If you have an 8th grader, a 12th grader, or a senior in college, soon they will be graduating. (I’m already crying.) Gift one of these inspiring children’s books for graduation to celebrate your child’s accomplishment and upcoming life transition. Maybe one of these incredible picture books full of wisdom and encouragement will help them on their next big adventure.
I’m assuming you already know about Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, so that’s not on this list. Instead, I’m sharing fresh, new book titles that are just as meaningful, if not more so.
Best Children’s Books for Graduation
Hello, World! by Kelly Corrigan, illustrated by Stacy Ebert
As you, the reader, embark on a new adventure, Kelly Corrigan playfully reminds you (with a lot of “b” alliteration!) of all the things that you might encounter, the diversity of people you will meet, and the beauty of the relationships that you will have. “There’s more to everyone,” she writes, adding that you’ll become the best question-asker the world has ever seen. Then you’ll learn more about each person.”I dreamt I was playing the banjo on a balance beam made of bacon.” Those people will change you. And that will be a good thing. “Be brave! Bravo! And bon voyage!“
I Wish You Happiness by Michael Wong, illustrated by Ann Baratashvili
“I wish you love and affection, to fill your beautiful heart with an ocean of joy.” Vibrant illustrations show playful, happy children as they dance through the pages of the many hopeful, positive good wishes for the reader. “I wish you imagination and creativity, for the world is a blank canvas to paint your masterpiece.“
I’ll Meet You in Your Dreams by Jessica Young, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Soothing text reassures the child that the parent will always be part of the child’s dream world no matter what is happening or what age they are. “You’ll be a knight and I’ll be a horse. We’ll race along a rainbow’s course to castles in the sky // until it’s time to fly.” Inclusive, lovely illustrations.
Yay, You! Moving Up and Moving On by Sandra Boynton
If your kids are like mine, they started life reading Sandra Boynton’s adorable rhyming books of silliness. What a lovely full circle to then give them a Sandra Boynton book of encouragement, advice, and the occasional hippo!
You Are a Beautiful Beginning by Nina Laden, illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley
This lyrical book encourages graduates (or anyone) that their goal should be the journey, not the destination — and that this is not only the ending but a beautiful beginning, too. “It’s not creating a masterpiece, // it’s finding the courage to start…It is not about winning the game. It is having fun while you play.” Wise and inspiring with pretty illustrations of friends, fairies, and gnomes having adventures together.
The Sky Is the Limit: A Celebration of All the Things You Can Do by Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar
Move over Oh the Places You’ll Go, there’s a new book in town! Playful, hopeful messages of excitement for the future’s possibility fill the pages of this little book illustrated with colorful, childlike drawings. You are going to LOVE this book from the creators of the bestselling Happiness Is…series.
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Need a gift book for graduation? Consider this one! It’s a philosophical book about feelings, not being perfect, making choices, and thinking of others. “I am finding my way and choosing my path on this incredible journey.“
I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Do you know the blessings that people read at weddings? This is just like that but for graduation. For example, “I wish you more ups than downs. I wish you more give than take.” Ultimately, this book expresses a parent’s hopes, dreams, and prayers for their child as they go off into the world. It’s so heart-warming and tender!
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
What is a beautiful oops? It’s taking a “mistake” and making it into something beautiful. Saltzberg shows this exquisitely Beautiful Oops as he illuminates the possibilities in a ripped piece of paper, a coffee stain, smudges, and even a hole. It’s a wonderful, important life lesson about shifting perspectives to see …something more.
Love the Fur You’re In: Monster Wit & Wisdom from Sesame Street by Random House
Kids who grew up Sesame Street will love the life wisdom in this book from their favorite characters such as advice like “Find someone who can dance to your tune” or “Keep calm and cookie on.“
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
A parent muses what her child will grow up to do. As she imagines, she knows that no matter what, the child will grow up to be an amazing person who is loved.
“When nights are black and
When days are gray–
You’ll be brave and be bright
So no shadows can stay.“
Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, illustrated by Holly Hatam
Life Lesson: You are wonderful just the way you are. Give this picture book as a gift to a girl who is celebrating a life transition (birthday or graduation). Because this is an encouraging love letter to help your special girl know that she’s wonderful, smart, and beautiful.
Walk On! A Guide for Babies of All Ages by Marla Frazee
I love this picture book because it’s perfect for older “babies” aka. our used-to-be babies or friends with driver’s licenses who are graduating from high school or college. These former babies are stepping into an exciting new time in their lives and need the encouragement to “walk on”. (I’ve given this amazing book to adults for birthday gifts, too.) You might use this quote from the book for your inscription:
“When the time is right for you . . .
Take the first step.
It gets easier, huh?”
An Awesome Book! by Dallas Clayton
Have you read this imagination manifesto for children and adults? It will inspire you to dream of jelly-bean powered cars and more . . . This gift book encourages readers not to dream regular dreams (of “matching silverware“) but to dream big and amazing dreams (“rocket-powered unicorns“).
Little Tree by Loren Long
Little Tree is scared to drop his beautiful leaves like the trees around him. When springtime comes, the other trees have grown with new, green leaves. But Little Tree’s are still dead and brown and he’s still small. Seasons pass and the trees around him grow so big that Little Tree can’t feel the sunlight anymore. Finally, he finally drops his leaves for the first time and starts to grow. This allegorical story poignantly captures the importance of letting go and transitioning into the next season of your life.
Leaf Man by Patricia J. Miranda and Chris O’Leary
Inspirational and a lovely choice to give as a graduation gift book, this story encourages readers to notice that even when life disappoints, it can be a time for ideas to grow and dreams to unfurl. Illustrations show a male character who shares his life journey with a leaf man who leaves in the fall and returns to him in the spring.
Good Children’s Books (That Aren’t Picture Books) to Give as Graduation Gifts
Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander
There’s so much to LOVE about this book! First, there are short essays with valuable life lessons like the story of LeBron James moving back to his hometown. Also, there are quotes from famous people to accompany the 52 Rules written by Kwame Alexander. One that stuck with me was Rule #30, “There is no single formula for winning but you must have a game plan” accompanied by the quote “I never worry about the problem. I worry about the solution” – Shaquille O’Neal. It’s a powerful book, perfect for a graduation gift.
365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts by R. J. Palacio
If you’re like me and love inspirational quotes, this is this children’s book is a valuable, must-own resource and thus a great graduation gift. Even if you haven’t read the book Wonder, you will find the quotes chosen in this book here (called precepts) to be meaningful and thought-provoking. “We carry within us the wonders we seek around us.” – Sir Thomas Browne. I know I do — it’s a well-used favorite on my bookshelf.
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