We all can go through hard periods, but kids often find themselves wrestling with a tricky emotion for the first time. Eliot Schrefer looks at four picture books that feature new feelings — and new ways of figuring them out.

The Goodbye Book

Written and illustrated by Todd Parr

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 32 pp., ages 3-6

***½ out of four stars

Todd Parr, author of It’s Okay to Be Different, has carved out a niche for himself as “the feelings man” of picture books, and it’s not hard to see why. In glossy, color-saturated pages, we’re introduced to a small fish who’s lost its companion. As the fish goes through many reactions to the loss, the text is directed straight at the reader, giving permission for all sorts of feelings: “You might be very sad. / You might be very mad.” The art is simple and naïve, as though Parr loaded up Paint on his computer and started clicking away. With its accessible style and kindhearted text, The Goodbye Book will serve kids as a sympathetic friend during trying times.

That’s (Not) Mine

Written by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Two Lions, 32 pp., ages 2-7

*** stars

The furry heroes of Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant’s award-winning You Are (Not) Small are at it again. This time the two cuddly beasts are in competition over who gets access to a comfy reading chair. Thanks to pure white backgrounds, the reader’s eye is drawn again and again to Weyant’s charismatic creations, whose expressive faces convey all levels of envy and outrage. As the battle for ownership of the chair gets more and more physical, the situation (“Can I try it? / No, it’s mine / Please? Just once?”) will resonate with anyone who has siblings or frenemies. Though the book’s overly tidy resolution comes out of nowhere, dynamic page design and brisk, clear characterizations make this a vibrant addition to any bookshelf.

The Only Child

Written and illustrated by Guojing

Schwartz & Wade Books, 112 pp., ages 5-9

**** stars

The Only Child is a compelling and melancholy debut from an important new talent. Detailed black-and-white drawings form a wordless narrative of a child, left alone by her parents, who goes off to find her grandmother. At first she travels through a snowy Chinese city, industrial and desolate, until she finds herself stranded in the woods. Then the journey turns mythic, and the art turns joyful. The child meets magical allies and adversaries, such as a stag and a whale, before finally making her way back to her parents. In her author’s note, Guojing explains that The Only Child came out of her experiences growing up lonely under China’s (newly reversed) one-child policy. An expansive and ageless book, full of wonder, sadness, and wild bursts of imagination.

Ninja Baby

Written by David Zeltser, illustrated by Diane Goode

Chronicle Books, 32 pp., ages 3-5

*** stars

Watch out for Ninja Baby! Little Nina has long been the master in her house. With her quick reflexes and fierce attitude, “Changing time was hand-to-hand combat. / Nina did not like to be helped.” Her ferocious mastery of her household (parents included) is rattled by a welcome narrative wrinkle — the arrival of a new baby, who turns out to be a Kung Fu Master who can “disarm his captors with a single look.” His presence forces Nina to learn calmness and openness, and elevates Ninja Baby above what would otherwise have been a one-note concept. Diane Goode’s broad penstrokes and rough watercolors give the book a sophisticated feel; its rakish look and some of the story’s subtleties might be lost on younger readers.

Eliot Schrefer’s latest book for young readers is Spirit Animals: Immortal Guardians.