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Great Picture Books to Teach Theme  

Last Updated: May 9, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, our picture book author study for Global Read Aloud is about finding your place in the world and having courage to try new things.

Cover Art
Chopsticks - Amy Krouse Rosenthal; Scott Magoon (Illustrator)
Call Number: P R
ISBN: 1423107969
Publication Date: 2012-01-31


The OK Book

Also by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, The Ok Book is a great one for why you should keep trying things until you discover what you are great at.

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The Ok Book - Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Illustrator); Tom Lichtenheld (Illustrator)
Call Number: P R
ISBN: 0061152552
Publication Date: 2007-04-24


The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein is all about following your dreams and doing the impossible.

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The Man Who Walked Between the Towers - Mordicai Gerstein (Illustrator)
Call Number: P AWARD
ISBN: 031236878X
Publication Date: 2007-04-17


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown where Mr. Tiger just will not conform.  When he tries to change his ways, he loses his real identity.

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Mr. Tiger Goes Wild - Peter Brown (Editor); Peter Brown
Call Number: P B
ISBN: 0316200638
Publication Date: 2013-09-03


This Is a Moose

This Is A Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld is a great example of the what happens when others try to make you into something you are not.

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This Is a Moose - Richard T. Morris; Tom Lichtenheld (Artist)
Call Number: P M
ISBN: 0316213608
Publication Date: 2014-05-06



Bluebird by Bob Staake  is a wordless picture book which also means that children love interpreting the ending and allows them to find confidence when they are discovering what theme meansThe shock on many students faces when they get to that page. 

Cover Art
Bluebird - Bob Staake
Call Number: P S
ISBN: 0375870377
Publication Date: 2013-04-09


Orion and the Dark

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett is stunning. The story about a boy who is afraid of the dark is sure to elicit conversations about our fears and what we can do to conquer them

Cover Art
Orion and the Dark - Emma Yarlett (Illustrator)
Call Number: P Y
ISBN: 0763675954
Publication Date: 2015-03-24


Sidewalk Flowers

An amazing wordless picture book by Jon Arne Lawson and Sydney Smith that tells the tale of Sidewalk Flowers and what happens when we are too busy to notice the world around us.

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Sidewalk Flowers - JonArno Lawson; Sydney Smith
Call Number: P L
ISBN: 1554984319
Publication Date: 2015-03-17


Henry Hyena, Why Won't You Laugh?

I am always in favor of a picture book that allows us to discuss how we treat others, particularly when teaching middle schoolers.  I love the story in Henry Hyena, Why Won’t You Laugh by Doug Jantzen and think it will resonate with many of my students with a fairly easy theme for them to discover and discuss.

Cover Art
Henry Hyena, Why Won't You Laugh? - Doug Jantzen; Jean Claude (Illustrator)
Call Number: P J
ISBN: 1481428225
Publication Date: 2015-07-21
Coming soon!!



Froodle by Antoinette Portis delivers the message to embrace their uniqueness and let their true personality shine is not one that is lost on them.

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Froodle - Antoinette Portis (Illustrator)
Call Number: P P
ISBN: 159643922X
Publication Date: 2014-05-06
Coming soon!!


Extra Yarn

Another book by Mac Barnett on the list is Extra Yarn.  It's great to use this book to not only discuss theme with kids but also to show that you can take something simple that you can do and turn it into something extraordinary.  Often this is the biggest aha moment that students get from this book.

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Extra Yarn - Mac Barnett; Jon Klassen (Illustrator)
Call Number: P AWARD
ISBN: 0061953385
Publication Date: 2012-01-17



We love Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  This sweet story of a spoon trying to fit in and finding his place in the world was one that made us laugh and think about our own place in the world.

Cover Art
Spoon - Amy Krouse Rosenthal; Scott Magoon (Illustrator)
Call Number: P R
ISBN: 1423106857
Publication Date: 2009-04-07



Journey by Aaron Becker .  Again a wordless picture book brought some of our deepest conversations.

Cover Art
Journey - Aaron Becker (Illustrator)
Call Number: P AWARD
ISBN: 0763660531
Publication Date: 2013-08-06



Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is a book that most of students can relate to its message about being expected to fit in in a certain way.

Cover Art
Gaston - Kelly DiPucchio; Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
Call Number: P D
ISBN: 1442451025
Publication Date: 2014-06-03



This beautiful book Ish is a fantastic book for theme and what it means to discover your own talents and not let self doubt ruin it for you.

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Ish - Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator); Peter Reynolds (Illustrator)
Call Number: P R
ISBN: 076362344X
Publication Date: 2004-08-19


Each Kindness

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson is one of those picture books you can use for so many things; memoir, aha moment, words of the wiser, teaching empathy and such.  The theme of forgiveness, the impact of decisions, and how kindness gets passed on is a great lesson for all kids.

Cover Art
Each Kindness - Jacqueline Woodson; E. B. Lewis (Illustrator)
Call Number: P W
ISBN: 0399246525
Publication Date: 2012-10-02


A Perfectly Messed-Up Story

A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnell is one of many amazing picture books from this author.  I love the simple aha moment of realizing that it can be good enough even if it is not perfect.  This is a great read for many of our students who push toward perfect every time to the detriment of their own sanity.

Cover Art
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story - Patrick McDonnell
Call Number: P M
ISBN: 0316222585
Publication Date: 2014-10-07


Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted: Birdie Friends!

Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted Birdie Friends by Jill Esbaum is not only a great book to discuss friendship and how we must stay true to ourselves, but is great reminder to students.

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Elwood Bigfoot - Jill Esbaum; Nate Wragg (Illustrator)
ISBN: 1454908793
Publication Date: 2015-09-01
Coming soon!!



Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes once again teaches students what it means to be proud of yourself and not try to change for others.

Cover Art
Chrysanthemum - Kevin Henkes (Illustrator)
Call Number: P H
ISBN: 0688147321
Publication Date: 2008-12-30


Little Bird's Bad Word

Language surrounds us all but by middle school certain words seem to lose their off limit-ness.  That’s why I love Little Bird’s Bad Word by Jacob Grant.  This book will give us a way to discuss what our language says about us as people and how our casual conversations can harm others.  What a great conversation to have.

Cover Art
Little Bird's Bad Word - Jacob Grant
Call Number: P G
ISBN: 1250051495
Publication Date: 2015-07-21
Coming soon!!


Last Stop on Market Street

The beautiful story of Last Stop On Market Street by Matt De La Pena is one meant to spur conversation about our lives, our assumptions, and how we view the world.  But the illustrations?  They tell an even richer story, one that I cannot wait to discuss with my students, many of whom have never ridden a bus or even been in an urban neighborhood.

Cover Art
Last Stop on Market Street - Matt De la Peña; Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
Call Number: P P
ISBN: 0399257748
Publication Date: 2015-01-08


Beautiful Oops!

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg.  Children are so quick to dismiss their own mistakes, but this book with its simple show of what you can do with those “oops” is sure to inspire a moment to re-think and re-draw before a supposed mistake is discarded.

Cover Art
Beautiful Oops! - Barney Saltzberg
Call Number: P S
ISBN: 076115728X
Publication Date: 2010-09-23


The North Star

The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds, I told you he is a genius.  It inspires them to take a risk and find their own path in life.

Cover Art
The North Star - Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator)
Call Number: P R
ISBN: 0763636770
Publication Date: 2009-04-14
Coming soon!!


My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.)

From the title to the illustrations, think of the discussion My Teacher is a Monster – No, I Am Not by Peter Brown  will elicit.  I loved the message, but also the nuance with which it is presented, and let’s face it; many students think their teachers are not quite human and this is a great book to discuss just that.

Cover Art
My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) - Peter Brown
Call Number: P B
ISBN: 0316070297
Publication Date: 2014-07-01


Mr. Wayne's Masterpiece

Patricia Polacco is a master storyteller, Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece is great for discovering courage and sharing experiences where we had to overcome our fears.

Cover Art
Mr. Wayne's Masterpiece - Patricia Polacco (Illustrator)
Call Number: P P
ISBN: 0399160957
Publication Date: 2014-08-12

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You Are Not Small

You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang is about how we judge others and what it all really means.

Cover Art
You Are (Not) Small - Anna Kang; Christopher Weyant (Illustrator)
Call Number: P K
ISBN: 1477847723
Publication Date: 2014-08-05


Marilyn's Monster

Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen is one I think many children will gravitate toward with its quiet message.  It's good for using it to facilitate deeper conversations about finding our own path in the world.

Cover Art
Marilyn's Monster - Michelle Knudsen; Matt Phelan (Illustrator)
ISBN: 0763660116
Publication Date: 2015-03-10
Coming soon!!


Red: A Crayon's Story

Red – A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall is a book to discuss what it meant staying true to one’s own nature as well as facing the pressures of others.  I swear this book was written for middle schoolers and not young children secretly.

Cover Art
Red - Michael Hall (Illustrator)
Call Number: P H
ISBN: 0062252070
Publication Date: 2015-02-03


Wolfie the Bunny

Wolfie the Bunny  about assumptions and what they can lead to has not only made my students laugh out loud, but more importantly, has led us to question our own assumptions about others.

Cover Art
Wolfie the Bunny - Ame Dyckman; Zachariah OHora (Illustrator)
Call Number: P D
ISBN: 0316226149
Publication Date: 2015-02-17


The Day I Lost My Superpowers

The Day I Lost My Super Powers by Michael Escoffier is a book that tells a familiar tale of childhood imagination.  It's perfect to use this to bring my students back to when they thought anything was possible and to reignite their passion for thinking they have the ability to make a difference in the world.

Cover Art
The Day I Lost My Superpowers - Michaël Escoffier; Kris Di Giacomo (Illustrator)
Call Number: P E
ISBN: 1592701442
Publication Date: 2014-04-01
Coming soon!!


Something Extraordinary

Ben Clanton’s Something Extraordinary is just that – extraordinary.  Once again a simple story unfolds leading us to rich conversations about imagination and how it can color our world.

Cover Art
Something Extraordinary - Ben Clanton (Illustrator)
Call Number: P C
ISBN: 1481403583
Publication Date: 2015-06-16
Coming soon!!


The Most Magnificent Thing

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires continues to be a crowd favorite with its theme of not giving up and seeing the usefulness in things we otherwise may discard.

Cover Art
The Most Magnificent Thing - Ashley Spires (Illustrator)
Call Number: P S
ISBN: 1554537045
Publication Date: 2014-04-01


The Adventures of Beekle

I am sure I was not the only one jumping up and down when the Caldecott award was announced this year and The Adventures of Beekle – The Unimaginary Friend was the big winner.  I have cherished this book in the Library for its simple message about imagination and taking control of ones own destiny.  The illustrations are divine in the book and have inspired many children to draw their own imaginary friends.

Cover Art
The Adventures of Beekle - Dan Santat
Call Number: P AWARD
ISBN: 0316199982
Publication Date: 2014-04-08


Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea is one of the best tales for discussing the theme of how often we misjudge others.

Cover Art
Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great - Bob Shea (Illustrator)
Call Number: P S
ISBN: 1423159527
Publication Date: 2013-06-25


The Dot

What can I say about The Dot that countless others have not said already?  The simple message of making your mark on the world and being good enough is one that left its mark on us.

Cover Art
The Dot - Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator)
Call Number: P R
ISBN: 0763619612
Publication Date: 2003-09-15


Billy's Booger

I love Billy’s Booger – A Memoir by William Joyce for discussing great ideas and how they can be interpreted.

Cover Art
Billy's Booger - William Joyce (Illustrator); Moonbot Studios Staff (Contribution by)
Call Number: P J
ISBN: 1442473517
Publication Date: 2015-06-02
Coming soon!!


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