My oldest child has always been a social butterfly. I knew from a young age we’d have to talk about interacting with strangers — early and often. I aim to be more free range in my parenting, so I knew I would have to equip him with the skills with dealing with strangers if I wasn’t right next to him. Of course, books were the first place I turned.
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Finding a good book about “stranger danger” is tricky. We don’t want our kids to end up in a dangerous situation, but we also want them to know who they can turn to if they find themselves alone and in need of help. The topic is more nuanced than “don’t talk to strangers.” It involves identifying safe people, and coming up with a plan for possible scenarios.
These books about strangers are the books I felt struck a healthy balance between caution and compassion. I highly recommend reading them with your kids as part of a larger discussion about personal safety. Start talking about these things early, and review them often!
NOTE: The one hesitation that I have with the books on this list is that they do a pretty awful job of representing people who aren’t white. However, from what I can tell, diverse books about dealing with strangers simply do not exist. I hope that publishers will work to fill in this (and the many) gap of representation in children’s books.
7 Books About Dealing With Strangers
Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids (and Dragons) by Jean E. Pendziwol
While playing together at the park, a little girl and her dragon suddenly find themselves transported to a fairy tale world. It’s fun and magical, but there’s also danger hiding in the shadows. The little girl must help her dragon navigate a tricky world where not everyone can be trusted.
This was our family’s favorite book about how to deal with strangers. It differentiates between safe strangers like police offers, and strangers children should be wary of, and the story is told in a way that is truthful but not scary. I recommend it for kids ages 3 and up.
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers by Jan and Stan Berenstain
There’s a Berenstain Bears book for just about everything. In this book, Sister Bear doesn’t understand the risks of talking to strangers. Her family helps her see that some basic rules for safety can go a long way to protecting her, while still allowing her to have fun.
This classic story goes over some basic rules for safety that are easy for kids to remember. I’ll admit that I am not a huge fan of this series overall, but I do like this book because it focuses on making good decisions no matter the situation. I recommend it for kids ages 4 and up.
Not Everyone is Nice by Frederick Alimonti
Kathy is waiting for her mother to pick her up when a man she doesn’t know drives up. He suggests that Kathy’s mother may be hurt or sick, and he offers to drive Kathy home. But when Kathy’s mother drives up, the man speeds away and Kathy is confused. After this encounter, Kathy’s parents have a talk with her about now not everything that looks nice is really nice, using examples from nature.
This book is a great choice for school-aged children, but might be scary for kids younger than 5. I suggest previewing it before reading with your kids so you can make sure it’s the best choice for your family.
Who’s Bad and Who’s Good, Little Red Riding Hood? by Steve Smallman
As Little Red prepares to head out to her grandmother’s house, her mother reminds her to be careful, and to “yell, run, and tell” if she encounters someone dangerous. She ventures out into the woods, and encounters both a wolf who seems scary and a rabbit who seems friendly. Little Red learns that looks can be deceiving and the folks we interact with are not always what they seem.
This book is a good choice for ages 4 and up, but be sure to preview it before sharing with your young child.
Rani’s parents have just had a baby, which means Rani’s grandmother is taking care of her. Rani is reminded of many important things she needs to know to stay safe: her grandmother is her trusted adult, she should always let an adult answer the door, and many more smart rules. She is also reminded that people she “sort of” knows, like neighbors or mail carriers, are only trusted adults if they’re designated as such by her parents.
This cute and helpful book is a great choice for kids ages 5 and up.
This rhyming story shows large animals approaching kids to talk in various scenarios. In every situation, the kids are urged to never talk to strangers — even if it’s a leaping leopard or a grizzly bear.
Originally published in 1967, this book is a good choice for very young children, because the use of animals makes it a bit less scary. I recommend using this book to introduce the concept of “stranger danger” with kids ages 2 to 3, and then building upon that foundation with other books as children get older.
Lu is waiting to be picked up after school when it starts to rain. A neighbor offers to take her home, but she knows this is not the person her mother has told her she should go with. Some other adults that Lu knows also offer to take her home, but she knows that she needs to follow her mother’s instructions. Finally, the right person shows up to take Lu home! And who it is might surprise the reader.
This book addresses a very specific situation, but it’s well done. I recommend sharing it with kids ages 5 and up.