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Tanaqui

Picture books at a high reading level

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We all know the drill. Picture books which are written for storytime are often at a higher reading level than chapter books written for the same age group, so don't move your early reader out of picture books!

 

I was talking about this to somebody elsewhere, and she said she didn't believe me, and I promised to make a list. And then I got lazy and never did, but now I want to follow through on that. However, you know, it's been a few years since I was actively buying picture books! My kids are 12 and 14 now! I wonder what else is out there that I missed!

 

So this is what I'm asking for:

 

1. Picture books written on a fairly high reading level - say second or third grade and up (you can guesstimate this) that

 

2. Have been published within the past 20 years and, ideally

 

3. Feature characters on some axis of diversity - non-white, disabled, LGBT, religious minorities....

 

That last one is hard to do, don't I know it, but that's my preference whenever possible. The first two points are more important for the purpose of this exercise, so don't hold back if your favorite book doesn't hit point three. (Nonfiction is okay too.)

 

(Point two can also be skipped if you're reasonably confident that this book is a hidden gem nobody has ever heard of, but be aware that I personally have heard of a lot of books!)

 

I don't care if the books are currently in print. You can buy used books anywhere.

 

Edit: I can see where this is headed. Patricia Polacco rocks and is already all up and down my list :)

 

Edited by Tanaqui

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We used to live where a library had an entire case of books of picture books for older readers.

younger "older readers" --3rd-5th?

The Sound of Color (a girl who is going blind)

Henry's Freedom Box (a boy, who is enslaved in the 1840s, ships himself north)

Henry and the Kite Garden 

Smoky Night

The Hallelujah Flight

 

I'm trying to find the link for the 5th-8th graders, so I can pull up favorite titles...

 

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So, if I were your friend, I'm not sure I'd want a few examples. I might feel like they were cherry-picked, and I usually want cold, hard facts... lol. Instead, I would consider looking at the booksource website. Under the advanced search, you can search for books whose INTEREST level is baby - preschool (i.e., mostly picture books, if they're categorized appropriately), but whose reading level is, for example M-Z (Note that Magic Tree House and Junie B Jones are level M), or something. There are a lot - and it surprised me to see that one of the picture books my 2 year old picked out last week is actually a level M!

Some interesting reads might be:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/us/08picture.html

 

and

 

http://mccleskeyms.typepad.com/files/what-reading-does-for-the-mind.pdf

 

Table 1 in this second article might be considered controversial because it actually goes against the normal grain of "picture books are higher quality." It claims that preschool books (what I would generally consider picture books) have 16.3 rare words per 1000, and children's books (which, I would assume, include chapter books) are 30.9. Now, even the preschool books are on-par with adult conversational speech - but that's not the same as saying they're more complex than other kinds of children's literature as a whole. I would tend to argue that many picture books *are* still superior to many early chapter books - but the averages get mixed up because the preschool ones are dragged down by books similar to the Biscuit series or See spot run sort of books, and the "children's books" include lots of chapter books, and not just the early readers. 

 

ETA: It's actually super interesting to do the booksource search for something like O-Z... There are an awful lot of picture books that are T's and V's. 

Edited by 4kookiekids
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That's a fair point, but I promised to recommend her some titles :)

 

I can - and will! - do both things, and thank you for the links.

 

Edited by Tanaqui
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Not sure if these will work, but I'll share them just in case a few might work:

 

Lon Po Po -by Ed Young

Storm in the Night -by Mary Stolz

Bashi, Elephant Baby -by Theresa Radcliffe

Orani, My Father's Village -by Claire A. Nivola

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt -by Deborah Hopkinson

Wild Horse Winter -by Tetsuya Honda 

The Day of Ahmed's Secret -by Heide and Gilliand

Adelita -by Tomie dePaola

Annie and the Old One -by Mishka Miles

One Green Apple by -by Eve Bunting

 

Some Nonfiction:

Russell Freedman's Buffalo Hunt

Books by the Maestros such as The Story of Clocks and Calendars

Diane Stanley's Shaka

 

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An overwhelming number of science picture books come in at a higher reading level because of the scientific terminology within. A couple of five syllable words can pop those things right up to a 5th grade reading level with the calculations the publishers use. But story based natural history picture books also come in with high reading levels:

 

Song of the Water Boatman is a Caldecott honor winner. It has gorgeous illustrations, poetry, and nonfiction biology content and is rated K to 5 in interest/reading level:

https://www.amazon.com/Water-Boatman-Caldecott-Ribbon-Nonfiction/dp/0618135472/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520182980&sr=8-1&keywords=song+of+the+water+boatman&dpID=51I7QSBX71L&preST=_SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

 

Pagoo, a picture book about a tide pool hermit crab has a reading level of 5th to 7th grade.

https://www.amazon.com/Pagoo-Holling-C/dp/0395539641/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520183176&sr=1-1&keywords=pagoo&dpID=617uzN%252BHWbL&preST=_SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

 

A Dragon in the Sky: The Story of a Green Darner Dragonfly comes in at a 2nd to 3rd grade reading level

https://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Sky-Junior-Library-Guild/dp/0531303152/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520183312&sr=1-1&keywords=A+dragon+in+the+sky&dpID=51r33TCuOsL&preST=_SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

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My library has a section called Junior Illustrated Fiction (JIF), that is full of the books you are describing. That is where the Rin Tin Tin, Astérix & Obelisk, Polacco, Sir Cumference, Van Allsbutg, et al, live. I often find topical books for our history studies there. I've checked out everything I could find in the Underground Railroad, at the moment. Perhaps it isn't a standard category, though, because I couldn't find a representative list online.

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My kids are old now too, so I'm trying to remember (and not mention Polacco again  :laugh: ). These are older than 20 years though. 

 

Rumer Godden's doll books (Holly and Ivy, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower) might be considered picture books as there are lots of illustrations throughout. 

 

The Little Bo series from Julie Edwards iirc are picture books.

 

I saw the author Eve Bunting mentioned as 5th grade picture books, but I'm not familiar with her work.

 

 

 

 

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Almost every picture book written for age 4 and up is at least a 2nd grade reading level according to AR. So, probably any list of diverse books would work.

 

Jabari Jumps (2nd grade)

The Red Bicycle (4th grade)

Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors (4th grade-it isn’t really about people, but the people shown are of various colors. It is funny!)

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I don't think William Steig has been mentioned yet. I have to consult a dictionary when reading some of his books.

 

Ludmila Zeman has a few-- the Sindbad and Gilgamesh books.

 

Drawing in the Sand (Jerry Butler), in terms of layout and difficulty, probably is beyond most kids in early elementary-- but it's an incredible story (autobio), with biographical sketches of African American artists.

 

 

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Well, there's this one, about the Holocaust... When I read it to 4th graders it bothered some of them, it would probably go way over the heads of 1st graders.  

 

https://www.amazon.com/Grand-Mosque-Paris-Muslims-Holocaust/dp/0823423042

 

This one isn't short enough for preschoolers. A 3rd grader could probably read it, maybe even an advanced 2nd grader 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Mansa-Musa-Lion-Khephra-Burns/dp/0152003754/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520257578&sr=1-7&keywords=mansa+musa

 

Currently have this one checked out: it's a lot of words for a picture book. Almost certainly not for a 2nd grader to read on their own. Maybe better suited to a 4th or 5th grader?

 

https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Soul-America-African-Americans/dp/0061730793/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520257765&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Heart+and+soul+%3A+the+story+of+America+and+African+Americans+%2F+words+and+paintings+by+Kadir+Nelson

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As Real as It Gets

My Very Own Aliens

 

Both by Amanda Barton fit the bill. They are stories (based in their own family) of transracially foster care/adoption. Most books like this feature animals and not real kids and are more all happy/sappy while these books are more "real".

 

www.westolivepress.com

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Emily Arnold McCully has some historical picture books.

 

William Steig has picture books and short, illustrated chapter books.

 

Alice in Wonderland has quite a few illustrations, if you can find an edition with all the original drawings.

 

Anything nonfiction by Diane Stanley

 

David MacCauley

 

Holling C. Holling books

 

Margaret Hodges (St. George and the Dragon, The Kitchen Knight)

 

Trina Schart Hyman is an illustrator of some illustrated fairy tale books, in addition to the above books by Margaret Hodges.

 

Jerry Pinkney

 

Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus by Rosemary Sutcliff

 

There is a children's version of the Faerie Queene that is very good. I can’t remember the title just now. Edit: found it: Questing Knights of the Faerie Queene, by Geraldine McCaughrean.

Edited by Penelope

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What about Holling C. Holling books (Minn of the Mississippi, Tree in the Trail, Seabird, Paddle-to-the-Sea)?

 

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is a beautifully illustrated biography of Peter Roget, the writer of Roget's Thesaurus.

 

There are tons of illustrated Usborne books written at a very high level.   My DD read The Usborne World of Shakespeare for school this year in 8th grade.

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Four Feet, Two Sandals - Story of girls in a refugee camp; but it may not be "difficult" enough

Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic

Books by Allen Say

Fairy Tale retellings ... like some by Paul Zelinkski

The Raft by Jim LaMarche

 

There seem to be quite a few biographies turned into picture books these days ... while the reading level may be too low to meet your criteria, perhaps it will seed the suggestions that Amazon gives you ....

The Doctor With an Eye for Eyes

The Boy Who Drew Birds

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The Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman

Rosie Revere, Engineer, Iggy Peck, Architect, and Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty are all late-second or early-third grade level

Island Boy by Barbara Cooney (is older than 20 years)

When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest

Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue

Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac

Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen

The Scarlet Stockings Spy by Trinka Hakes Noble

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

The World Is Not A Rectangle: A Portrait Of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter

Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull

Edited by JIN MOUSA

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My kids are old now too, so I'm trying to remember (and not mention Polacco again  :laugh: ). These are older than 20 years though. 

 

Rumer Godden's doll books (Holly and Ivy, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower) might be considered picture books as there are lots of illustrations throughout. 

 

The Little Bo series from Julie Edwards iirc are picture books.

 

I saw the author Eve Bunting mentioned as 5th grade picture books, but I'm not familiar with her work.

 

We just listened to Little Bo on a long drive to Florida.  Very sweet.  I had no idea it was a series though.  Thank you!

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