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Build your children's empathy skills with the 2018 Read for Empathy Book Collection

Written by · Published Jun 12, 2018

Lulu Gets a Cat, The Wild Robot, Charlie and Me

EmpathyLab’s annual book collection is specially selected by an expert panel to help children aged 4-11 develop an understanding of different life experiences and issues.

Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea, by Morag Hood

“Lee is a pea. All of his friends are peas; except Colin. Colin isn’t a pea. And so begins the deliciously funny story of two very different friends: a small green pea and a tall orange carrot stick. Colin the carrot can’t do everything the peas can, but he has some special carrot-y qualities that make him a very good friend to have.”

Grandad’s Island, by Benji Davies

“A beautifully realised, delicately handled story about a little boy coming to terms with the loss of his much-loved grandfather.”

Perfectly Norman, by Tom Percival

“Norman had always been perfectly normal. That was until the day he grew a pair of wings! Norman is very surprised to have wings suddenly - and he has the most fun ever trying them out high in the sky. But then he has to go in for dinner. What will his parents think? What will everyone else think?

“Norman feels the safest plan is to cover his wings with a big coat. But hiding the thing that makes you different proves tricky and upsetting. Can Norman ever truly be himself?”

Can I Join Your Club?, by John Kelly & Steph Laberis

“Duck wants to join a club. But he needs to be able to roar to join Lion Club, or trumpet to join Elephant Club. And all he can do is quack! What’s a duck to do? Why, set up his own club of course. Where everyone is welcome to join!”

You’re Safe with Me, by Chitra Soundar

“When the moon rises and the stars twinkle, it is bedtime for the baby animals of the Indian forest. But tonight, when the skies turn dark and the night grows stormy, the little ones can’t sleep. Only Mama Elephant with her words of wisdom can reassure them ‘You’re safe with me’.”

Lulu Gets a Cat, by Anna McQuinn & Rosalind Beardshaw

“Lulu really wants a cat. But mummy says that pets are a lot of work, so Lulu is eager to find out more. She reads all about cats and the library. She takes care of her stuffed toys and shows mummy how responsible she can be. When she finally gets to adopt a little cat of her own, Lulu knows just what to do.”

The Parrot and the Merchant, by Marjan Vafaian & Azita Rassi (trans.)

“This illustrated story nicely combines pleasing trickery by clever parrots with a poignant recognition that true love means allowing a loved one freedom.”

Willy and the Cloud, by Anthony Browne

“One day Willy goes to the park. It’s a sunny day, but a cloud hovers over him and he can’t join in the fun. What can Willy do to make this mysterious cloud go away?”

In My Heart: a book of feelings, by Jo Witek & Christine Roussey

In My Hear explores emotions - happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness and more. It lyrically explains what an emotion feels like, physically, inside.”

15 Things not to do with a Granny, by Margaret McAllister & Holly Sterling

“This fun, friendly follow-up to 15 Things Not to Do With a Baby is packed with humorous scenes that explore the special relationship between grandparent and child.”

The No. 1 Car Spotter Fights the Factory, by Atinuke & Warwick Johnson-Cadwell

“Oluwalase Babatunde Benson is the number one car spotter in the village - maybe even the world! And he is excited when he learns that a factory is being built in his Nigerian village. There will be jobs for the villagers, including No. 1’s father. But strange things begin to happen: the goats become sick and the fish in the river are dying. What is going on?”

Leo: a ghost story, by Mac Barnett & Christian Robinson

“You would like being friends with Leo. He likes to draw, he makes delicious snacks and most people can’t even see him. Because Leo is also a ghost.

“But when a new family moves into his home and his efforts to welcome them are misunderstood, he decides it is time to leave and see the world. That is how he meets Jane, a kid with a tremendous imagination and an open position for a worthy knight. That is how they become friends. And that is when their adventures begin.”

Here I Am, by Patti Kim & Sonia Sánchez

“Newly arrived from their faraway homeland, a boy and his family enter into the lights, noise, and traffic of a busy American city in this dazzling wordless picture book.”

King of the Sky, by Nicola Davies & Laura Carlin

“Starting a new life in a new country, a young boy feels lost and alone - until he meets an old man who keeps racing pigeons. Together they pin their hopes on a race across Europe and the special bird they believe can win it: King of the Sky.”

Illegal, by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano & Chris Dickey

“Ebo: alone. His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe. Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister.”

My Name is not Refugee, by Kate Milner

“A young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too.

“This powerful and moving story draws young readers into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make.”

El Deafo, by Cece Bell & David Lasky

“This memoir of growing up deaf is also a deeply perceptive memoir of growing up, about all the pain, awkwardness and longing of being a kid, especially one watching the world from a ‘fortress of solitude’.”

The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown

“When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is - but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a fierce storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realises that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants. As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home - until, one day, her mysterious past comes back to haunt her.”

The Song from Somewhere Else, by A. F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold

“Frank doesn’t know how to feel when Nick Underbridge rescues her from bullies one afternoon. No one likes Nick. He’s big, he’s weird and he smells - or so everyone in Frank’s class thinks. And yet, there’s something nice about Nick’s house. There’s strange music playing there, and it feels light and good and makes Frank feel happy for the first time in forever.

“But there’s more to Nick, and to his house, than meets the eye, and soon Frank realises she isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Or the only one who needs help.”

The Guggenheim Mystery, by Robin Stevens

“My name is Ted Spark. I am 12 years and 281 days old. I have seven friends. Three months ago, I solved the mystery of how my cousin Salim disappeared from a pod on the London Eye. This is the story of my second mystery.

“This summer, I went on holiday to New York, to visit Aunt Gloria and Salim. While I was there, a painting was stolen from the Guggenheim Museum, where Aunt Gloria works. Everyone was very worried and upset. I did not see what the problem was. I do not see the point of paintings, even if they are worth £9.8 million. Perhaps that’s because of my very unusual brain, which works on a different operating system to everyone else’s. But then Aunt Gloria was blamed for the theft - and Aunt Gloria is family.”

Mr and Mister P, by Maria Farrer & Daniel Rieley

“When Mister P stumbles through Arthur’s front door an interesting and fun new friendship is born. Arthur could do with someone to talk to and Mister P is a good listener - as well as being amazing at football, scared of spiders, extremely messy at eating, and the best at hugs when you need them! There are times when only a polar bear will do.”

The Road to Ever After, by Moira Young & Hannah George

“Davy David, an orphan, lives by his wits in the dead-end town of Brownvale. When a stray dog called George turns Davy’s life upside down just days before Christmas, he sets in motion a chain of events which forces them to flee. A mischievous wind blows the two of them to a boarded-up museum on the outskirts of town where they meet the elderly recluse, Miss Flint. She has planned one last adventure before her time is up and hires the reluctant Davy and George to escort her.”

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Frank Cottrell Boyce & Steven Lenton

“The Blythes are a big, warm, rambunctious family who live on a small farm and sometimes foster children. Now Prez has come to live with them. But, though he seems cheerful and helpful, he never says a word.

“Then one day Prez answers the door to someone claiming to be his relative. This small, loud stranger carries a backpack, walks with a swagger and goes by the name of Sputnik. As Prez dithers on the doorstep, Sputnik strolls right past him and introduces himself to everyone in the household. Prez is amazed at the response. The family pat Sputnik on the head, call him a good boy and drop food into his mouth. It seems they all think Sputnik is a dog. It’s only Prez who thinks otherwise.

“But Prez soon finds himself having to defend the family from the chaos and danger unleashed by Sputnik, as household items come to life.”

Sky Dancer, by Gill Lewis

“When the whole community is divided over the fate of the hen harriers that nest up there in the heather, Joe finds himself stuck right in the middle, with a choice to make, and a huge secret to keep. Joe can’t do what’s right for everyone. But can he find the strength to fight for what he really believes in?”

Charlie and Me, by Mark Lowery

“13-year-old Martin and his younger brother Charlie are on a very special journey. They’re going to be travelling 421 miles all the way from Preston to the very tip of Cornwall. By train, bus and taxi, they are determined to get there in the end; and they’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphin that regularly visits the harbour there. But is that the only reason they are going?”

Overheard in a Tower Block, by Joseph Coelho & Kate Milner

“Gazing at the stars from five storeys up, smelling the bins from five storeys below. Overheard arguments, overheard laughter. A disappearing father and a Mermaid-Queen mother; statues that sing for flesh and blood; bullies who kick you under the table; perfect red trainers - and the things that lurk in the library.”

Ballerina Dreams: a true story, by Michaela DePrince, Elaine DePrince & Ella K. Okstad

“At the age of 3, Michaela DePrince found a photo of a ballerina that changed her life. She was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone at the time, but was soon adopted by a family and brought to America.

“Michaela never forgot the photo of the dancer she once saw and decided to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. She has been dancing ever since, and after a spell as a principal dancer in New York, now dances for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.”

Tender Earth, by Sita Brahmachari

“This story follows eleven-year-old Laila, the youngest of the Levenson family, as she adjusts to Mira and Krish, her two older siblings, leaving home, just as she is starting secondary school. At the same time she seems to be growing apart from her long-time best friend, Kez, who is branching out without her at their new school. Laila must find her own place at school and at home, make new friends and discover her voice as she steps out into the world.”

Smart, by Kim Slater

“There’s been a murder, but the police don’t care. It was only a homeless old man after all. Kieran cares. He’s made a promise, and when you say something out loud, that means you’re going to do it, for real. He’s going to find out what really happened. To Colin. And to his grandma, who just stopped coming round one day. It’s a good job Kieran’s a master of observation, and knows all the detective tricks of the trade.

“But being a detective is difficult when you’re Kieran Woods. When you’re amazing at drawing but terrible at fitting in. And when there are dangerous secrets everywhere, not just outside, but under your own roof.”

The Island at the End of Everything, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

“Ami lives on Culion, an island for people who have leprosy. Her mother is infected. She loves her home - but then islanders untouched by sickness are forced to leave. Ami’s desperate to return before her mother’s death. She finds a strange and fragile hope in a colony of butterflies. Can they lead her home before it’s too late?”

Sophie Green

Sophie Green

I work for the Suffolk Libraries stock team. I also write children’s fiction, short stories and comedy. Visit my website.