The books in this section are for children diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Some of the books address specific features or mechanisms of OCD (e.g., perfectionism, rigidity, intrusive thoughts). Others teach coping skills (e.g., mindfulness, deep breathing). Several of the books are written very specifically for children diagnosed with OCD who are starting Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) (the gold-standard OCD treatment) with a therapist. OCD can start to bother kids as early as preschool. Caregivers and teachers often notice compulsions and reassurance-seeking (i.e., asking repeatedly for reassurance about something they know they answer to), although OCD can manifest without compulsions as well, in the form of intrusive thoughts (this is sometimes referred to as “Pure O OCD”). If a child has a diagnosis of OCD, these books will not take the place of therapy with a skilled provider; however, they can help children to feel less scared or ashamed of their OCD and to feel hopeful that they will be able to learn to manage their OCD so that it is no longer taking over their lives.
Age range: 1st through 5th grade, or even younger middle schoolers.
Recommended for: This interactive workbook is best for kids and tweens with OCD who have clear compulsions (e.g., tapping, reassurance seeking, hand washing) and/or “not just right” OCD (e.g., straightening, erasing and rewriting, repeatedly changing socks) and who don’t have hoarding challenges. It could be completed chapter-by-chapter in therapy sessions, between sessions as therapy “homework,” or alongside therapy as a supplemental intervention. A caregiver with some understanding of OCD treatment might feel comfortable working through this workbook with their child without the support of therapy; however, most children with OCD will benefit most from being in therapy while completing this workbook (or soon after).
Age range: 1st through 3rd grade, or perhaps even 4th grade.
Recommended for: This book is exclusively for a child who has recently been diagnosed with OCD and is starting treatment with a therapist who is trained in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) . The book reassures children that they aren’t “crazy” or the only ones with OCD, and it teaches about ERP and the strategy of externalizing and talking back to OCD (the boy in this book calls his OCD thoughts “Mr. Worry”). It provides children with an analogy of medication being a child’s running shoes, the therapist being the coach, and the child being the runner (ERP is the “running strategy”). The book is a bit outdated but it’s still one of the best picture book introductions to ERP that I’ve been able to find.
Age range: Best for 1st through 5th grade. It’s a bit long and wordy for younger kids.
Recommended for: A child who has recently been diagnosed with OCD and/or who is exhibiting OCD symptoms and is about to start treatment with a therapist trained in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) . A therapist could read it with a child in an early therapy session, or parents could read it with their child prior to starting therapy.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is a good introduction to the idea that picking/pulling at an “imperfection” (in this book, a loose thread) often makes it worse, and the more one picks/pulls, the harder it is to stop. The book ends with Rose (the stuffed bunny protagonist) realizing that instead of trying to fix her imperfection, she can practice tolerating it until she no longer notices it much at all. It’s a good fit for a child who is struggling to stop picking at imperfections in their skin, hair, or nails to the point that they’re causing sores or bald patches. It could also potentially be used to start a conversation about intrusive thoughts and/or “not just right” thoughts in OCD, but an adult would need to facilitate a child’s understanding of this metaphor.

Anxious Charlie to the Rescue

Written and illustrated by Terry Milne
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Evidence-Based Practices: Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This story is applicable to a child who gets anxious when they aren’t able to follow a routine, whether in the context of anxiety, OCD, autism, or anything else. It’s a really fun, adorable story with a lot of heart and a very sweet ending. The ultimate message is that although it can be scary to break out of a routine, sometimes doing things differently can present new possibilities (like discovering a new favorite food, fun experience, or good friend).
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Evidence-Based Practices: Exposure
Age range: 1st grade through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: Children who get stuck in perfectionism will likely benefit from this book’s reminder that imperfection, although scary at first, can be freeing. Kids with super high standards for themselves or who get anxious when things don’t go according to plan may find relief in the balance Penelope strikes when she lets herself “just be Penelope” rather than Penelope Perfect.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is the only one that I’ve found that specifically addresses intrusive thoughts, which some children experience as their primary symptom of OCD (as in “Pure O” OCD). Using a visual metaphor of thoughts as different colored balloons, it validates how ineffective it is to try avoid an unwanted thought, and it encourages children to look directly at a thought in order to recognize that perhaps it’s not as big as a child feared. It veers from there to encouraging a child to “catch” other types of thoughts instead (lovely thoughts, calm thoughts, true thoughts). I have a few reservations about the way that the book talks about these thoughts (they’re labeled “good thoughts”), but with a thoughtful discussion, this book presents a helpful exercise to take the fear out of intrusive thoughts and to help a child to practice a mindfulness exercise of choosing which thoughts to catch and which to let go.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Evidence-Based Practices: Diaphragmatic Breathing, Mindfulness, Relaxation