September 24, 2023

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Picture Books to Spark Discussion

4 min read
Picture Books to Spark Discussion

If you regularly read my book review articles, you know I love picture books that can also inspire a good discussion. I even check out picture books from the library that I don’t necessarily like, just to inspire a good conversation with my kids. Our latest book review featured, Fred Gets Dressed, which I absolutely adore (and is miraculously NOT banned, in Kansas although it probably is somewhere else). I read that one to my little one that is too young for a discussion of anything (he can barely talk), but it would also be a great read for an older kid to bring up the topic of why it makes some people uncomfortable.

For this post, we are not tackling society’s problems which you probably already discuss with your children, like climate change, war, LGBTQ issues, racism…those are all super important–but there are so many recommendations and discussions on those issues that you certainly don’t need my input there. I’m exploring some less talked about issues here like; moving away from a friend; taking things at your own speed; places where life is very different and much harder; and individual versus community achievement.

I was inspired for this post by three books I received to review (yes, I was given free copies, these books are marked with an *). The other common thread in each of these books is amazing artwork.

The links here are all Amazon affiliate links, which means we may get a small commission if you order the books through these links, but we still prefer you go to your local bookstore.

Five Picture Books To Get Your Kids Talking


1) The Long Ride Home

Illustration from The Long Ride Home

Illustration from The Long Ride Home

Written and Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, The Long Ride Home*, has amazing artwork on every page. Every image is rich and full. A young Koala misses her best friend on a long car ride through the city they used to share. This love letter to a friend actually made me teary-eyed. This is a good book to read to introduce the idea that you or a close friend may need to move away someday. Read it early in the day to avoid bedtime worries.

2) What Do You Do With An Idea?

This is a famous bestseller, but I included it because I actually hated the book at first. What Do You Do With An Idea? is written by Kobi Yamada (who specializes in gift books) and illustrated by the talented Mae Besom. I always loved the art, but I had questions about the content. I now realize that it really depends on how you read it and discuss it with your kids. The book is a story of a child with an idea that he or she hangs on to for years and lets grow into something magnificent that changes the world. This prompts two questions: 1) Is this idea something like democracy or it is something like Facebook? 2) Did this little person’s idea change the world all on its own?

This book gives parents the opportunity to talk about how no single person’s idea becomes anything without lots of other people and resources to nurture it. You could also talk about simultaneous invention, where people all over the world often have the same idea at the same time but most people don’t have the support, resources, or will to pursue it. And how do you know if an idea is worth pursuing? Do you look at costs and benefits or do you think about the greater good for the world?

3) Hurry, Little Tortoise, Time for School!

Little Tortoise

Little Tortoise

Here is one for younger kids. The tortoise in Hurry, Little Tortoise, Time for School!*, by Carrie Finison and illustrated by Erin Kraan, is determined to be the first one to school but she is racing against Cheetahs and llamas, so maybe she can just be the fastest Tortoise. Or maybe she can make it on time if she really tries…When the teacher turns out to be a sloth, she learns that you don’t necessarily have to do things fast to be worth it. This is perfect for the impatient little racer in your life.

4) The Water Princess

The Water Princess by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds tells a beautiful story of a girl who goes with her mother to work miles each day for water only to make it home in time for dinner and sleep and to start again in the morning. It is inspired by the true story of a model, Georgie Badiel, who returned to her country of Burkina Faso to build wells as part of the organization Ryan’s Well. The book is timeless, just like the issue of available clean water, but the story is beautiful and light-hearted.

5) If the World Were 100 Animals

The concept of this book centers around ratios. If there were only a hundred animals, how many would be mammals, how many could fly, how many are deadly.. etc. The math here is a bit hard to grasp, even for older kids. I actually found that it didn’t matter if kids really understood the 100 concept. The book is filled with interesting facts, great pictures, and a general feeling of the ratios in nature. It also isn’t too long to get through in one easy sitting with your kid. If the World Were 100 Animals* is written by Miranda Smith and Illustrated by Aaron Cushley.

Of course, there are more, there always are! But I can only feature so many at once.



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