Picture Books for Teaching Personification
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.
What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
Lena’s Shoes are Nervous (A First-Day-of-School Dilemma) by Keith Calabrese, illustrated by Juana Medina
You know how kids express their feelings? It sometimes can be just like this… personifying something else to represent a feeling. What I really like is that Lena’s feeling BOTH nervous and outgoing which is also an accurate depiction of our emotions. (Her shoes are nervous but her dress is feeling outgoing.) Lena tells her dad about her shoes feeling nervous. (And can I just say how much I love that this story is all about a girl and her DAD, not mom!?) Her dad asks questions. (LOVE!) Then, Lena figures out that her headband can talk to her shoes. Her dad gives them some space. “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 decide to be brave. And Lena is proud of them! Use this book to talk about feelings and personification. It’s a beautifully illustrated, emotionally truthful role model for us all.
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. Knife wishes people would be silly with him like they are with Spoon. Fork wishes she could measure stuff like Spoon. Chopsticks wish they could go places by themselves like Spoon. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 as a writing prompt.
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