The 6 best picture books for kids and adults

Whether you’re a proud “big boy” at three, or just turning 30, the messages in these books never lose relevance.

Don’t worry if you’ve never read them. Better to start now than to never read them at all.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

1.      The Giving Tree (by Shel Silverstein, 1964)

Featured as the back story of a performance on “So You Think You Can Dance,” this is a timeless tale of sacrifice and responsibility. A tree gives a boy a piece of her fruit to say “I love you.” The boy returns again and

again asking for more each time he sees the tree.

The story teaches responsibility for choices and the consequences they cause. The idea extends to business ventures, environmental responsibility and more.

The Giving Tree reminds us to think before we act. Though we may be helping ourselves, we might also be hurting others.

2.      Where the Wild Things Are (1963)

This picture book by Maurice Sednak touches on themes of respect and responsibility and staying a child at heart. The story follows Max, a rambunctious child sent to his room by his mother. Max grumbles about in his room and suddenly it transforms into a jungle filled with his imaginary friends.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

Max goes on a journey of discovery. With the “wild things,” he learns the importance of family, listening to your parents and admitting you’re wrong.

Not only does this book share good values for children, but it reminds the reader to keep imagination alive. Be a little ridiculous sometimes. Allow your mind to enter the crazy side. You might find answers you didn’t expect.

3.      Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974)

Another book by Shel Silverstein, this collection of poems and stories is a lovable indulgence at any age.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

Featuring popular poems “Masks,” “Us,” and “Jimmy Jet and the TV Set,” this insightful bundle touches on an abundance of topics. Beauty, cleanliness, sports, bullying, fears and love are all represented in ways that you can find meaning in as a child and an adult.

Silverstein also compiled illustrations, most of which are both comedic and poignant. Though they may be amusing at first, on a second inspection their subtle details can make their content much darker.

Along with his other works, Where the Sidewalk Ends echoes the English Romantic period where poets and prose writers raised questions about society and the individual’s purpose in the universe.

Through his poems and illustrations, Silverstein explores these themes in ways that everyone can understand.

4.      Oh! The Places You’ll Go (Dr. Seuss, Theodore Geisel, 1990)

A common favorite for graduations, whether kindergarten or high school, this is a great re-read for anyone having a tough time with


Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

The story addresses the reader in the second person, and tells them a story of how their life will play out. It takes them through ups and downs and through good times and bad, all still in the witty Seussical rhyming.

The narrator motivates the reader to stay persistent, determined and ambitious. Without those qualities the reader has little chance at succeeding.

Though the words and illustrations may be simple, the advice and encouragement is relevant to any age group, making the story timeless.

5.      The Little Engine That Could (Platt and Munk, 1930)

Even though this may seem like a silly read for adults, don’t put it aside. This short, quirky story is a classic example of trying and trying again. Following an ostentatious blue train on his journey of climbing a hill, the story

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

personifies persistence.

Though the themes may seem juvenile, this message is one that can apply to nearly all situations. Don’t give up. It’s okay to fail, just keep working at it. Even though you may be little, in stature or fame, your ideas can succeed if you work hard enough.

This is a great motivational pick-me-up for anyone needing a boost.

6.      The Rainbow Fish (Marcus Pfister, 1999)

This well-known and well-loved picture book follows the story of a fish with bright, rainbow scales making him the envy of the other fish.Instead of gloating and showing off, the fish gives a scale to any fish that wants them so they can all share the fun together. At the end the fish only has one scale, but all the others are friends with him because they appreciate his sacrifice and selflessness.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

The book teaches how to give without expecting to receive, a lesson that most need to be reminded of more frequently than they are.

These six books will take only a few minutes to impart lessons that will last forever. Share them with everyone, young and old.

Re-read them yourself as you get older.

Never lose your imagination.


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