Bringing family together: picture books for older kids

Posted on October 11, 2016 at 6:00 am

By Melanie Boerner

Picture books are known for their 40 pages (or less) of illustrations and text that tell a story for young children. And most kids leave picture books behind when they enter higher elementary grades. But wait, don’t disregard picture book reads entirely for these grades! Authors and illustrators are penning picture books specifically for older kids. Kids in grades 3-6 might be missing out on some seriously great reading.

There have been many picture books I have read with my son where we’ve said, “That was so much fun! We have to read that one again!” They were so well written and the pictures lent perfectly to the story. Serious subjects are often presented in a fresh way, making them far more accessible than other nonfiction books. Picture books for older kids also have robust and sophisticated vocabularies, which make parents and teachers happy as well.

Another positive and important role these picture books will play in your older reader’s life is the opportunity to sit with you and read together. The plot lines in them might spark a great discussion you wouldn’t have had if your child was reading a chapter book on their own.

Here’s a sampling of some great picture books to read with the whole family:


The Invention of Hugo Cabret; Wonderstruck; and The Marvels, 3 books written and illustrated by Brian Selznick

These are not not your average picture books. They appear to be tomes at over 500 pages each. But don’t let the number of pages fool you. The majority are filled with beautiful, stunning black and white illustrations that truly tell each story. When you read one Selznick book, you will be hooked and rush back to the library for the rest. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is on my top ten list!


Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan; and Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

This two-in-one picture book tackles some very difficult topics regarding political violence in Pakistan. Iqbal speaks out against inhumane child slavery in the carpet trade, making him a target for those who disagreed with him. Twenty years later, Malala speaks out for the rights of girls to attend school and suffers the same targeting from the Taliban. This book is an empowering and educational portrayal of young people making an extraordinary impact on the world.


The Giving Tree, written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein

This book is a classic and will never lose the magic that only Shel Silverstein brought to literature. The Giving Tree is the story of a tree who loved a boy—so much so, that it gave all of itself for the man that the boy became. This touching tale offers a heartfelt lesson in the importance of giving without expectations. The pictures are simple and void of color, evoking emotion without being overwrought—which could be why the book is so popular.


Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, written by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Winnie-the-Pooh was a real bear who went on quite an adventure before finding a home at the London Zoo and a friend named Christopher Robin. A veterinarian on his way to tend horses in WWI, rescued a baby bear, named her Winnie, and took her to war. This is the endearing story of how this real life bear became the namesake for the beloved book character. While the illustrations are fun and help tell the story, I enjoyed the historic photographs of Winnie and her companions even more.


The Matchbox Diary, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

When a little girl visits her great-grandfather’s home, he tells her to pick anything off the shelves and he will tell her its story. She chooses an unusual object—an old cigar box. The matchboxes inside make up her great-grandfather’s diary, filled with small objects that tell of his journey from Italy to America. The illustrations in this book reminded me of The Polar Express, so expressive and realistic. This is a great immigration tale for children to understand the importance of older generations and the history they can share.

For more good suggestions and information about picture books for older readers, check out the sites below.


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