Picture Books for Middle and High School? Wait, What?

This book is specifically for teachers of teens because most middle school and high school teachers think of picture books as strictly for toddlers and most certainly for preschool and early elementary students. Well, that is the case in many instances, yet it is surprising to learn how many picture books are actually suitable and appropriate for teens.

The picture books included in Picture Books for Middle and High School? Are You Kidding? are short, poignant and thought-provoking. They are great for discussion starters especially in the high school. Picture books contain an average of 32 to 40 pages with pictures appearing on every page or every two-page spread. With so few pages – the text of a picture book is critical. With a minimal number of words, it must tell a very complete and clear story in order for the illustrator to “get it right.”

I have reviewed over 525 picture books and organized the titles by seven subject areas: science, math, history, language arts, the arts, character, and miscellaneous. Some categories have sub categories for further clarification.

It is important to highlight the artwork in picture books – much of which is art gallery quality. Sometimes it is very apparent from the cover art who the illustrator is – as the artistic work is very unique.
These particular books, that I have identified and listed, are really not suitable for preschool – elementary school students but are more appropriate for middle and high school students. There are those that detail the suffering of war, slavery, civil rights, immigration, poverty, homelessness, bullying, and mental illness. The picture book – Rose Blanche would not be suitable for kindergarten.

Librarians know all there is to know about picture books but my research has shown that most middle and high school teachers are unfamiliar and therefore unaware of the value picture books could have in their content area courses.

Picture books can be used to:

  • start a discussion about historical events
  • give background information on the discovery of inventions
  • give insight to famous people
  • provide a better understanding of geographical locations
  • develop character traits
  • highlight math concepts
  • embellish and enhance grammar lessons
  • feature poetry styles
  • bring new clarity to concerning issues
  • model various types of writing
  • generate ideas for creative writing
  • introduce sophisticated concepts and ideas
  • demonstrate succinct, rich language
  • demonstrate writers’ craft: setting, foreshadowing, characterization, theme, plot, conflict, point of view, etc. because of brief, explicit text and supportive illustrations
  • demonstrate alliteration, personification, simile, metaphor, illusion, irony, parallel structure, understatement, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia because of brief text and beautiful illustrations

Picture books are short enough to easily become part of any lesson. Another important feature – picture books are just plain entertaining.