Frankencrayon by Michael Hall

Publisher: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper Collins

Publication Date: January 26, 2016

Recommended Grades: 3-5

From the author of Red: A Crayon’s Story, comes Frankencrayon, his newest book. In this story, a set of crayons are supposed to “write the story,” but someone or something draws a scribble in the middle of the page. As a result, the picture book has to be canceled.

Lesson Idea:

Mentor Text: Writer’s Craft, Developing Ideas: Read aloud Frankencrayon with a group of upper elementary writers. Discuss how the author uses “a story within a story” structure. Encourage students to try this technique in their own writing.

Additionally, you could pair Frankencrayon with Red: A Crayon’s Story, The Day the Crayons Quit  and The Day the Crayons Came Home, both by Drew Daywalt, as a set of texts in which the main characters are crayons. Encourage students to use an inanimate object as a main character in their own writing.
©2016 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada

Recommended Grades: 4-6

A beautifully illustrated picture book with an inspiring message. This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps bring it into the world.

Lesson Idea:


Mentor Text: Idea Development: Read aloud What Do You Do With an Idea? at the beginning of the year as you begin your writer’s workshop. This book is an excellent mentor text to build a community of writers, but also to kick off your writer’s workshop and help students develop their own ideas. After reading it aloud, discuss with students what happened to the idea in the story and how it relates to them as writers. Develop an anchor chart of what students might do with an idea when they come up with one. Display the anchor chart to help them as they develop their writing ideas throughout the year.

©2014 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

Recommended Grades: 2-6

In the introduction, we learn that Chris Van Allsburg saw the drawings in this book at the home of Peter Wenders.  Wenders once worked for a children’s book publisher.  Thirty years ago, a man called Mr. Wender’s office, introducing himself as Harris Burdick and leaving 14 drawings with a title and caption for each one.  Burdick promised to return the next day with the stories he had written to go with each picture.  Mr. Burdick was never heard from again. . .

Lesson Idea:

Comprehension Strategies:


Making Inferences: Read aloud The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as part of a unit on making inferences.  Provide students with a picture and ask them to infer what is happening in the picture.  Use this book after modeling and making inferences with other books.     

Six Traits

Idea Development: After reading aloud The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, have students choose a picture from the book and using the first line that is written, continue the story.  How do they envision the story?


Note: Recently many popular children’s authors came together and wrote stories based on these pictures in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales / With an Introduction by Lemony Snicket.  After students write their own stories based on the pictures, share some of the author’s ideas and how they envisioned the story. 

©2012 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown by Sally M. Walker

Recommended Grades: 4-6

Henry “Box” Brown was a slave in the 1800’s on a plantation near Richmond, Va.  Song was an important part of his life and he sang for all aspects of it.  When Henry’s wife and children were sold to another master, Henry’s song stopped.  And in the silence, he thought of an ingenious way to escape slavery and find freedom.   

Lesson Idea:


Mentor Texts: Read aloud Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown in conjunction with Henry’s Freedom Box when discussing the Underground Railroad or the Civil War.  Why did Henry’s plan work?  Did others try after him?  Why was music an important influence in the lives of slaves?  Discuss these questions and encourage students to research to see if answers to these questions can be found.

 Six Traits

Idea Development: I have read several picture books that have been written as the result of a true event (see Ducky or Henry’s Freedom Box).  I love how authors read about something that is factual and turn it into a story that is accessible to kids of all ages.  After reading aloud Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown (and other examples), ask students to brainstorm a list of historical events in their writer’s notebook.  When students are looking for a writing piece, ask them to look further into the background of a historical event of their choice.  You never know what they might find!

Note: The author’s note in the back provides detail as to how her version of Henry “Box” Brown’s life story came to fruition.  Additionally, an excerpt from an actual letter of the man who met Henry “Box” Brown on his arrival to Pennsylvania is also provided.

©2012 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Ducky by Eve Bunting

Recommended Grades: 4-6

A crate of bathtub toys are washed overboard in a storm.  As waves crash all around them, the animals are separated until Ducky is left all alone.  Will he wash ashore and find a friend?     

Lesson Idea:

Six Traits:


Idea Development: This picture book is based on a true event that took place in 1992.  What a fantastic way to develop a story.  Read aloud Ducky and ask students to peruse newspaper articles for idea seeds.  You can also read aloud 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle (based on the same incident) and compare how two authors began with the same idea, but developed two different stories.

Organization:  “I am a yellow plastic duck and I am in great danger.”  This sentence begins the story of Ducky and hooks the reader.  Provide Ducky as a mentor text when modeling hooks.

©2012 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.