Find the space to talk… 10 picturebooks for Year 5 #picturebookpage

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Using Picturebooks only works if you give children the room to talk and discuss. With that in mind I have some key questions.

KEY QUESTION 1 What knowledge would help the children explore the book better?

KEY QUESTION 2 Do you give children room to ask questions about what they are reading?

KEY QUESTION 3 Do you know the book well enough to dig deeper into it with the children?

Having  a range of techniques to dig in is really helpful as well… Here are a couple I use regularly. I’ll add some more to the posts for other year groups.

1)  Chambers ‘Tell me Grid’ is really useful for the initial exploration into a picture but also they are great for revisiting later in the process.



2) Freeze-framing and thought-tracking. Simple but highly effective technique in exploring the difference between thought and word.


Anyway here are the books…

10 brilliant picturebooks for Year 5


1 The Journey by Francesca Sanna

Just one of the most brilliant picturebooks. It completely earns all the plaudits it has recieved. The book carries haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis, it explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned. I have previously blogged on this one

Bookblog No4 The Journey by Francesca Sanna

There is also a great teaching pack from Amnesty UK exploring_the_journey_together

2 Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

In turns surreal, scary, bizarre and brilliant. Gaiman and McKean are a dream team here.  It is in turns exhuberant, wild, intense and striking. A great book for exploring fears and the idea that grown-ups don’t listen to children.

3 Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker

This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth. Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the private, personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia — and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again.

4 The River by Allesandro Sanna

Surprising, original, and gorgeous, The River is a book about the seasons and the different kinds of experiences and stories that each season brings. Almost entirely wordless, The River presents each of the four seasons as its own chapter and story. A few sentences at the start of each chapter set the stage and provide clues for following each story. Beginning in autumn and ending in summer, The River is about our connection to place, as well as about the connections between geography, setting, and the stories we tell. The River is also about the flow of time, which flows like the river, and carries us. Just profound and beautiful. It is a stunner.

5 Shackletons Journey by William Grill

William Grill brings us a detailed visual narrative of Shackleton’s epic journey to Antarctica. Grill  cataloges of every  detail of the expedition and in doing so creates a truly human story.. He manages to evoke the atmosphere and intrepid excitement that would have surrounded the expedition with his impeccably researched, detailed and atmospheric drawings. This is an exciting, book which provides a true experience and reminds us that it is the people, not the journey, that truly matter.

We did some amazing work with this book this year. This letter of application gave us a different angle and led to work about the suffragette movement as well.


6 How to Live Forever by Colin Thompson

Thoughful and thought-provoking at the same time. Deliciously complex artwork that begs to be explored again and again, full of puns and references, it’s devine. The story is set in a fantastical library  and a quest fro the missing, mystical  book ‘How to live Forever’  it explores what we do if we were given the chance to live forever.

The artwork is so good we have it on our library door.

7 Way Home by Libby Hathorn and Gregory Rodgers

Exploring the idea of homeless,  Way Home provides a gritty evocation of life on the streets, darkly realistic visuals, in which the lights of cars or the glitter of showroom windows serve only to emphasize the shadows and grime of the pathways.  In the centre of this is a tale of care as Shane and his kitten must traverse the terrifying city. Tucking the cat inside his jacket, he maneuvers past a variety of dangers-bullies, traffic, a snarling dog-until they at last reach his home, itself no more than a corner in another alley.   A harsh, stark but redemptive picturebook.

8 House held up by Trees by Ted Kooser and Jon Klassen

A story that is just about the passing of time and how ultimately nature will reclaim all as a house is abandoned and time does its thing.  Kooser’s poetic story is accompanied by quiet, wistfully beautiful illustrations from Jon Klassen. This is a thoughtful and sophisticated picture book about the passage of time and the power of nature. This led to us looking at the reality of nature reclaiming


Would also add a bonus book that would work brilliantly alongside it…


A House that Once Was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith that beautifully explores memories that places hold.

9 Radiant Child (The story of Young Artist Jean Michel Basquiat) by Javaka Steptoe

Stunning, stylish picturebook biography of Jean Michel Basquiat. It doesn’t shy away from the troubled story but eequally it celebrates the creativity and bravery at the core of it. Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful. Just a stunning book.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

No picturebook would be complete or believable if this book were not part of it. The Arrival is a stunning achievement. Completely wordless but weaving a complex narrative about migration through its stunning artwork. It is an absolute masterpiece.


I know there are lots of other books people would include please share them here or on twitter I’d love to hear your suggestions.



8 thoughts on “Find the space to talk… 10 picturebooks for Year 5 #picturebookpage

  1. Another great post! One of my challenges to myself is to not just share great posts but also try and leave a comment to encourage the writer. I am a blogger myself and know how strange it is that you have put something out there and don’t really know if it having an impact. I Wanted to let you know that I am find these lists really useful and will be sharing your blog with my fellow librarians. We regularly encourage teachers to use picture books with older children and your ideas will definitely be useful.


  2. Pingback: Picturebooks – more than just a pretty picture? -10 picturebooks for Year 4 #picturebookpage | Being Brave! a first time headteachers blog.

  3. Lovely list – especially House held up by Trees (am crawling online bookshops already). To reciprocate, have you seen The Lost Words (written by Robert Macfarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris)?


  4. Pingback: Picturebooks – Choosing is tricky… 10 Picturebooks for Year 3. #picturebookpage | Being Brave! a first time headteachers blog.

    • Hello Emily,
      Revisiting this amazing blog as I’m changing great groups this year… I hope you had the answer to your question by now, but if not, here is how I’ve done freeze framing in the past:

      Split class in smallish groups; give each group a sentence, paragraph or verse if using poetry. In each group, some of the children read or say the words and the other part act out what they hear. They select the most interesting or dramatic part of the act and freeze at the most relevant scene when they hear the words again. Swap roles. Back to whole class, each group shows the rest their “frozen frame” and words.

      It’s a brilliant way to gain deeper understanding of the content as they have to really think of the essence of the text in order to select which one frame would portray the meaning of the whole section.

      Hope this helps.


  5. Pingback: 10 picture books for Year 1. Actually there’s 12 but who’s counting? | Being Brave! a first time headteachers blog.

  6. Pingback: Year 1-Year 6 Picturebook lists so far… (links) | Being Brave! a first time headteachers blog.

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