Picture Books for Teaching Personification
My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Francesca Sanna
A personified Earth as a lovely, dark-skinned girl wakes up for spring. Captivating lush, layered illustrations and die cut out pages plus lyrical text intertwine to create a dazzling reading experience that celebrates the Earth’s seasons and her care for its creatures. “Under the white — the silent seed is cradled in the dark soil. Watching.”
Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
Lyrical, figurative language (filled with similes, personification, and vivid imagery) not only celebrates people of color living life fully but transports readers into scenes rich with sensory imagery. “Deep, secret brown. Like the subtly churning river currents playfully beckoning me through my grandmother’s kitchen window, winding steadily past banks of tall grass and wild rose buses.” Or “Feathery brown. Like the jagged shadows of hemlock branches thrown over me and Daddy on a gentle mountain hike.” A stunning, joyful tribute.
The Night Box by Louise Greig, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay
“Day is yawning” begins this story about day and night personified. When the boy unlocks the Night Box, Day goes to rest and Night comes out to play. Night welcomes the nocturnal animals, gives a moon to a pond, a branch to the owl, and for Max, Night makes sure he has a soft, warm bed. Later, when Night falls asleep, Max opens the box and Day sweeps back out. “Day breathes into the leaves, quiet flies out of the trees, yellow rises from the rooftops, and a new song begins.” Absolutely lovely.
A New Green Day by Antoinette Portis
A wonderful use of personification as nature’s elements speak to kids… Sunlight says, “Morning lays me on your pillow, an invitation, square and warm. Come out and play!” Snail says, “I scribble on the walk in glistening ink. Read all about my nighttime travels.” What will leaf, inchworm, tadpole, pebble, cloud, rain, lightning, mud, shadow, night, and cricket share with you? Read what each one says and guess who said it before you turn the page. Delightful!
What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby
Outside In thoughtfully looks at our relationship with nature. Sometimes we forget about Outside but Outside reminds us with sunset and shadows and birds…”Outside sings to us with chirps and rustles and tap-taps on the roof.” Celebrate nature with this lyrical ode to all that Outside gives us. Beautifully written with evocative watercolor illustrations, this gem is one you don’t want to miss.
Lena’s Shoes are Nervous (A First-Day-of-School Dilemma) by Keith Calabrese, illustrated by Juana Medina
Lena’s shoes are nervous about going to school but her dress is feeling outgoing. Then, Lena figures out that her headband can talk to her shoes. “The shoes say that school is big and loud and different and they’d really rather not go. / The headband is a good listener and understands.” The headband reminds the shoes of other times they all were scared and also brave. And that things worked out. Even though her shoes still feel a little nervous, they all decide to be brave. And Lena is proud of them!
Wishes by Muon Thi Van, illustrations by Victo Ngai
Gorgeous illustrations and lyrical, personifying text work together in beautiful harmony to narrate the bittersweet goodbye as a family leaves their Vietnamese village and travels by boat. They get picked up by a bigger boat and eventually arrive at a new city, a new home. It’s an important story arc of sad endings, challenging middles, and hopeful beginnings with room for inference and connection about the themes of family and feelings and the topic of immigration. “The light wished it was brighter. // The dream wished it was longer. //The clock wished it was slower.”
Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Spoon feels “bent out of shape” lately. His friends seem to have more exciting lives than him — like Knife who can cut and spread, and Fork who goes everywhere practically, and Chopsticks who are so exotic. Spoon doesn’t realize that his friends think the same about him. When Spoon’s mom reminds him of the wonderful things about being a spoon — diving into a bowl of ice cream, clinking against a cereal bowl side, and twirl around in a mug, Spoon feels much better about who he is. Not only is this a wonderful picture book mentor text for teaching personification but it contains a valuable life lesson, too.
The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Most kids can relate to young Laszlo’s fear of the dark. In this unique picture book, the dark is an actual thing that lives in the basement, hides in the closet, and waits in the corners. One night, the dark comes to Laszlo’s room and speaks to him. Yikes! The dark wants to show Laszlo something. He shows Lazlo a nightlight in the basement. Now that Lazlo has a light, the dark never bothers Laszlo again.
Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
It’s not easy being seen. Especially when you’re NOT like everyone else. Especially when what sets you apart is YOU. Sometimes we squish ourselves to fit in. We shrink. Twist. Bend. Until — ! — a friend shows the way to endless possibilities. In this bold and highly visual book, an emphatic but misplaced exclamation point learns that being different can be very exciting! Period. Love how the author personifies punctuation!
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Janitor tells the newly built school that soon teachers and children will be coming. Which makes School nervous. Find out what happens on the first day (a fire drill!) and how School loves his kids. Added to: Essential Back-to-School Books for Kids.
Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace
Little Pea is supposed to eat his candy! He must force down a few bites if he wants dessert which is spinach! This is a funny example of a situation in reverse.
E-mergency by Tom Lichtenheld, illustrated by Ezra Fields-Meyer
Remember Shark vs. Train? Well, this punny book is by the same author and even more clever. When E takes a tumble down the stairs, in order for E to heal, everyone must stop using her in all their words. O (who is so well-rounded) takes her place making this book hilarious and quite challenging to read out loud! AftOr all, wO usO thO lOttOr a lot! But, E doesn’t heal. Is someone still using the letter E? Like THE NARRATOR!?
“Mom, this is such a good book,” my 10-year old shared, handing it to me. Sure enough, she was right for the sweet friendship with the formerly scary DARK and the boy named Orion. We loved the captivating collage-like illustrations in this story that humanizes the dark making him a kind and adventurous friend for Orion, who was downright terrified of the DARK before. But one night, the Dark came to visit. The Dark wasn’t at all what Orion expected. Now that the Dark is his friend, Orion isn’t scared.
Picture the Sky by Barbara Reid
The best thing about this book is the three-dimensional, eye-catching artwork. But the text is also impressive — with how the author personifies the sky and gives readers metaphors that make us see the sky differently. Teachers, use this personification picture book as a writing prompt.
Snow by Cynthia Rylant
Evocative imagery paints dancing pictures of snow in our minds…“The best snow is the snow that comes softly in the night, like a shy friend afraid to knock, so she thinks she’ll just wait in the yard until you see her. This is the snow that brings you peace.” Some snow falls in “fat, cheerful flakes” that sends you home early from someplace you don’t want to be like school or work. This picture book’s magical tribute to snow beautifully captures the enchantments of snowy weather.
The Rabbit, The Dark, and the Cookie Tin by Nicola O’Byrne
This irresistible character’s experience with the Dark will help kids see the importance of nighttime. Rabbit believes this: he won’t have to go to sleep IF it never gets dark. Therefore, he entices the Dark into a cookie tin and snaps it closed, trapping the Dark inside. Rabbit ignores the nocturnal animals who need the Dark. He argues with the Dark that he is not getting grumpy. (He is.) And it is so hot! Rabbit finally notices that his carrots are wilting. Dark explains to Rabbit that the carrots need him, too. Finally, Rabbit opens up the tin and Dark emerges to show Rabbit his beauty and read him a bedtime story. Rabbit falls fast asleep. Snuggly and enchanting.
Thunder Trucks by Cheryl Klein and Katy Beebe, illustrated by Mike Boldt
Creative and fun! These Thunder trucks live in the clouds and make the storms: thunder, rain, hail, lightning, and big snow. Besides being an engaging story, it teaches personification! Read how the Dump Truck bustles in with a crash, tilting her dumpster bed up, up, up to pour the hailstones thump, thump, thump. “Thunder Trucks loud. Thunder Trucks strong. Thunder Trucks moving this storm along. The Firetruck makes lightning. The Big Rigs makes Thunder. They divvy it up and roll out so the whole sky rumbles with power and pride.”