Picture book suggestions for readers, early years

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These picture books are some of my personal favourites: they are stories I love sharing and often read with children between 5 and 8 in both K-2 classrooms and with my grandchildren. And, of course, because there are many layers to these books, they are books that children enjoy as much as I do. The key themes of these books include wonder, imagination, friendship, freedom and hope. All are sorely needed in these uncertain times.

Several of these books are by well-established authors and illustrators others are the work of emerging artists and have been published more recently. All have been shortlisted titles, or have won major Australian awards. The recommended books are listed alphabetically.


Ayres, E. & Taher, R. Sonam and the Silence, Allen & Unwin

Can you imagine a world where music has been forbidden? Sonam lives in an Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban and her world is both silent and dark. One day she is introduced to music, magic to her ears. Will she be able to hold on to this gift?


Fox, M. & Vivas, J. Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge. Penguin

Wilfred Gordon’s special friend, Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, is losing her memory. A beautiful exploration of how memories are made.


Gleeson, L. & Blackwood, F. Amy and Louis. Scholastic Press

Best friends and neighbours, Amy and Louis play together every day. They see dragons in clouds and create cardboard castles. When Amy moves overseas they are both at a loss until Louis finally finds a way to connect with Amy again.


Graham, B. How to heal a broken wing. Walker Books

Will is the only one who sees a bird with a broken wing lying on the foot path in a busy city. His family help Will care for the bird. A story of kindness, hope and healing.


Holmes, J. & Bentley, J. Blue Sky, Yellow Kite. Walker Books

A delightful exploration of how a friendship can be repaired through a young boy’s generous spirit.


Lester, A. Imagine

A celebration in words and pictures of the beauty and richness of the world and how our imaginations can take us anywhere.


Millard, G. & King, S. The duck and the darklings. Allen & Unwin

A once beautiful kingdom has been all but destroyed. Peterboy finds courage, hope and a scrap of wonderfulness to help rebuild it.


Saunders, K., & Ottley, M. The incredible freedom machines. Scholastic Press

A young girl living in a caravan park watches others’ freedom and dreams of finding her own freedom machine. The stunning illustrations provide clues to what her freedom machine might be.


Shanahan, L. & Talib, B. Hark, It’s Me, Ruby Lee! Lothian

Ruby Lea is very keen to be given the class messenger role. When she finally does get this role, however, her imagination takes over with some disappointing results. In time she does find the role that she is especially suited for.


Wild, M. & Blackwood, F. The Feather. Little Hare Books

Two children discover a giant feather and realise how special it is. Although the adults in the village endanger the feather, the children’s wise nurturing are able to restore its vitality.


List compiled by Robyn Ewing AM

Professor Emerita | Sydney School of Education and Social Work| Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences |Co-Director Creativity in Research, Engaging the Arts, Transforming Education (CREATE) Centre |Board Member, WestWords| Honorary Associate, Sydney Theatre Company| Principal Fellow ALEA| Visiting Scholar, Barking Gecko Theatre|