I have loved picture books my entire life. I still have all my childhood picture books. And I used picture books regularly in the classroom when I was teaching. Since becoming a high school librarian I have really missed keeping up with the latest titles.
This year I decided it was time to update my school’s sophisticated picture book section (though I call them “illustrated texts” to keep them free of teenage stigma). I’ve spent a bit of time, money and National Library loans looking for the best books to add to our collection.
These books will never show their worth with issuing statistics, but they are browsed heavily and there is nothing I enjoy more than seeing teenage boys surrounding a picture book and enjoying it together. Here are some of the boys’ and my favourites.
Tregonning, M. (2016). Small things. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. [Sophisticated picture book]
This is a wordless picture book about a young boy struggling with anxiety and a whole lot of worries. The black and white illustrations are breath taking. That such detail and expression can be shown in two-dimensions will never cease to amaze me. New detail emerges with each re-reading of the book and this is a book that demands to be re-read. This is a sad story, however, it ends on a note of hope. Suitable for upper primary and above.
Themes: friendship, loneliness, anxiety, worries
Find out more about Small Things here.
Munroe, R. (2015). Thing explainer: Complicated stuff in simple words. London, UK: John Murray. [Sophisticated picture book, non-fiction]
This book does exactly what it says on the cover: it explains things, complicated things, in simple words. What it doesn’t tell you on the cover is that it’s FUNNY! Every day things, like elevators (aka “lifting rooms”) and batteries (aka “power boxes”), are explained in diagram form and labelled with everyday language. My personal favourite is the explanation for water rooms, or bathrooms as they’re more commonly called! Brought to you by the xkcd guy.
Read more about Thing Explainer here.
Säfström, M. (2016). The illustrated compendium of amazing animal facts. New York, NY: Ten Speed Press. [Sophisticated picture book, non-fiction]
This is a beautiful book full of random animal facts. The illustrations are black and white and add a touch of whimsy to the fascinating facts. My favourite one is of these adorable sea otters:
A great book for dipping in and out of.
Find out more about The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts here.
Feel free to suggest other great titles to me in the comments!