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Never Too Old: Picture Books to Share with Older Children and Teens

©2023, 2007 Cooperative Children's Book Center

Compiled by Merri Lindgren and Megan Schliesman

Think picture books are just for young children? Think again! Some picture books are created with an older audience in mind. Others embody a level of sophistication in the text or art that offers intrigue for older children and/or teens even as they also appeal to a younger audience. Still others offer outrageous humor that can be enjoyed by readers of many ages.

This bibliography is not exhaustive, but is meant to introduce some titles for sharing with older children and teens, and to encourage thinking about ways picture books can be incorporated into the curriculum. While a number of titles have application and appeal in more than one way, they have been placed in one of the following categories:

  • Visualize This: Books about the Arts
  • Notes on a Page: Books about Music
  • Into the Past: Books about History
  • Theories and Revelations: Books about Math and Science
  • Challenges and Change: Stories of Politics, Identity, and Understanding
  • Over-the-Top: Sly and Sophisticated Humor

The books on the list are all in a picture book format and are generally 40 pages or fewer in length. The age recommendations listed for each book were made when promoting their general use, and do not necessarily reflect the older child/teen focus of this bibliography.

Visualize This: Books about the Arts

Alexander, Kwame How to Read a Book. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Harper/HarperCollins, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 7-11

Bliss, Harry Grace for Gus. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 40 pages. Ages 5-9

Leung, Julie Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist. Illustrated by Chris Sasaki. Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 5-9

Luyken, Corinna The Book of Mistakes. Illustrated by Corinna Luyken. Dial, 2017. 48 pages. Ages 7-11

McCarthy, Meghan Action! How Movies Began. Illustrated by Meghan McCarthy. Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, 2022. 48 pages. Ages 7-11

Rosenstock, Barb The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art. Illustrated by Claire A. Nivola. Candlewick, 2018. 32 pages. Ages 6-10

Steptoe, Javaka Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. Little, Brown, 2016. 40 pages. Ages 7-11

Tonatiuh, Duncan Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams, 2015. 40 pages. Ages 8-12

Wallace, Sandra Neil Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, 2018. 40 pages. Ages 7-11

Winter, Jonah Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2012. 48 pages. Ages 6-10

Notes on a Page: Books about Music

Ellis, Sarah As Glenn as Can Be. Illustrated by Nancy Vo. Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2022. 32 pages. Ages 6-9

Golio, Gary Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World. Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. Henry Holt, 2018. 32 pages. Ages 7-11

Golio, Gary Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey. Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. 40 pages. Ages 9-14

Golio, Gary Bird & Diz. Illustrated by Ed Young. Candlewick, 2015. 24 pages. Age 8 and older

Krull, Kathleen and Paul Brewer The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny). Illustrated by Stacy Innerst. Harcourt /Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 32 pages. Ages 7-10

Myers, Walter Dean Jazz. Illustrated by Christopher Myers. Holiday House, 2006. 44 pages. Age 10 and older

Neri, G. Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. Illustrated by AG Ford. Candlewick, 2014. 40 pages. Ages 9-14

Raschka, Chris The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Candlewick, 2014. 36 pages. Ages 6-10

Robertson, Sebastian Rock & Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story. Illustrated by Adam Gustavson. Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, 2014. 40 pages. Ages 9-13

Into the Past: Books about History

Bardhan-Quallen, Sudipta The United States v. Jackie Robinson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2018. 32 pages. Ages 7-10

Bryant, Jen Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. Abrams, 2020. 40 pages. Ages 6-10

Fletcher, Susan A Bear Far from Home. Illustrated by Rebecca Green. Anne Schwartz Book/Random House, 2022. 32 pages. Ages 6-10

Joy, Angela Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement. Illustrated by Janelle Washington. Roaring Brook, 2022. 56 pages. Ages 8-12

Litvina, Alexandra The Apartment: A Century of Russian History. Illustrated by Anna Desnitskaya. Translated by Antonina W. Bouis. Abrams, 2019. Ages 9-13

McCarthy, Meghan All That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff. Illustrated by Meghan McCarthy. Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, 2018. 48 pages. Ages 7-10

Moss, Marissa The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln. Illustrated by Jeremy Holmes. Abrams, 2018. 47 pages. Ages 8-11

Newman, Patricia A River's Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn. Illustrated by Natasha Donovan. Lerner/Millbrook, 2022. 50 pages. Ages 8-12

Stone, Tanya Lee Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented. Illustrated by Steven Salerno. Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, 2018. 32 pages. Ages 8-12

Sutcliffe, Jane Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk. Illustrated by John Shelley. Charlesbridge, 2016. 40 pages. Ages 8-14

Tokuda-Hall, Maggie Love in the Library. Illustrated by Yas Imamura. Candlewick, 2022. 32 pages. Age 8 and older

Weatherford, Carole Boston Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom. Illustrated by Michele Wood. Candlewick, 2020. 56 pages. Age 10 and older

Theories and Revelations: Books about Math and Science

Barton, Chris Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions. Illustrated by Don Tate. Charlesbridge, 2016. 32 pages. Ages 6-11

Brown, Monica Sharuko: Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello = El arqueologo Peruano Julio C. Tello. Illustrated by Elisa Chavarri. Children's Book Press/Lee & Low, 2020. 32 pages. Ages 7-10

Chin, Jason The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey. Illustrated by Jason Chin. Holiday House/Neal Porter Books, 2022. 40 pages. Ages 8-11

Mangal, Melina The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just. Illustrated by Luisa Uribe. Lerner/Millbrook, 2018. 40 pages. Ages 6-10

Manley, Curtis Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet. Illustrated by Jessica Lanan. Roaring Brook, 2019. 40 pages. Ages 7-11

Reynolds, Aaron Superhero School. Illustrated by Andy Rash. Bloomsbury, 2009. 32 pages. Ages 6-10

Rockliff, Mara Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France. Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. Candlewick, 2015. 45 pages. Ages 8-12

Schmalzer, Sigrid Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean: Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong's Work for Sustainable Farming. Illustrated by Melanie Linden Chan. Tilbury House, 2018. 40 pages. Ages 6-10

Shetterly, Margot Lee Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race. Illustrated by Laura Freeman. Harper, 2018. 40 pages. Ages 6-9

Sis, Peter The Tree of Life: A Book Depicting the Life of Charles Darwin: Naturalist, Geologist, & Thinker. Illustrated by Peter Sis. Farrar Straus Giroux/Frances Foster Books, 2003. 32 pages. Age 10 and older

Thomas, Isabel Moth: An Evolution Story. Illustrated by Daniel Egneus. Bloomsbury, 2019. 48 pages. Ages 6-9

Challenges and Change: Stories of Politics, Identity, and Understanding

Alexander, Kwame The Undefeated. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Versify, 2019. 40 pages. Age 8 and older

Ali, S. K. and Ibtihaj Muhammad The Proudest Blue. Illustrated by Hatem Aly. Little, Brown, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

Buitrago, Jairo Two White Rabbits. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Translated by Elisa Amado. Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2015. 48 pages. Ages 5-12

de la Pena, Matt Milo Imagines the World. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. Penguin Random House/Putnam, 2021. 32 pages. Ages 6-9

Erdrich, Louise The Range Eternal. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. University of Minnesota Press, 2020. 32 pages. Ages 5-9

Palmer, Charly The Legend of Gravity: A Tall Basketball Tale. Illustrated by Charly Palmer. Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan, 2022. 40 pages. Ages 6-10

Parra, John Growing an Artist: The Story of a Landscaper and His Son. Illustrated by John Parra. Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, 2022. 32 pages. Ages 5-9

Peoples-Riley, Daria America, My Love, America, My Heart. Illustrated by Daria Peoples-Riley. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2021. 32 pages. Age 8 and older

Shiraishi, Ashima How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion. Illustrated by Yao Xiao. Make Me A World/Random House, 2020. 32 pages. Ages 7-10

Sorell, Traci At the Mountain's Base. Illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre. Kokila/Penguin Random House, 2019. 24 pages. Ages 5-9

Tonatiuh, Duncan Undocumented: A Worker's Fight. Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams/Abrams ComicArts, 2018. 24 pages. Age 12 and older

Over-the-Top: Sly and Sophisticated Humor

Bell, Cece I Yam a Donkey!. Illustrated by Cece Bell. Clarion, 2015. 32 pages. Ages 5-9

Cummins, Lucy Ruth A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals. Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. Atheneum, 2016. 36 pages. Ages 4-8

Elya, Susan Middleton Little Roja Riding Hood. Illustrated by Susan Guevara. Putnam, 2014. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

Forsythe, Matthew Mina. Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, 2022. 60 pages. Ages 3-8

Gehl, Laura I Got a Chicken for My Birthday. Illustrated by Sarah Horne. Carolrhoda, 2018. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

Myers, Christopher H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination. Illustrated by Christopher Myers. Egmont, 2012. 32 pages. Ages 5-10

Myers, Christopher and Zora Neale Hurston Lies and Other Tall Tales. Illustrated by Christopher Myers. HarperCollins, 2005. 40 pages. Age 10 and older

Offill, Jenny Sparky!. Illustrated by Chris Appelhans. Schwartz & Wade, 2014. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

Wagh, Jennifer Eggasaurus. Illustrated by Hallie Bateman. Simon & Schuster, 2022. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

Wenzel, Brendan They All Saw a Cat. Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. Chronicle, 2016. 36 pages. Ages 4-8

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Our Recommended Book Search includes subject access to CCBC-recommended titles based on subject headings created by our staff.