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Book List Help: High Reading Level Picture Books

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My daughter is 6. Her reading level tests as high school. Her preferences for pleasure reading are fairly easy chapter books (Ivy and Bean, for example) or picture books. She has little interest in more complex or longer chapter books, and I have no interest in pushing this. We read plenty of rich, complex literature as family read alouds and she enjoys those.


She is quite willing to read much more complex, challenging picture books. I've found a few, but would love to know about any others to add to our list. She's especially looking for fiction or biographies. Some examples of what I've found so far that she has enjoyed:


Micawber by John Lithgow

Going Home by Eve Bunting

How the Stars Fell Into the Sky by Jerrie Oughton

Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles



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I used to just go to the library and get a pile of picture books that looked good.  They weren't always great, but they were usually good enough.  It got so I could tell at a glance if a particular book was at the right level and had the right ratio of text to pictures (which, apparently, was the most important thing for my son).

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One way I got my daughter to make the transition to reading longer books by herself was to read a couple of chapters, get her interested in the book, then leave it behind. Sometimes she couldn't stand the waiting and would go ahead and read it herself. The d'aulaires have good books, as does holliings Clancy Hollings.

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My library has a section specifically for the books you're thinking of, which they call "Picture books for older readers". I was in the habit of randomly grabbing a few on each visit, but I've fallen away from that habit. Next time I go, I'll browse it and try to remember to mention a few favorites here.

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To me, the usborne young readers series is great for this -- there's pictures but the text goes up in complexity. Young Reading Series 2 is about Ivy & Bean level but level 3 has a bunch of biographies that might be about 5th-6th grade level. 




Some others she would probably enjoy in the 5th-6th grade reading level range -- I wouldn't call them picture books but the pictures are important to them:

Wonderstruck, The Marvels, Hugo Cabret 
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Edited by tm919
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Yes, the ratio of text to pictures is really the thing here, too. And font size; she doesn't like tiny print.


I wish my library had a section specifically for picture books for older readers! I might ask the librarians if they know selections that would fit this description.


She loves the long read alouds we do, but has zero desire to continue them on her own. Truly zero. Even after we read them aloud, she will go through them herself, but flipping to find favorite parts and just rereading those.


Unfortunately, I think I hit most the book lists when finding books last year. Now I'm stuck. I've been going through the library shelves on my own, but I'm finding so few that would be good fits.

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Some states have picture book awards that might work. The Missouri show me book award usually has longer picture books and the Kentucky bluegrass k-2 book award usually does too. You may try searching for previous years nominees.


Also, the fairy tale/folk tale section of your library should have lots longer picture books. Our biography section has lots of picture books too.


Another place I have found longer picture books is by searching "20xx Caldecott predictions." Some of those books are long (some are meant for very young children, but there were a bunch my ds9 enjoyed).

Edited by lovinmyboys
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Some authors who tend to write longer picture books with higher vocabulary level:


Patricia Polacco

Eve Bunting

William Steig

Mark Teague (the Dear Mrs. LaRue ones are good)

Richard Platt (Pirate Diary, Castle Diary)

Chris Van Allsburg


I agree with others to browse the picture book stacks. None of these will last her. I would just walk through and pull books and glance inside. You can see pretty quickly if it's longish blocks of text or simple one liners on most pages and from there you know. You get a feel just grabbing things. And you can ask the librarian too.


Also look for picture book versions of fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world. These are often not on the picture book shelves but in the nonfiction stacks, but they're all basically in one section so they're easy to browse. 


Also look for children's picture book versions of classics as those are often illustrated and well written.


I think you're right to keep her on picture books - many of them have better vocabulary anyway. And there's no rush to push a 6 yo into reading chapter books. Really, no rush. 



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So, you're looking for longer and more complex books with lots of illustrations?


I agree with the PP about looking at legend/myth books. The Questing Knights of the Fairy Queen by McCaughrean was a big hit here this past year. Lots of big illustrations, a child-friendly story, but a rather complicated narrative.


I have also picked up unabridged illustrated children's classics. The Princess and the Goblin (probably totally OOP), Pippi Longstocking (by OUP), and Black Beauty (not GIC, a full color unabridged, probably also totally OOP), Pinocchio, and the like. 


It's sometimes, sometimes, worthwhile to poke through the graphic novel section at a library, even if you're not interested in graphic novels, for these books. Some librarians seem to have a broad idea of what a graphic novel is, and tend to toss any picture-heavy but higher reading level book a GN sticker. But do pre-read, you never know what you'll find. I may have read my 9yo the gorgeously illustrated legend of Wayland a few months ago - really should have pre-read that one!  :blush:

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Has she read Paul Zelinski's books? My DD loves those. There are also some fabulous fairy tale editions with gorgeous pictures. Currently DD is reading:


Rose Red & Snow White, by Ruth Sanderson
The adventures of Tom Thumb, by Marianna Mayer
Barefoot Books makes some fantastic collections.
Oh, and you might also want to try The Nose, by Gennady Spirin. DD thought it was hilarious.


Edited by Anna's Mom
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Thank you all!


I spent a few hours at the library yesterday, without an impatient kid in tow, and am feeling much better about being able to find books. I had forgotten just how much fiction gets shelved in the nonfiction! Almost an entire aisle of folk/fairy tales and most of an aisle of poetry (which she loves!). Plus a good amount of biographies. A chunk of historical fiction also seems to have ended up in the nonfiction stacks.


I thought she had read most of the Polacco books, but looking at them again I realized that I had read most of them to her when she was 3-4 years old. She likely won't remember them now and can enjoy reading them herself. Same with some of the other great authors.


I also learned that my library has made some odd shelving decisions that result in some of the more complex picture books being shelved with the regular fiction. And, yup, some of the picture books are shelved with the graphic novels.

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