Read mentor text picture books to teach problem and solution text structure. Understanding problem and solution improves comprehension and helps readers make informed predictions. (As well as helps children see the creative possibilities in problem solving!)
When children learn what to expect in a problem-solution story, not only will they be able to predict solutions but they will also be better able to write their own problem-solution stories.
While there are many picture books that model the story structure of problem and solution, these are my favorites.
Mentor Text Picture Books to Teach Problem and Solution
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is ready to jump off the diving board. Mostly. His dad tells Jabari that he feels scared too, and sometimes after a deep breath and telling himself he is ready, the thing stops feeling scary and feels like a surprise instead. I like this advice, don’t you? And it works for Jabari, too. Beautiful illustrations, perfect text to picture ratio, and a helpful, relatable problem-solution story make this a best picture book of 2017.
Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty
This kid-favorite picture book shares the inspiring story of Iggy, creative thinker and architecture enthusiast. Unfortunately, Iggy’s teacher does like Iggy’s love of architecture. However, she learns to appreciate his skills when the class gets into trouble and it’s Iggy’s architectural thinking that saves the day.
After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat
After his fall of the wall, Humpty Dumpty isn’t quite all together again because now he’s afraid of heights. Humpty decides to make a paper airplane that can fly high since he can’t climb high anymore. Only the airplane flies OVER the high wall and is lost. Even though he’s terrified, Humpty wants his airplane back. Eventually, he musters up his courage and climbs the wall. One step at a time. Until he’s not scared anymore. And gets his airplane back! This beautifully illustrated and conceived picture book that shows kids that fear is normal and courage is doing something even when you’re afraid.
Pigeon P.I. by Meg McLaren
What a unique and delightful mystery story! A little canary asks Pigeon P.I. (private investigator) to help her find her missing friends. Then the canary goes missing, too. It’s up to Pigeon to solve the missing bird mystery. The author writes in the style of the old detective shows– punchy with short sentences. The illustrator captures the details, giving kids clues to notice as they read.
The Brownstone by Paula Scher, illustrated by Stan Mack
The Bear family is ready for hibernation but first, they need to figure out what to do about the noise problem. Their solution? All the animals work together to shift apartments so that everyone finds the best apartment for their specific needs. You’ll love the message and illustrations.
The Little Blue Bridge by Brenda Maier, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
Echoing the Three Billy Goats Gruff story, Ruby wants to cross the bridge and pick blueberries. But her brothers go without her because she’s too little. When the brothers try to cross, the log-guard Santiago says, “I’m the boss and you can’t cross…unless you give me a snack.” The boys tell Santiago to wait for the next sibling who packs a better snack and Santiago lets the brother cross. Finally, Ruby starts across the bridge She doesn’t have a snack so she builds her own bridge–which Santiago helps her with. Together they cross the bridge to pick a blueberry snack on the other side and now Ruby is the boss of the new bridge. What will she ask her brothers to do in order to cross her bridge? Bake her a pie, of course! Talk about girl-power!
7 Ate 9: The Untold Story by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Ross MacDonald
Enigma by Graeme Base
Bertie needs to find the missing magic show props that have disappeared from his grandpa’s retirement home. Each performer tells him what’s missing. Readers help find the items in the illustrations so that Bertie can find the culprit. Like all his books, Base excels in his detailed illustrations.
A House in the Woods by Inga Moore
Little pig’s den becomes filled with friends but once Moose arrives, the den collapses. Oh, no! Problem. What will they do? Together the animals build a new house in the woods big enough to fit all the friends.
That Fruit Is Mine! by Anuska Allepuz
bathtub tidal waves
When Pigs Fly by James Burke
Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matt Myers
Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeannette Winter
Based on the true story of Wangari Maathai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, read how Wangari helped her country of Kenya whose forests were all but destroyed. She started planting trees which started a movement motivating other people to plant trees as well. This is an example of how narrative nonfiction book can also teach the plot structure of problem and solution.
The Thingity-Jigby Kathleen Doherty, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Wordplay, problem-solving, and persistence! One day Bear finds a Thingity-Jig (aka. a couch) which he thinks is wonderful as a sit-on-it, jump-on-it thing. He asks his friends to help him carry it home but they’re too fast asleep so Bear figures out some ideas to do it himself. He makes a Rolly-Rumpity! Which is a pack-it-up, heap-it-up, load-it-up thing. That isn’t enough to move the Thingit-Jig so Bear makes something else — a Lifty-Uppity. And then, a Pushy-Poppity. And at daybreak, he arrives back at home where his friends are waking up, with his special Thingity-Jig. Bingity…Bing…Boing…Bear falls asleep.
Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Clara advocated for justice and equality during a time when black people weren’t permitted the same rights as white people. As a teacher, she inspired her students to believe that change was possible. Clara and her students went to the Katz drugstore and asked to be served — even though the store didn’t serve black people. She and her students returned day after day despite people yelling and throwing food. Eventually, the Katz store relented and started to serve people of all races. Clara and her students finally could enjoy a Coke and a burger without trouble.
Piper and Purpa Forever! by Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Olivia Feng
Most stories have a problem and a solution but this story is a great example showing a little girl’s ability to creatively problem solve with a beautiful solution to her problem. Piper loves her beloved purple sweater, Purpa, and is so sad when she grows out of it. Will she be able to keep her sweater somehow?