Teachers and parents, use these picture books as mentor texts to show kids the process of writing a story. Read about getting ideas for stories, and the storytelling/story writing process, including story elements.
Some of these books show how writers get ideas.
Others show the challenges of plotting and drafting the words in a story.
All are about a part of the storytelling process and make for helpful mentor texts. Because kids need plenty of examples to encourage them as they develop their own storytelling abilities.
Look for mentor texts that meet your children where they are. In other words, what are your children or students struggling with currently? Is it finding ideas? Start there. Maybe it’s facing the challenges that come with writing a story draft.
I’ve divided this book list into three parts:
Writing isn’t easy. Many of these books show that the struggle of writing is OK and part of the creative process. (And sometimes funny!)
The Best Picture Books About Writing a Story
Mentor Texts About Finding an Idea for a Story
Amy the Red Panda Is Writing The Best Story in The World by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Ruth Chan
Amy’s frustrated with her story, especially when all her friends share their opinions about what the story should be. Then, Mervin the Sloth tossed the letter “O” at her. It’s a letter fight!! Now, she’s got a story to tell. Cartoon panels and cheerful illustrations give this mentor text lots of pizazz.
Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon
Stories are everywhere. In fact, Ralph’s teacher helps his classmates and him find story ideas in everyday things.
The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Anne Wildsorf
A little girl wants to write the best story in order to win the library’s writing contest. Her family shares their specific opinions about exactly what makes up the best story. And they all are different. Fortunately, her mom encourages her to write from the heart — and that makes for the best story.
Any Questions by Marie-Louise Gay
Marie-Louise Gay shares with children about how to get ideas for a story and writing a story. It’s an interactive experience because you get to write part of a story, too. Beautifully illustrated with watercolor and ink.
Idea Jar by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Deb Pilutti
Use The Idea Jar to help young children understand that they can invent their own stories with any ideas. The teacher’s idea jar is filled with words that can be story ideas. These ideas need a story! Watch as the narrator shows what happens when you start with Vikings, then add in a space robot and a dragon. Perhaps this mentor text will inspire a story idea jar of your own.
The One-Stop Story Shop by Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Tony Neal
What a delightful, funny celebration of stories and imagination! When the knight’s dragon is on vacation for some “me” time, the knight goes to the One-Stop Story Shop for help. The shopkeeper gives him some story idea options starting with a feisty ferret character and settings like space, jungle, and the wild west. This story is pure fun!
Picture Books (Mentor Texts) About Writing a Story
Little Red Writing by Joan Holub, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
This brave red pencil is so excited to write a story… an exciting story. Laugh-out-loud humor rich with wonderful words and exquisite illustrations show that the writing process is not as easy as it seems. But, it’s worth it in the end. Delightful parallels to Little Red Riding Hood abound — watch out for that Wolf 300 pencil sharpener!
The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane Auch, illustrated by Herm Auch
Henrietta is a writing chicken who uses the book Writing Rules to explain story elements and her story writing process with her chicken aunts and you, the reader.
Bearnard Writes a Book by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Misa Saburi
I love this darling mentor text story about how to write a story with characters, a problem, and excitement. Bearnard wants to write a story about his friend Gertie, a goose. The first draft isn’t very exciting so Bernard takes a thinking walk. Then, he rewrites and the story gets more adventure and excitement with pirates, a shapeshifter Gertie and a monster. Gertie is inspired to write her own…poems.
Dragons Eat Noodles on Tuesdays by Jon Stahl, illustrated by Tadgh Bentley
The big blue monster begins writing a a story with “once upon a time” and adds, “the end.” Little by little, his yellow monster friend helps the blue monster improve his story, so there is a dragon, a knight, a super smart damsel, and a plot. And the story is much better. But wait! The dragon from his story arrives in real life. Yikes. Luckily for the monsters, they remember from the story that dragons only eat noodles on Tuesdays. Yay. But, it’s Wednesday! Ut-oh! This ending will totally crack you up.
This Book Has Alpacas and Bears by Emma Perry and Rikin Parekh
A darling story about Alfonso Alpaca who wants to be in a story and tries to write a story but CAN’T because it’s tricky without opposable thumbs. So he sets out to convince his bear friend named Colin to help him, pitching him the marvelous idea of an alpaca story every day. Eventually, he realizes he must prove himself — dancing, standing on his head, gobbling grass, skateboarding, and it works! Together, they write down, share, rewrite, draw, and print out the story! It’s such a funny plot and Alfonso is totally endearing.
Let’s Tell a Story! Fairy Tale Adventure by Lily Murray, illustrated by Wesley Robins
Pick the story elements and write a story…Choose something on each page (using the pictures) and invent million of different stories. Do you want to be a prince, a troll, a princess, a black cat, these are just some of the main characters you could be. Then choose your outfits and accessories, where you want to go, who you’ll take with you, how you’ll get there, which path you’ll take, and so on until you get to the end of your dangerous adventure. Then start over and tell a new story! Also read Let’s Tell a Story! Space Adventure by Lily Murray.
Miss Brook’s Story Nook by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley
In the story nook, Miss Brooks teaches the class and Missy about writing stories: plot, characters, action. Missy takes her real-life story of hat-stealing Billy, invents a satisfying ending, and solves her real-life problem in her written story. See how storytelling helps us after all?
Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills
Rocket loves reading stories so it’s only natural that he wants to write his own story. He collects words and looks for inspiration which he finds with Owl. Little by little he adds to a story about his new friend owl. This book is sure to inspire storytelling and writing.
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
Very funny with fantastic art! Louie is happy to tell his happy story until — hey, did you just spill peanut butter on me? As the reader makes more of a mess, and Louie tries to restart the story without success, he gets upset and tells the reader to start treating books with some respect. But as he learns, even when things don’t go perfectly, it will be okay.
I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien
Little Monster wants to be in a scary story. In a conversation between he and the author of the book, Little Monster helps the author write something a little scary and a little funny both. It’s a clever premise to have the interaction between author and main character determine the plot. It shows growing writers and readers a bit about the ever-changing process of storytelling.
Violet and Victor Write The Best-Ever Bookworm Book by Alice Kuipers, illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Violet Small wants to write the best-ever book with help from her twin brother Victor Small who would rather count his pet worms. But, through brainstorming of the bickering kind and some cooperation, the two invent a suspenseful adventure about a book-eating bookworm. The illustrations are eye-catching, too – mixed media and pencil sketches. I love how the twins each have their own color ink and own color notebook paper for the story. This is a fantastic story about the creative process.
A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Mike Lowery
I love this book because it shows that all of us are writers — even when we can’t write letters or words quite yet! And this determined young writer proves it.
Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein
The Little Red Chicken is sure that every story has an elephant of surprise. Papa explains that it’s an element of surprise, not an elephant. Thus begins a hilarious storytelling adventure (with elephants) that will crack you up. The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid all have “Surprise! I’m an elephant!” moments as interrupted by, guess who, Chicken. Then Papa tells a silly story of his own with no elephants? Surprise! Elephants! (Teachers, wouldn’t this be fun for introducing plot in writing workshop?)
Look! I Wrote a Book! (And You Can Too)by Sally Loyd Jones, illustrated by Neal Layton
A little girl with a big personality narrates the basics of writing a story from coming up with an idea to knowing your audience, thinking of titles, problems and solutions, endings, revising, and publishing including an author section, drawings, and cover art. Not only that, she even suggests how to sell your book. (This involves friendly persuasion or, if that doesn’t work, tying someone to a chair.)
The Tale of the Valiant Ninja Frog by Alastair Chisholm, illustrated by Jez Tuya
One evening at a campfire, a dad invents a goodnight story with his kids’ help. As Dad starts the story, the kids interrupt with anecdotes, questions, and suggestions. Hilarious adventures ensue and the littlest one saves everyone with a happy ending!
Picture Books Showing the Writer’s Life & Getting Published
My Worst Book Ever! by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman
We adore this delightful story all about the picture book author experience. Allan narrates his process of sitting in his shed, thinking up, and writing a story. But he’s thwarted by one thing after another — a coffee spill, a family vacation, paper-eating snails, an uncooperative illustrator, messy kids, and the printer’s niece called Lucy. It turns out to be his worst book ever! It’s so charming, you’ll want to be a picture book author yourself.
How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
I love this humorous account shared by the author and illustrator about their amazing (and slightly unusual!?) process of writing a story and publishing a book. It goes something like this: getting an idea, writing lots of drafts, arguing with an editor, playing cards with a tiger, waiting forever for the illustrations, growing a long beard, printing the book in a huge pile which could be seen from space by ice-cream eating astronauts, sending books on a ship captured by pirates who don’t read, delivering books to places everywhere, and then the most important part — the waiting . . . the long waiting for someone to open a book. Because what’s a book without a reader? Read more in my interview with Mac and Adam.
Author: A True Story by Helen Lester
The author of the beloved Tacky the Penguin series shares her writer’s journey starting with her challenges writing as a child all the way to becoming a published author. Kids will be encouraged to know that even if you struggle at first, it’s possible to succeed.
Big Machines The Story of Virginia Lee Burton (How Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel and Friends Came to Life) by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by John Rocco
Jinnee creates wonderful drawings and stories for her two young sons that become beloved picture books like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Katy and the Big Snow, Maybelle, The Cable Car, and The Little House. Reading this picture book gives us insight into an artist’s creative process as well as the process behind writing and illustrating a children’s story. Also on: Big List of Picture Book Biographies.
The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski
The little girl can’t wait to read her teacher’s magical book of stories. Only when she gets home, there are no stories, just pictures. The wind whispers, “You can imagine the words. You can imagine the stories. . . ” and so the little girl does, finding her inner storyteller. Not only is this story rich with the power of imagination, but the illustrations also evoke stories within stories. Use this mentor text picture book for writing a story — it’s marvelous!
Once Upon a Zzzz by Maddie Frost
Once upon a time, the author took a nap so the illustrator decided to write the story. It’s a story about a llama princess and her little Penguin sister who wished on a star that her older sister would be sent to the moon. As Princess Penguin tries to sleep, she realizes that she’s terrified without her big sister. Lucky for the illustrator, the author wakes up in time to help Princess Penguin rescue Princess Llama.
I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino
This informative picture book describes the history of stories: oral tellings around campfires, paintings on cave walls, weavings into tapestries, printings, and more. For me, the writing is a bit too dry but I like that it exemplifies how stories connect us and endure throughout time.
Written And Drawn By Henrietta a Toon Level 3 Book by Liniers
This isn’t a picture book but it’s SUCH a wonderful early reader book for children who are developing as readers and writers! It’s about a young writer who gets new colored pencils that inspire her to write and illustrate a story. As it continues, we see her discussing the plotting with her cat — it’s such a great example of the story writing process!! LOVE! Also see: The Big Wet Balloon by Liniers.
Picture Books About Libraries and Librarians