Saturday, January 29, 2011

Picture Books for Middle Schoolers

As long as I am on my "don't abandon all youthful tools" kick...

Pragmatic Mom had a thought-provoking blog post where she asked people to help compile a Top 10 list of Caldecott Medal and Honor Books.  It was tough, but I finally came up with this list based on my self-imposed rules:
--No more than one book from any one author
--Selection was more than just that one book, but also considered body of work by that author

Going in order from oldest to newest, my top 10 choices were:

Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss, pseud. [Theodor Seuss Geisel]

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti , adapted and illustrated by Gerald McDermott
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Tuesday by David Wiesner
Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young
In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming 

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? illustrated and written by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Zen Shorts illustrated and written by Jon J. Muth

And while some might think that Caldecott winners were too young for middle schoolers, I would disagree. For example, we still create Oobleck, sometime for science, sometimes just for the fun of it. I used Tuesday in a writing class (for a lesson of "show, not tell" in writing) and Seven Blind Mice in a religion class (as a metaphor for trying to explain the divine). I anticipate using Anansi the Spider when we get into Jung, and Zen Shorts when we get to Buddhism. And, of course, we once again celebrated the Christmas season with our annual reading of The Polar Express.

But it got me to thinking that maybe I would create my own Top 10 list of Non-Fiction Picture Books for Middle Schoolers, based on the resources I have been using in my classes for this academic year. So here are the Picture Books that have figured most prominently in our 6th Grade lessons so far:

Math (but really, so much more)
Blockhead:  The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agnese  I wrote an entire post about this book, which we love, love, LOVE.  We used it not only for math, but for history, art, and even literature, since it has inspired us writing some short poems known as Fibs.

History (we are studying 19th Century World and American history)

History and Science  
The Cod’s Tale by Mark Kurlansky

The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
The Way We Work by David Macaulay
These aren't really classic Picture Books, so I'm counting them both together as one book.  But they both present scientific information in such a great visual way, and work either reading sequentially through the book, or just picking up a page or two at a time to get clear about a particular question that has come up about a tool or a body part.

World Religions (so far, just Judaism and Christianity)
Creation by Gerald McDermott
Exodus by Brian Wildsmith (my review of this book)
Spirit Child:  A Story of the Nativity by John Bierhorst

I also found a couple of resources with some other good Picture Books for middle schoolers.  One is from another blog of a book-loving teacher, Planetesme, where she lists some other top notch picture book biographies.  An even more thorough and academic-oriented resource is A Middle School Teacher's Guide for Selecting Picture Books.
But I would love to get any suggestions that you have for picture books for students in the 11-14 age range.  Anyone have any other picture books to recommend to us?  Please share them in the comments below.


  1. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

    It's a high adventure in logic, in the form of a graphic novel.

  2. Wow, that sounds great. Thanks, Maria.