidence to follow his dream.

Grandma Z by Daniel Gray-Barnett

As Albert wishes his birthday wasn’t so ordinary there was a knock at the door. It was his Grandma Z! A very unordinary adventure began, including climbing to the top of Enchanted Rock, playing in the Midnight Forest and building a twenty-four room palace. Albert’s unordinary day finished with a party and huge birthday cake.

Hiccup The Viking Who Was Seasick by Cressida Cowell

Hiccup, a little Viking, doesn't fit because he is polite and scared of everything, including going to sea for the first time. But it is this little Viking that saves the day when the big, strong Vikings cannot.

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari is determined to jump off the diving board but his confidence wanes as he nears the ladder. His patient father reassures Jabari that it is okay to be scared. With new determination, he climbs the ladder and jumps.

Journey by Aaron Becker

A lonely girl escapes into a mysterious world and witnesses an evil emperor capture a majestic bird. With courage, the girl outsmarts the emperor's army to set the bird free.

Journey is a wordless picture book that promotes confidence, perseverance, problem-solving, risk-taking and creative thinking.

Koala Lou by Mem Fox

Koala Lou worries when her busy mother forgets to tell her how much she loves her. She sets out to win the Bush Olympics to win back her mother's love. She doesn't win but realises she had never lost her mother's love.

The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright

Kevin the Koala hates change as the consequences scare him. It is only when a woodpecker disturbs his steady way of life that Kevin has no choice but to make a big change, beginning an exciting new chapter in his life.

A book about self-management, courage and perseverance.

Let's Paint! by Gabriel Alborozo

Let’s Paint! encourages children's creativity and expression and to not worry about mistakes. The book reinforces themes of courage, creativity, imagination and risk-taking.

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright

A timid mouse attempts to make himself heard after being ignored by other animals. The mouse realises that first impressions are not always what they seem as he develops a new friendship.

Promotes risk-taking, courage, independence and self-awareness.

Little Mouse and the Red Wall by Britta Teckentrup

Little Mouse, Scaredy Cat, Old Bear, Laughing Fox, and Lion Who Had Lost His Roar live in a grey village surrounded by a large red wall. The thought of what is beyond the wall fills cat, bear and lion with fear. Mouse filled with curiosity and courage, steps beyond the wall, finding a world of beauty and freedom.

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education by Raphaele Frier

When fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban for her right, and that of all girls, to an education, they tried to kill her. Her injuries didn’t stop her activism, and she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her inspiring work.

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems

Wilbur, a naked mole rat, love to wear clothes but he worries the rest of the colony won’t accept him. The leader, Grand-pah, proclaims they should show him tolerance and the other naked mole rats experiment with clothing.

Promotes acceptance, individuality, open-mindedness, and self-awareness.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson addresses race relations with two young girls, one black and one white. A fence segregates their homes, but they slowly get to know each other by sitting on this barrier. 

Promotes tolerance, communication, friendship and open-mindedness.

Parachute by Danny Parker

Parachute by Danny Parker

Toby has a great fear of heights and he always carries a bright orange parachute. When his cat gets stuck in a tree Toby follows and uses the parachute to rescue it. The problem is that Toby is now stuck in the tree. Can he face his fears and get down?

Read to discuss self-management, facing our fears, courage and self-esteem.

Phileas's Fortune: A Story about Self-Expression by Agnes de Lestrade

Large factories churn out beautiful, ugly and funny words. People purchase, then swallow the words to communicate. Not all words are equal and the cost of each word varies. Phileas catches three discarded, random words to express his love for Cybele.

Reinforces themes of communication, perseverance, problem-solving, risk-taking and creative thinking.

The Real Boat by Marina Aromshtam

A paper boat floats down a stream and into a river before being pulled into the ocean by a tugboat. A storm causes the paper boat to sink to the bottom of the ocean. A scuba diver scoops up the boat and passes it onto a ship captain who is full of admiration for this brave, little boat.

The Ricker Racker Club by Patrick Guest

Poppy proves herself worthy of the boys only Ricker Racker Club. The rules state you have to be kind and brave. When she shows them she is equal in all ways they make her an equal member.

This book reinforces the themes of courage, caring, equality and gender roles.

Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus

This biography of the poet Maya Angelou describes how she turned the adversity of her childhood into an inspiring life as a mother, writer, activist and humanitarian.

Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden

Ron loved visiting his local library to read books about the world of aviation. But the policy of segregation in South Carolina meant he couldn’t take home books. This brave young boy challenged this injustice through determination and peaceful resistance. His success meant that anyone, regardless of background or ethnicity, could have a library card.

Based on a true event in the life of Ron McNair, a scientist and astronaut. He tragically died, along with six others, in the 1986 Challenger explosion.

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

Fish and Snail live together in the pages of a book and can travel from book to book. Snail stays and waits for Fish to describe the stories from the other books. They argue when Snail refuses to join him. Fish swims away into a new book and Snail confronts her fears to reunite with Fish.

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do by Ashley Spires

Lou procrastinates and makes excuses rather than face her fears. With the support of her friends, she develops a growth mindset to overcome the challenges she faces.

The Tunnel by Anthony Browne

Two siblings discover a tunnel. The brother rushes in, dismissing his sister’s fears. When he doesn't return she finds the courage to follow him. 

Promotes themes of facing our fears, cooperation, curiosity, responsibility and being a risk-taker.

Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Edna the Very First Chicken by Douglas Rees

Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Edna the Very First Chicken by Douglas Rees

Tyrannosaurus Rex stomps and roars to scare the other dinosaurs right out of the forest. Only Edna, the very first chicken, stands up to this bully. But she will be a match for Tyrannosaurus Rex’s gnashing teeth and sharp claws?

The Visitor by Antje Damm

One day a blue paper aeroplane flies through Elsie's window. This event leads to a knock at the door which she opens to a boy who asks for his plane. An unexpected friendship develops and brings colour and light to Elsie’s lonely life.

Read to discuss overcoming fears, cause & effect, relationship skills and risk-taking.

Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford

Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of equal voting rights, but she had to overcome prejudice, verbal abuse and a beating which nearly killed her. In 1964 she gave a televised speech that prompted people to support the Freedom Democrats.

Told in verse the book shares Fannie Lou Hamer’s life from her tough childhood, showing determination, courage and hope and standing up for social rights.

The Wall by Jessie James

Tom loves to explore until he hears adults talking about the monsters who live out in the world. He becomes scared and the adults build a wall to keep out the monsters. Life soon becomes dreary. When a colourful message flies over the wall, Tom starts exploring again and persuades the adults there is nothing to be afraid of.

Use to discuss fears, risk-taking, curiosity, inclusion, and asking questions.

What If…? by Anthony Browne

Joe is nervous about attending a birthday party and he imagines all sorts of “what ifs” scenarios. As he arrives he realises he had nothing to worry about.

This book reinforces the themes of overcoming our fears, confidence and being a risk-taker.

When We Went Wild by Isabella Tree

Nancy and Jake are farmers who use large machines and chemicals on their deteriorating land. On reflection, they make a big change, and decide to go wild! They ban the chemical, stop using equipment and let the animals graze freely and the fields grow wild.

Promotes taking risks, sustainability, conservation and restoring the countryside.

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What Next?

These picture books about risk-taking and courage give you an opportunity to show your students they are not the only ones who find it hard to step into the unknown and try something new. All your students will seek risk in different ways and at different levels. A classroom is a safe place for them to experiment by taking safe risks with no judgement.

Do you have any favourite picture books about risk-taking and courage in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below!

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Picture Books about Risk-Taking and Courage

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