Ten Great Picture Books
for Adults, Teens & Older Children

The following picture books for adults, young adults and older children, are fairly quick reads with lifetime messages.  How many times have you read a book with a child and walked away feeling encouraged, motivated or inspired?

Picture books are not just for small children, and many authors have picked up on this.  Whether you need a gift for a special occasion like graduation or beautiful book to spread some inspiration, here are what I call the "Top Ten" picture books for adults or older readers.

Picture books for adults

1. What Do You Do with an Idea? 
written by Kobi Yamada * Illustrated by Mae Besom

The most well known of this group of picture books for adults or young adults, takes a journey as a child tries to determine what to do with an idea.  How many of us have had a great idea, but only left it behind because we didn't know what to do with it?

The idea is illustrated as an egg, and at the end it hatches and takes flight.  The final text gives us an amazing challenge and insight as "older readers" -

And then, I realized what you do with an idea...

You change the world.

What an empowering read this book is!  Yes, younger children will enjoy it as a simple read, but young adults and adults will appreciate the depth of its message.

best picture books for adults

2. What Do You Do with a Problem?

This second book, will help develop courage to face problems head-on.

Besom illustrates the problem as a little black cloud that hovers over the child.  As he worries and thinks of all the "what ifs" his problem could cause, the cloud begins to grow larger and larger.  The more he tries to avoid it, the more he sees it everywhere.

Finally, he makes a decision; he will have to face it.  As he does, he discovers something incredible!

When I got face-to-face with it, I discovered something.  My problem wasn't what I thought it was.  

I discovered it had something beautiful inside.

My problem held an opportunity!

It was an opportunity for me to learn and to grow.

To be brave. To do something.

Wow; what a lesson for all of us to learn as adults or young adults!

3. What Do You Do with a Chance?

I do believe the third in this little series is my favorite though.  How often are we too afraid to take a chance?  For me, it seems quite often.

The chance is illustrated as what seems to be a golden origami butterfly. It's small at first, and the child is too afraid to grab ahold.  Other chances come and go; some even end in failure.  One day the child realizes he just needs to be brave and ready for the right moment, not for every chance.

Then one day, off in the distance, he sees something shining.  Could this be his big chance?  He begins to run towards it...

It wasn't that I was no longer afraid, but now my excitement was bigger than my fear.

As I got closer, I could see hat this was a really huge chance!

But this time I was ready.  As it came by, I reached out and grabbed it.  I held on with all my might.

So, what do you do with a chance?

You take it...because it just might be the start of something incredible.

Ten picture books for adults & young adults

4.  Last Stop on Market Street
written by Matt de la Pena * illustrated by Christian Robinson

picture book on gratitude

Among the many awards of this picture book are the Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Honor, and the Newbery Medal.  The first two awards are based on the illustrations of a book; therefore most often going to an outstanding "picture" book.

The Newbery Medal, however, is awarded to the most distinguished book of children's literature during that year.  What sets this picture book apart to receive this honor? It's the depth of its message.

My favorite piece of wisdom Nana gives to C.J. is -

"Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful."

I include this in my picture books for adults list because it touches on compassion, contentment, seeing the beautiful in life no matter where you are, and how we can spread this goodness to others. It's a book that encourages us to be grateful and move beyond the four walls of a church.

More about The Last Stop on Market Street...

5.  Cry, Heart, but Never Break
Written by Glenn Ringtved *  Illustrated by Charlotte Pardi

picture book about death

A story about grief and death, unveils the truth that there is a balance to life.  Death appears at the door where four children live with their elderly and sickly grandmother. 

The children try to delay him, but instead he tells them a story of two brothers, Sorrow & Grief, who meet two sisters, Delight & Joy.  They discover the need for each other; there is a place for all of them in life.  

In the years that followed, the children lived with their joy and their sorrow, but they always remembered Death's words and took great comfort from their hearts which grieved and cried but never broke.

This picture book for adults and any age gives us permission to grieve, but then also encourages us to move on because that's what life does.

More about Cry, Heart, but Never Break...

6.  The Oak Inside the Acorn
Written by Max Lucado * Illustrated by George Angelini

picture book about potential

If you're looking for a book for a graduation or to remind someone of all life has ahead of them, this is a wonderful picture book for adults, young adults & children!

The small acorn doesn't want to leave Mother Oak, but he must.  He goes on a journey and decides he wants to be like an orange tree, but as he is moved along the truth Mother Oak told him is seen.  Inside this little acorn grew a huge oak tree!

A young girl grows up beneath Big Oak's limbs and also discovers her uniqueness and that God has a special plan for this next chapter of her life too.

"Now, it's time for me to let go and become the person God made me to be."

Ten Picture Books for Adults & Young Adults

7.  You're Here for a Reason
Written & Illustrated by Nancy Tillman

Nancy Tillman books

Nancy Tillman books make wonderful gift books for any age.  With her amazing illustrations and encouraging messages, these are wonderful picture books for adults and young adults as well as children.

You're Here for a Reason begins...

You're here for a reason, you certainly are.

The world would be different without you, by far.

If not for your hands and your eyes and your feet,

the world, like a puzzle, would be incomplete.

Even the smallest of things that you do 

blossom and multiply far beyond you.

A kindness, for instance, may triple for days...

or set things in motion in different ways.

8.  Thank You, Mr. Falker
Written & Illustrated by Patricia Polacco

gift book for teachers

This was always one of my favorite books to read to my library classes to help them understand reading is a skill that is learned and practiced.  It may come easy to some, but for many it may be a struggle.  

At the end of the story the author, Patricia Polacco, reveals she was the main character, Trisha, who was teased because she struggled with learning to read.

She spooned honey on the cover and tasted the sweetness, and said to herself, "The honey is sweet, and so is knowledge, but knowledge is like the bee who made the honey, it has to be chased through the pages of a book!"

But I also love this as one of my picture books for adults because it shows how we can make a difference in a child's life as a teacher, care giver, friend, etc.  A little encouragement goes a long way.

If you ever need a special gift for a teacher, Thank You, Mr. Falker is a wonderful one!

9.  Rose Blanche
Written & Illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

historical picture book WWII

Rose Blanche is one of the picture books for adults which brings difficult seasons of history to life in a way that touches deeply.

This story tells of a young German girl who watches as Nazi soldiers march in the streets and take people, even children, away in their trucks.  One day she follows and discovers a concentration camp.

She begins sneaking food from her own meals and taking it to the too-thin children behind the barbed wire fences until...

The depth of emotion this historical fiction picture book brings will leave you stunned and reflective.

My name is Rose Blanche.  I live in a small town in Germany with narrow streets, old fountains and tall houses with pigeons on the roofs.

One day the first truck arrived and many men left. They were dressd as soldiers.

Winter was beginning.

From the author:

"In this book I wanted to illustrate how a child experiences war without really understanding it.  After drawing the first page, I chose Rose Blanche as its title because of the significance of the name.  Rose Blanche was a group of young German citizens protesting the war.  They had understood what others wanted to ignore.  They were all killed.

In this book fascism is a day-to-day reality.  Only the victims and the little girl have known its real face."

10.  The Tale of Three Trees
Retold by Angela Elwell Hunt * Illustrations by Tim Jonke

best picture book for Easter

It begins...

Once upon a mountaintop, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

Sometimes picture books for adults are those that bring inspiration and encouragement.

This folktale takes us on a journey through the life of Jesus.  The three trees had dreams, but their fulfillment was different...better than they could have dreamed!

How many times does life take a turn that causes us discouragement or the loss of hope?  This beautifully illustrated book reminds us that God's love changes everything...

It had made the first tree beautiful.

It had made the second tree strong.

And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

We're never too old to be shaped by books!  Picture books for adults can shape our reactions, our attitudes, our self-mage along with so much more.  They are quick reads with lasting messages!

Okay...one more!  I just can't leave this one out.  Of all the great picture books for adults, this one paints the most beautiful picture of love!

Because I Love You
Written by Max Lucado * Illustrated by Mitchell Heinze

Christian picture book

It begins...

Long ago in a land far away and unlike any you've ever seen, there lived a wse man named Shaddai.  Shaddai was a large man with a tender heart.

Even when boundaries are crossed and the way has been lost, love comes searching.  Love follows to lead back and to protect.  Love doesn't give up,

Shaddai has the heart of a parent.  Rules are set, boundaries are drawn all to protect.  And just as a child, sometimes we follow the wrong path and lose our way.  This beautiful story is about how true Love finds and forgives what's been broken.

More beautiful picture books for adults