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Books to support children in hospital

Book cover collage

At Scottish Book Trust, we believe books and reading can provide magic, comfort and joy. For children and young people who are unwell, a stay in hospital can often seem daunting and scary. Books can be a brilliant place to start for understanding illness, opening up about hard topics and working through big emotions. They can also be a wonderful place to escape from reality. In this book list, you'll find a range of reads for all ages and stages: from mindful colouring books and beautiful photography collections to moving stories and fantastic page-turners for pure distraction.

Eilidh Muldoon Lari Don Fierce, Fearless and Free: Girls in Myths and Legends from Around the World

Storytelling and reading short stories aloud can bring comfort and enjoyment to unwell children. With stories from across the world about adventure, bravery and fearless girls, this is a great, uplifting book to dive straight into.

Eilidh Muldoon The Colouring Book of Scotland

Colouring books have become increasingly popular over the last few years as we're all reappreciating the hobby as a mindful activity. Colouring can be very relaxing and helps adults and children switch off, and might suit young people in hospital who are struggling to concentrate on reading. This beautiful book by Eilidh Muldoon is perfect for beginners and art lovers alike. With gorgeous illustrations of landmarks from across Scotland, this is a lovely book to colour.

Julia Donaldson Sara Ogilvie The Hospital Dog

From Julia Donaldson comes a heart-warming story about Dot the Dalmation and her very important job visiting children at the Wallaby Ward. But when one of her patients is suddenly in trouble, it's up to Dot to save the day! With lovely rhymes and beautiful illustrations by Sarah Ogilvie, this is perfect for sharing with children age two upwards.

├ůsa Gilland Clare Helen Welsh The Perfect Shelter

A stunning picture book all about a sibling becoming unwell and a family struggling to cope. Told in a touching and poignant way, this is the perfect book to share as a family when a sibling is unwell or in hospital. It helps to encourage talking about how we feel and how to understand and untangle complex emotions. Ideal for sharing with any child age three or older.

Eva Eland When Sadness Comes to Call

Are you looking for happiness? Sometimes it can feel really far away, and sometimes you might have so much you can't help but share it. You can try to chase it, control it or capture it, but even if it seems like it's gone for a while, you'll know it's never far away. This is Eva Eland's second picture book for helping little ones deal with big emotions like sadness.

Eva Eland Where Happiness Begins

Where Happiness Begins is a playful and reassuring sequel to When Sadness Comes to Call. Sometimes happiness can feel far away, you can chase it and never reach it, but you might also want to share it. This book is all about the ups and downs of emotions and our ongoing journey with happiness. A beautiful book to share and start conversations about joy and what makes us happy.

Michael Holland Philip Giordano I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast

Books about nature and wildlife can be an excellent escape for children stuck inside all day at hospital. I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast is a beautiful book, which allows you to enter the magical world of plants and become immersed in nature. Ideal for sharing with children age 7+, this book offers a colourful and vibrant read ideal for dipping in and out of.

Alastair Humphreys Kevin Ward Alastair Humphreys' Great Adventurers

For children age 7+ who love being outside and find sitting still in hospital a struggle, Great Adventurers by Alastair Humphrey is a great book to share. Filled with 20 exciting explorers and expeditions and told in comic style as well as text, this is a terrific immersive book with gorgeous illustrations that will draw you in again and again.

Cece Bell El Deafo

Written by Cece Bell based on her own experience of being in hospital and losing her hearing, this is a fun and uplifting graphic novel, perfect for readers age 8+. As Cece struggles to understand her new life, she creates the amazing superhero El Deafo, who can take on everything life throws at her. A story of friendship and joy, this is the ideal read for children worried about what their future might hold.

Annie Griffiths National Geographic Simply Beautiful Photographs

Not all children will want to read text or have the energy to read when in hospital. Books like National Geographic's Simply Beautiful Photographs are great for sharing. They offer beautiful images that can spark our imagination and transport us to other places. They offer escapism and a glimpse into another world, and some days, that might be just what is needed.

India Desjardins Marianne Ferrer A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending)

When visiting a hospital in Montreal, author India Desjardins met a girl with leukaemia. The girl told her that she was fed up. All the stories about children like her who had cancer had sad endings, so she didn't want to read them. She asked India to write a story about cancer with a happy ending, one with laughter and romance, and A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending) was created. While this story has a happy ending, this book offers an honest account of what it feels like to be a teenager living with cancer.

Charlie Mackesy The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse

For an uplifting story, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse is a perfect read. Following some unlikely friends, it is a calming story of friendship, kindness and hope. It is a story of the emotions we all experience and how we can support each other. A heart warming read, this is ideal for readers 12+ and is a story that will stick with you long after reading.