Powerful Picture Books for All Ages!

By: Cheryl Long

Picture Books for Middle Grade Readers & Older! 


You're never too old for picture books. 

While they are often seen as "babyish", any reader of any age and level can enjoy and receive powerful benefits from enjoying picture books. Just take a look at this New York Times article that argues "picture books are the real wizards of the literary world." I couldn't agree more.

So here I offer up some of my personal favorite picture books that are great reads for all ages!


Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

 Dreamers written & illustrated by Yuyi Morales: This stunning picture book helps open the door to discussions on immigration and the treatment of immigrants as Yuyi describes her personal story of immigrating to the United States in the 1990s with her son. Told through gorgeous mixed media presentation, she brings us along on her journey of uncertainty, the confusion over not understanding the language, and her eventual discovery of the library. Through picture books she learned to speak English and, more powerfully, to use her voice. Absolutely fantastic imagery and texture, we continue to discover something new each time we open this gorgeous book.


Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers

Ocean Meets Sky written & illustrated by The Fan Brothers: There are no words to describe the imagery in this picture book - I am left speechless each time I flip through it. In honour of what would be his grandfather’s 90th birthday a young boy builds a ship to voyage to the place where “the ocean meets the sky”; a place his grandfather often spoke of in his stories. A gentle conversation of grief told through absolutely powerful, stunning imagery - a combination of fantasy and steam punk - this is truly one of my favourite picture books ever.


What If by Samantha Berger

What If … written by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato: While appearing quite simple for an older audience with its rhyming prose (but I argue rhyming prose is incredibly important at this age as they begin to learn about poetry, metaphors, similes, etc), What If... bears such an incredibly important message regarding creativity. Upper Elementary is when children, especially girls, start to loose their creative confidence. When combined with school systems that continue to cut funding to the arts and a society that devalues creativity - it is important to provide older kids the opportunity to see creativity in its different forms. Remind them to see the world differently and hold on to their individual sparks. I love how powerful this seemingly simple story is.


After the Fall by Dan Santat

After the Fall written and illustrated by Dan Santat: The world is going to kick the stuffing out of you, you got to get back up. This wonderful story reworks the classic story of humpty dumpty … what happened if all the kings men DID put him back together? What then? Talking about anxiety and the beautiful life that awaits when we can power through our fears, this is a simple picture book that will speak on a deeper level with the older crowd.




Journey by Aaron Becker

Journey Trilogy (Journey, Quest, Return) by Aaron Becker: How do you pick a favourite in this brilliant trilogy? This collection of stunning, wordless picture books are modern classics for a reason - they are simply amazing. You have to experience them yourself: the wonder, the imagination, belonging, diversity. You will read through these many, many times.




Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures written & illustrated by Ben Hatke: This is a personal favourite of our family and just plain fun. For the fantasy loving crowd this book simply fires the imagination combining dragons, mermaids, trolls, and more. Wonderful, full colour spreads and a delightful, heartwarming story of belonging and found family.




The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater and The Fan Brothers

The Antlered Ship written by Dashka Slater & illustrated by The Fan Brothers: The second Fan Brothers book on this small list! Another visually stunning creation, this book speaks to those who are different, dare to see the world differently, the difficulty of that journey and the strength needed to persevere. And a plethora of adorable little animals … I mean, who doesn’t need that?



The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The Arrival by Shaun Tan: This book. If you read one book with your middle grader, let it be THIS BOOK. While technically a wordless graphic novel, this incredibly arresting, heart-wrenching, achingly powerful story of immigration is a must have for every library. Definitely aimed for the older crowd this story combines the reality of an immigrant experience with fantasy and steam punk elements. There really aren’t words to do this work justice other than you need to read it. You need to feel it. You need to have conversations with your children about immigrants, refugees and what would it feel like to be in a new country, not speaking the language. Haunting and ultimately hopeful - a true story on the powers of compassion and the human spirit to endure. Read it.