10 Picture Books That Make The Reader Think About Writing

It is frequently said that reading in the input and writing is the output. For this reason, it is important to consider carefully what we read and what we advise students to read.

 As Annie Dillard notes in 'The Writing Life, 'The writer is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, because that is what he will know.'

I am inspired by the initiative of fellow educators and bloggers, Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek to compile a list of 10 books that work for me. I am focusing on picture books that encourage me to think, rather than do the thinking for me. Books, that present me with a host of possibilities for literary explorations. I felt incredibly torn. As I began exploring my library, so many many titles screamed 'Pick me!' I am in no doubt, that some titles have been unfairly treated here. My selections are presented in no particular order.

Colin Thompson is a master at writing about the human condition. His characters often live on the fringes of society. They elicit a vulnerability that is endearing. I use them to show  aspects of character development. The subject matter provokes deeper thinking about what really matters in life.

I have several Cynthia Rylant titles in my collection. She is a trusted author for me. This is one of my favourite books. The stories of migration are sketched with a strong sense of voice. Evocative non -fiction.

The Island is a confronting book. It always elicits strong responses from the audience when I read it aloud. The book deals with xenophobia and isolation. The ultimate fear of strangers. I love the way kids respond to this book. It challenges the reader/listener to think deeply about this issue.

Another non-fiction title. Beautifully illustrated, the book strikes a balance between factual text and a narrative that is conversational in style. A persuasive text dealing with endangered species, extinction and conservation.

I wanted to include a number of Margaret Wild titles, but in the end chose Tanglewood. A simple text in which the author examines themes of isolation, loneliness and the importance of family. A range of illustrating techniques adds further gravitas to this book. 

Anthony Browne books are well represented in my library, but in the end I chose Piggybook because it one of those books that challenges the reader to think about stereotypes within families while examining the devolution of responsibilities within families. The author uses symbolism and a range of illustrating techniques that make for a great reading experience. 

Gary Crew has based this book on true events and it serves the story well. The illustrations also challenge the reader. The book deals with the devastating impact of introduced species into an island environment. Issues of endangerment, extinction and preservation are all dealt with in this book I t never fails to evoke strong reader reactions. A sign of a great book.

Chris Van Allsburg is an enduring favourite of mine. I have many of his books. The issue dealt with here is greed; in particular the love of wealth and power. The twist at the end of the story is a ripper! The author is a master story teller and the faces of  the audience of readers is a sight to behold. Love reading any of his books. I almost know this off by heart.

I waited so long to obtain my own copy of this book, but it was well worth the wait. Great story dealing with isolation and distrust until a storm challenges an entire village. The text is rich in detail and visual imagery. Wonderful use of alliteration and simile make that a great text for crafting language.

I bought this book by Cathy Applegate and Dee Huxley in Darwin at the height of the nationwide drought in Australia. The setting, and the events make for strong connections to self. Rich language and a range of literary elements make this a must have book. I carry it with me regularly. Wonderful use of repetition and the circular ending makes great use of a repeated phrase. 


  1. Love your choices Alan. Can We Save the Tiger? Is a favorite of mine, too. I agree that books should stretch our thinking. Thanks,

  2. So many I've never heard of but they all sound wonderful! I'm definitely going to check out The Island. That one sounds fascinating!

  3. As a primary teacher I am always thinking about how the books we read inspire the books we write. Sometimes it is the language from other authors I see walking across the pages of the stories of young writers. Sometimes it is the structure I recognize. Sometimes it is the topic inspiring a new story from a student. You have many titles here to consider to add to the collection.



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