You can teach kids to compare and contrast long before they’re writing contrast essays in high school with thesis statements and fully developed arguments. In fact, comparing and contrasting is an important thinking skill to determine categories and classifications.
Use these picture books as mentor text models to compare and contrast topics in preschool, elementary, or even middle school when you’re teaching this thinking strategy and even a basic writing structure showing similarities and differences.
As you compare and contrast, ask questions such as:
- What is the author comparing and contrasting?
- How are these things (ideas) similar? How are they different?
- Are there more similarities or more differences or is it the same?
- Do the authors use transition words to indicate a comparison?
You can even compare and contrast books by the same author, style of illustration, style of writing, or two different characters. In fact, there are many possibilities if you want to drill down into even more specific literary elements or writing techniques.
In this list, you’ll read picture books that include comparisons or lend themselves to thinking about similarities and differences.
However, before you read, start by practicing with other examples that you can compare and contrast. Here are some things you can compare and contrast for practice:
- Animals or animals and humans
What are compare and contrast words?
- compared with
- either / or
- as opposed to
- in common
Children’s Picture Books to Teach Compare and Contrast
Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring by Kenard Pak
Evocative text and gorgeous illustrations show a boy and his dog first standing in the dark of a snowy winter day and then walking in nature, noticing small signs of spring such as the chirping of birds and the melting brook.
An Ordinary Day by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
On the same street, in two different homes, two different doctors arrive. One doctor is for people and one is for animals. One situation is life — a new baby, while the other is death — the passing of a beloved pet. Parallel stories told in an alternating method with important themes will give readers much to discuss.
Birds of a Feather Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth
Beautiful collage illustrations illustrate these fascinating comparisons between a collage artist and a bowerbird who have more in common than you might think. It’s very out-of-the-box thinking which you will love. Use this brilliant book for teaching kids about making art with found objects as well as comparing and contrasting similarities and differences.
Tiny Dino by Deborah Freedman
Learn all about the characteristics of dinosaurs as you compare the little bird’s many features to those of a dinosaur. The plot is clever and the dialogue between the animals is engaging.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
See what’s happening both above and below ground as a little girl and her grandmother work in the garden from the beginning of the spring planting season until autumn gives way to cold snow. It’s an oversized book with marvelous illustrations and juicy descriptions. “Down in the dirt, water soaks deep. Roots drink it in, and a long-legged spider stilt-walks over the streams.” Beautiful!
Moth & Butterfly by Dev Petty, illustrated by Ana Aranda
Two good caterpillar friends with a lot in common go through the amazing process of metamorphosis. Then they pop out of their cocoons– one, a butterfly, and the other, a moth. Now they have new differences. Butterfly’s wings are colorful and Moth’s are beige. Butterfly flies during the day and Moth flies at night. Even still, some things are still the same — they still have cool moves and their friendship.
Amara’s Farm by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Samara Hardy
Learn about pumpkins with Amara who needs to harvest pumpkins. As she searches the farm, we learn about the features of pumpkins with our own search and find and compare and contrast. For example, “A pumpkin is large and round. Is that a pumpkin? // No. That’s an apple. An apple is round, but not large like a pumpkin.” A good book to read aloud for fall harvest season.
Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! by Cori Doerrfeld
These best friends show us how to say goodbye and hello. In fact, every goodbye leads to a hello. For example, goodbye to mom at the bus stop leads to hello to a new friend at school. “Goodbye to snowman…/…is hello to puddles!” Sweet example after example captured in tender, charming illustrations reassures kids that endings can lead to wonderful new beginnings.
So Big and So Small by John Coy, illustrated by Steph Lew (oct)
Lovely by Jess Hong
Striking illustrations show “lovely” people who are different, short, tall, simple, complex, fluffy, sleek, and more. Use this book to teach adjectives, opposites, and appreciation for diversity.
I Will Fight Monsters for You by Santi Balmes, illustrates by Lyona
This clever parallel story of a young girl (and a young monster) who are both frightened to sleep because of the upside-down world of monsters (and humans) beneath (above) their beds. Luckily, dads will fight monsters for their kids and they give good advice: “the size of the monsters depends on how scared you are. If you feel very brave, the monster will shrink and run away” and “fear is elastic, like bubble gum. As you grow braver, fear shrinks smaller and smaller until it disappears.” Creative, reassuring, and heart-warming!
Wagons Ho! by George Hallowell and Joan Holub, illustrated by Lynne Avril
Side by side stories in diary and scrapbook form share two girls’ experiences, both of who are moving from Missouri to the West. One story takes place in 1846, the other, in the present day. It’s a fascinating comparison of what is the same and what is different from each girl’s different setting.
It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
On every page, the narrator of this hilarious story interrupts narration to boss Jack around. Of which Jack isn’t a fan because he doesn’t really want to be a thief and murderer. His dialogue with the narrator will crack you up. Finally, at the giant’s house in the sky, Jack changes everything. He befriends the giant, makes him a taco salad, and goes to Cinderella’s house for a party. It’s the perfect updated version of Jack and the Beanstalk with a take-charge hero and curmudgeonly narrator. Use this picture book to compare the two different voices.
Inside Outside by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui
Gorgeous, oversized illustrations with no text are meant to show readers the inside and outside of something — things like inside an anthill (ants) and outside the anthill (anteater waiting.) Inside an apple is a worm on one page. The next page is a bigger perspective showing a lady about to take a bite out of the apple. Some of the illustrations aren’t perfectly clear so this book begs thoughtful inference and discussion. It’s quite profound.
A New Home by Tania de Regil
Parallel stories show a little girl and a little boy who are nervous about moving cities, one is moving from Mexico City to New York City and the other is moving from New York City to Mexico City. They each share the fun things they’ll miss about their home. As they do, we notice how fun each city is and feel reassured that they’ll probably love their new, fun home. Simple, clear text such as “But what if there is nowhere for me to play in my new city?” accompanies charming illustrations that give voice to these children’s experiences.
When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden
Compare and contrast past and present cultural traditions and values of the Lenni Lenape. See both past and present-day families planting corn, playing games, harvesting crops, telling stories, and more. Learn the Lenape words for different seasons and moon cycles for significant aspects of nature. Several pages of back matter explain the words and their meanings.
Up and Down Mom by Summer Macon
This little girl lovingly discusses her mom’s days in bed contrasted with her mom’s days of excitement. She shares that she feels many different feelings — and how she stays with her granddad or friends when her mom has to go to the hospital. I’m impressed with how much this book covers in kid-friendly, relatable language.
Miguel’s Community Garden by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Samara Hardy
Explore the garden with Miguel in this interactive story while he searches for a sunflower. As you search, compare what you know about sunflowers with the other plants in the garden. You’ll learn about plants like artichokes, cherries, mulberries, spinach, and more. Finally, you find a tall flower with yellow petals, a round center, smooth green, and pointy leaves — you’ve found the sunflower! This is a delightful, educational introduction to plants in a garden with compare and contrast thinking.