Picture Book Ten for Ten 2016: Ten Must-Have Picture Books for the Secondary Classroom



In place of our weekly Top Ten Tuesday, we are instead so excited to join Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for their annual August 10th Picture Books 10 for 10 event. The event features educators, librarians, parents, and other picture book lovers sharing their favorite ten picture books. Today, we are going to share our favorite 10 picture books for use in our secondary classrooms.

 Today’s Topic: Ten Must-Have Picture Books for the Secondary Classroom


I wanted to share some picture books I used for the regular precept activity in my classroom with my middle schoolers. On my original post, I listed Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Red by Michael Hall, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña; however, here are others that I added during the rest of the year or will add this upcoming year:

1. Normal Norman by Tara Lazar

normal norman

When I reviewed this book, the first thing I thought of was using it for a precept because the theme of novel is so relevant to middle schoolers. They all want to be normal when really it is the extraordinary that should be striving for!

2. The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

knowing book

The Knowing Book is a book that makes the reader think about the world around them and think about their priorities, choices, identity, and nature.

3. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate


I used Ivan this year in a different individualized picture book activity, but the conversations that came about during that activity made me realize that the book needs to be a whole-group read aloud so we can discuss empathy for all living things.

4. Ada Twist, Scientist and Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
and Iggy Peck, Architect (though I haven’t read it yet) 

ada twist rosie revere

I love these texts that focus on going for your dreams, overcoming obstacles, and finding your passion. Beaty’s writing is rhythmic and imaginative, and Roberts’s illustrations are so detailed and beautiful.

5. Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

freedom summer

Freedom Summer is such an accessible introduction to the Civil Rights Movement for students who are just learning about the civil unrest of the past and in the middle of racial tension currently. This book will start discussions and make students think. Luckily, Deborah Wiles helps us out a ton by sharing so many resources with us on her Pinterest board https://www.pinterest.com/debbiewiles/ and her website http://deborahwiles.com/site/resources-for-educators/.


1. Red by Michael Hall

red a crayon's story

I use this picture book to talk about theme. I love reading this book to secondary students (or preservice teachers) and then asking them what they thought the book was “really” about. They are always surprised that their peers have different interpretations than they do. It’s a fabulous book with a beautiful message.

2. Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett (I linked to Kellee’s Review of the book)


This is one of my favorite activities to do with students of all ages (elementary school through college!). You can easily download the Birthday Bunny book from the internet. I like this idea, but I do the activity a bit differently. I put the students into groups of five and purchase five copies of The Poky Little Puppy. The story is fairly flat, and it is a classic. We talk about why this might be. Then, I let them go at it—they create their own versions (each group writes directly in the five books I purchased). Each group shares with the class, and they are stunned at what we come up with. This gives us opportunities to talk about all kinds of literary goodness. 🙂

3. Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka

yo yes

My advisor, Wendy Glenn, introduced this book to me during our Methods class, and I still use it many years later (along with her activity!). She gave us a slip of paper with all of the words from this book but with the punctuation removed. We were instructed to find a partner and together, add punctuation and perform a skit for the class. It taught us the power of punctuation! I still use this activity with pre-service teachers  and loved doing it with my high schoolers.

4. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Portfolio Edition) by Chris Van Allsburg

mysteries of harris burdick

I took this idea from Caitlin Hoffman, a teacher in my department who always had clever ideas. (I am not sure if this idea was her own, but it is a clever one.) I bought the portfolio edition of this book, but it can also be purchased in picture book form. I hang the pictures around my classroom and tell my students to tell the rest of the story. Each picture in this book begs to be elaborated into a story.

5. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell


I love reading this book to my students to kick off banned books week. Most of them are stunned that it might even be banned because it is based on a true story. Following the reading and discussion, I put them into groups and give each group a different banned book, and we continue our conversation and sharing.

Which books do you think are a must-have for the classroom? 

Signatureand RickiSig

12 thoughts on “Picture Book Ten for Ten 2016: Ten Must-Have Picture Books for the Secondary Classroom”

  1. Wonderful collection! A ZERO overlaps with my list, which only goes to show that there are so many PBs that are great for secondary. Some great choices here – love the idea of using The Poky Little Puppy! #pb10for10

  2. I love hearing about how you use picture books with older readers! Many nonfiction picture books (including mine) are very well-suited to middle graders. I love seeing how you use all sorts of picture books with them!

  3. Wonderful books for use in middle school too. I’ve used Harris Burdock for a lot of years, love the idea of Battle Bunny & The Poky Little Puppy-redux! And if still in the classroom, would certainly use Ada Twist and Rosie Revere. Great ideas with the books!

  4. I love your selections! I’ve just added your list to my Pinterest board that I created for student-teachers who are headed for secondary schools (grades 6 and up) who just don’t believe that picture books are for them. I work hard to change their minds. Thanks for your recommendations and teaching ideas. I’ll be picking up a couple that the Doucette Library doesn’t have.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  5. There are some great titles on this list. I have to read the Knowing Book. I forgot about Battle Bunny – it’s such a creative book. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I am now going to try out the idea with The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, too – Allsburg’s illustrations are sublime, and you are right, they invite storytelling.

  7. SOOOO happy to read this post about promoting picture books in high school classrooms! I also really appreciated your comments on how you use them and your precept idea. I will happily share this on my FB page later this week! Normal Norman and The Knowing Book are new titles for me that I have noted. Wonderful post – thank you!

  8. This is an awesome list, Kellee! I’m in the midst of revising a blog post for Two Writing Teachers about picture books in secondary classrooms. I cannot wait to share your list in the resources section of my post.


Leave a Comment