Children’s books on lying
Lying is an issue that every parent comes up against at some time or other. All children experiment with lying (see Why do children lie?). That’s perfectly normal and – although it can be quite shocking for parents – it is seldom the start of a slippery slope to immorality and delinquency. Rather than overreacting or giving a long lecture (both of which might inadvertently encourage more lying), why not reach for some children’s books on lying to make your point in a more accessible way?
Reading stories together can be a wonderful way to prompt discussions about right and wrong and to talk though moral dilemmas. Whether you have a persistent fibber or just want to lay the groundwork for good decision-making, there are lots of good children’s books on lying to choose from. Here is my pick of the best.
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Hippo Owns Up by Sue Graves is a gentle, light touch introduction to the topic that focuses on an issue all young children can relate to – chocolate cake! Hippo’s dilemma revolves around the importance of telling the truth and owning up when you have done something wrong. It’s a great storybook for prompting discussions about right, wrong, consequences and morals using a situation that children may well have found themselves in. Plus the illustrations (by Trevor Dunton) and are really funny! (2-6yrs)
What I really like about The Truth According to Arthur (by Tim Hopgood) is that it turns ‘the truth’ into a character that can be bent, stretched, covered up, hidden etc. Young children find abstract concepts quite challenging, so that physicality works really well. And the accompanying illustrations are very amusing, so it doesn’t feel like you are hammering home a dry moral point. Great for giving you and your child shared reference points and a vocabulary for discussing whether (or not) they are telling the truth going forward. (4-7yrs)
For some reason, a lot of the characters in children’s books on lying are boys (!). So it is refreshing to find one with a female lead. I love the emotional content of Laura Rankin’s book Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie. That desperate sense of really really wanting something that isn’t yours. The heavy weight of carrying around a lie. And the sense of relief when you can be honest again. It’s really relatable for young children and a gentle conversation starter. (4-7yrs)
In the age of fake news, The Lying King by Alex Beard is a fitting parable. In the mold of Aesop and Kipling, it tells the story of a lying warthog who, despite his obvious untruths and moral failings, becomes king when the other animals fail to take a stand. It is written in verse, so definitely one for reading out loud. The multiple layers of meaning make it a good choice for a mixed aged group of siblings. And the satirical edge might be appealing for parents who are out of the habit of reading to slightly older children. Likely to prompt interesting discussions with Primary schoolers around social dynamics, playground morality and even political discussion! (5-9yrs)
If you are looking for something for older children, The Boy Who Lied (by Kim Slater) is a good choice. As you would expect for this age group, the themes are more ‘young adult’ (including financial hardship, a parent in prison and a brother who goes missing). But the main character and plot are brilliant vehicles for thinking through why lies matter and how we can be true to ourselves in difficult circumstances. Great for an age group for whom the question ‘Who am I and what do I believe in?’ is paramount. (11yrs+)
Sometimes it’s good to approach moral discussions indirectly with children, using stories set in times and places that are unfamiliar. So they don’t feel that the ‘lesson’ is being directed pointedly at them. The Empty Pot (by Demi) is perfect for this. It is another parable, but set in China. And I like it because the focus is on the positive value of honesty (rather than the badness of dishonesty). And how doing the difficult right thing can bring unexpected rewards. Really beautiful book. (4-8yrs)
Lying may be wrong but, sometimes, telling the truth can be hurtful. The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia McKissack is a little bit dated but it is the best children’s book on lying I have found that tackles thorny issues around the right and wrong ways to tell the truth. Because 100% honesty isn’t always the best policy. Sometimes, we don’t want our children to just blurt out the truth. And that can be very confusing! (4-8yrs)
‘Matilda Who Told Such Dreadful Lies And Was Burned To Death’ (one of the Cautionary Tales for Children by Hilaire Belloc) is the nuclear option when it comes to children’s books on lying! An absolute classic poem with wonderful verse and (usually quirky) illustrations. But utterly devoid of nuance. This is a grim retelling of the Boy Who Cried Wolf in which Matilda’s habitual lying leads to her and her aunt being burned to death. You have been warned!
Have I missed out your favourite children’s book on lying? Or would you like to give your opinion on one of these books? Do let us know by leaving a comment!
*This is not a sponsored post – these are all books that I have personally chosen to recommend. It does however contain affiliate links which means that if you click through from this post and buy the book, I receive a few pennies from Amazon (see Disclosure Notice for more info).