Picture Books for Older Readers

All posts tagged Picture Books for Older Readers

The Painter and the Wild Swans, by Claude Clement

Published May 12, 2014 by Dagmar

wildswansI was drawn to this book because of the illustrations by Frederic Clement.  They are beautiful.  I was delighted that the story is beautiful as well.

Teiji is a famous painter whose paintings are sought after by people far and wide.  One day, while he is painting, he sees a beautiful flock of birds fly by.  The birds are the most beautiful that he has ever seen.  So beautiful, in fact, that he cannot paint anymore.  He goes off in search of the birds.  He walks and walks until he finds an old man.  The old man tells him that the birds are wild swans who come from Siberia and spend the winter on an island in the middle of the lake.  The old man warns Teiji that it is dangerous to cross the lake in the winter, because of the ice.  Teiji says that he can’t paint unless he sees that real beauty again.  He feels such a strong need to see the birds that he sells everything he has, with the exception of his brushes and paints, and gives it to the old man for his boat.  Teiji takes the boat across the lake.  When the ice breaks the hull and the boat capsizes, Teiji is plunged into the icy water.  Freezing, but determined to see the beautiful birds again, he drags himself to the island.  There he sees the wild swans.  He realizes that true beauty is impossible to capture in a painting and is grateful that he has had the chance to see the birds before he dies.

My students were very quiet while I read this book.  I think they were taken in by the fact that Teiji would give away everything he had just to see the birds again.  Although adults reading the book understand that Teiji has died at the end of the book, not all students do. We often spend time discussing the ending as so few books end this way.  This is a thoughtful, beautiful book.

Interestingly, Claude Clement and Frederic Clement are not related.  Please note that both their last names should appear with l’accent aigu over the first “e”.


Keeper of Soles, by Teresa Bateman

Published May 13, 2013 by Dagmar

I’ve read thikeeperofsoless book to fourth grade through sixth grade audiences.  I love the double entendre as well as the great illustrations by Yayo.  Clever and funny, this book is wonderful for older audiences.

The Grim Reaper appears at a shoemaker’s door one night asking for the shoemaker’s soul.  As any good shoemaker would do, the shoemaker looked at Death’s feet and noticed that Death was barefoot.  Cleverly, the shoemaker suggests a pair of sandals to cover Death’s feet.  Snatching Death’s scroll of names out of his hand, the shoemakers sketches a pattern and says he’ll see Death in four weeks.  This so confuses Death, that he goes along with the plan.  He appears year after year, each time getting more and more shoes for his wardrobe until Death finally announces that he has come for the shoemaker’s soul and won’t be denied.  The shoemaker cleverly points out that he has given Death sole after sole.

Langston’s Train Ride, by Robert Burleigh

Published May 11, 2013 by Dagmar

S640SchLangstonjkt_0.tifThis is another wonderful book for African-American History month.  Langston’s Train Ride begins with Langston Hughes walking down a sidewalk celebrating the publishing of his first book of poems.  He then flashes back to the train ride he took to Mexico to see his father when he was 18 years old.  As the train travels, he reminisces about his childhood.  When the train crosses the Mississippi River, he thinks of what it means to his people, the slaves who were sent “down the river” and Abe Lincoln’s trip on the river “where he saw a slave auction and learned to hate slavery.”  His view of the Mississippi brings words to his head.  He thinks of other ancient rivers in Africa and begins to write down the words to his first poem: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”

This is a powerful book made more so by its incredible illustrations by Leonard Jenkins.  It is hard not to be moved by this book and the words of Langston Hughes’ first poem.

The Pencil, by Allan Ahlberg

Published May 5, 2013 by Dagmar

“Once there wThePencilas a pencil, a lonely little pencil, and nothing else.”  So begins the pencil’s drawing career.  First he draws a boy, named Banjo, then a dog, named Bruce.  When the boy asks the pencil to draw a cat, the pencil hesitates – and rightly so.  The dog chases the cat, named Mildred.  The cat asks for a mouse.  The Pencil says “no”.  The pencil draws a paintbrush, named Kitty, that colors everything in.  It’s not long before everyone the pencil draws needs something or complains about something.  So, the pencil cleverly draws… an eraser.  But then the eraser goes crazy and erases absolutely everything…until the pencil draws another eraser.  They were named Ronald and Rodney.

This very funny book was illustrated by Bruce Ingman.  Highly recommended for older readers.

Pete & Pickles, by Berkeley Breathed

Published January 2, 2013 by Dagmar

petandpicklesWow.  What an incredible book.  I don’t know if it’s the amazing illustrations or how much I love both Pete and Pickles that makes me love this book so much.  It’s a story about new friends and the strength of friendship. My fourth,  fifth and sixth graders absolutely loved it.  The illustrations are beautiful and are drawn with humor.  Highly recommended.

Synopsis: Pete is a perfectly practical and uncomplicated pig until he meets Pickles, an elephant who is trying to escape his miserable life at the circus.  When Pete rescues Pickles, Pickles opens up a new life for Pete, filled with adventure …and complication.  Pete has just about had it with Pickles when a pipe bursts in the house and begins to flood the house.  The water is rising and threatens to drown the friends.  Pete sits at the top of Pickles’ trunk reaching the last air at the top of the house.  Pickles, underneath Pete, can’t breathe at all…unless Pete helps him.  Students wait with baited breath to see if the two friends make it through the night.  Read and find out.  You won’t regret it.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, by Mo Willems

Published January 2, 2013 by Dagmar

goldilocksFrom the author of the easy reader Elephant and Piggie series, and books about that naughty pigeon who wants to drive a bus, here is a great picture book for older readers.  It’s the Goldilocks story, re-told with dinosaurs and chocolate pudding.  Snarky humor abounds as the dinosaurs leave everything in their house, “just so” in order to facilitate the arrival of “a little succulent child” who might “happen by our unlocked home”.  Of course, soon enough, “a poorly supervised little girl named Goldilocks” happens along.  A must read for older readers who want a laugh.