being a teacher, books, Literacy, picture books, Reading

More Picture Books to Teach Theme

I was going to simply update my original post on teaching theme through picture books, but then realized that I had so many new picture books to add to it that it deserved its own post.  It is a great time to be a lover of picture books.  So behold, even more amazing picture books to teach theme and please feel free to add your own suggestions as well.

If you would like just a list without images and theme suggestion,please go here. 

I cried the first time I read Ida, Always by Caron Lewis and Charles Santoso.  I cried the second time I read it as well.  With its story of love surpassing death, it is a must add to any classroom.

Yard Sale written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Lauren Castillo is a fantastic book to discuss what it means to have a home and a family.  This is another book that made me cry.

We discuss needing diverse books in our classrooms and Jacob’s New Dress is most definitely a book we need.  Written by Sarah and Ian Hoffman for their own son, my students had wonderful discussions about what it means to fit the mold that society gives us.

The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers is beautiful not only in its illustrations, but also in its message about what one person can do for a community.


Be A Friend by Salina Yoon is a wonderful addition to any classroom collection.  Its simple story allows for a rich discussion about friendship and finding our place in the world.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (Global Read Aloud contender) is a masterful book for students in discovering theme.  Love, loss, death, acceptance and rediscovery were all themes my students fund in the book.

The Wildest Race Ever:  The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon by Megan McCarthy is a great addition to our theme collection.  I love when non-fiction picture books can be used to discuss theme.

I have several of Pat Zietlow Miller’s picture books in our classroom and find them all to be incredible additions.  Sophie’s Squash always makes me laugh.  Pat’s latest picture book The Quickest Kid in Clarksville illustrated by Frank Morrison was an instant hit with my students and the theme only brought further conversation.

Another non-fiction picture book, Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raul Colon has made its way into our classroom, not only teaching us about the incredible life of Marie Tharp but also about perseverance, having dreams, and the power of curiosity.

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be In This Book) written by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Tim Miller is a sure hit with kids and adults alike.  Funny and with a great message of friendship, my students have read this one multiple times.

I am an unabashedly major fan of Bob Shea and his books show up on many of my lists.  The second installment of his Ballet Cat series is already a favorite in our classroom as well as with my own children.  In Dance! Dance! Underpants! we can find the themes of friendships, judgment, and also how to succeed while getting another great laugh.

I love wordless picture books for discussing theme because it lets readers look at just the illustrations without wondering about the words.  Skunk on a String by Thao Lam is a great conversation starter for perseverance and creativity.

Using picture books to teach theme to my middle schoolers has been one of the best decisions I ever made.  The illustrations pull them in but the stories are what keeps us coming back.

If you would like to see more of our favorite books, please go here.

3 thoughts on “More Picture Books to Teach Theme”

  1. Thanks for sharing these amazing books Pernille. A couple of questions: When sharing picture books with your class, do you read aloud while showing the pictures? Do you have multiple copies? I know you have many rich discussions. Do you talk about the book before, during and after? Do the students follow up in written form? If so, how? Great opportunity to encourage writing. I would believe that different books lend themselves to different ways of sharing. My 5th grade kids so enjoy sharing picture books but we only have 1 copy of each. Find this frustrating at times as they would love to page through themselves in small groups. Hope you don’t mind all these questions Pernille – know how passionate you are about the wonder of these beautiful books that get kids to enjoy reading.

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