Picture Books for Older Readers

I often get asked for suggestions of picture books for older readers.  Books, written at a simple level, that have content to appeal to teenagers or adults.

Tar Heel Reader is the best source I’ve found for books like this – but there are also many commercially available books that meet this need. The fabulous Sally Clendon says that her criteria for a picture book for older readers is one that makes her laugh. I couldn’t agree more – if the book can get an adult (or group of adults) laughing then it’s a great one to use with early readers of all ages.

So without more ado, here’s my list of favourite books that meet these criteria. And I’ve started a Pinterest Board (my first one) so that I can keep adding to this list as I go. In fact, if you look at the Pinterest Board you’ll see there are already many more books up there than I’ve listed here!


Baa Baa Smart Sheep by Mark and Rowan Sommerset

Baa Baa Smart Sheep and the sequel, I Love Lemonade, are my current top picks in this category. Join Baa Baa  the first book as he tricks Quirky Turkey into eating “smarty tablets” – which look and smell suspiciously like something else. Then join them again in the sequel as Quirky Turkey tries to get revenge. And thanks to Lily for introducing me to these hilarious books!

Mr Potato Head’s Big Adventure by Hgiunta

Mr Potato Head’s Big Adventure! is a classic on Tar Heel Reader. Join Mr Potato Head as he is crossed in love, embarks on his big adventure and becomes a movie star.

Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman & Ben Cort

Aliens Love Underpants is a big favourite with lots of readers. Discover where your missing underpants go and exactly what you should be wary of when putting underpants on!  There are also several other “underpants” books to be discovered.


Don’t Pick Your Nose by Reed A Booke

Ahhhh….Reed a Booke. In my opinion, the best author for books in this category on Tar Heel Reader. Don’t be scared by the fact that a number of his books are in the Caution Category – they are awesome teen and young adult fodder. Don’t Pick Your Nose is a great example of his word play and humour.

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin

Click, Clack, Moo encompasses emotions, industrial relations and typing farm animals. Read to find how Farmer Brown handles things when his animals start writing (and sending) their demands.

Dirty Bertie by David Roberts

I’m sure we all have the occasional elicit bad habit, but Bertie’s habits are right out there – and very, very dirty. As the book progresses, he learns some lessons that help him mostly reform, but one habit still remains to the very end.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willem

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is the first Pigeon book I was introduced to – by a very enthusiastic bunch of teens at Willans Hill School who loved it! The pigeon tries to push our boundaries in this and a number of other volumes – but it’s important we don’t let him get away with it or he would be impossible to live with!

Guess What? by Mem Fox and Vivienne Goodman

Guess What?  A little dark, with a bit of mystery. Mem Fox has to be one of the best authors around, giving us huge pleasure with every one of her varied books.

Harvey, the Boy who Couldn’t Fart by Matthew Johnstone

Poor Harvey – a serious infliction indeed. But one with an ingenious solution with a little help from Grandpa, the master of “trouser trumpets”.

Mr McGee and the Biting Flea by Pamela Allen

Mr McGee and the Biting Flea is another entertaining tale full of rhymes from the great Pamela Allen. Be prepared for lots of running, lots of shouting and a little bit of nudity with a great repeated line as well.

Shrek by Jane Farrall

I’m not the best author of teen fiction – but I’ve had quite a lot of teens compliment me on this book so I’ve included it in this list.  I believe it’s just one particular page they like though!

Smelly Bill Stinks Again by Daniel Postgate

Smelly Bill, Stagnant Sam, Putrid Pete, Filthy Fred and Rancid Ron come up against Aunt Bleach and her cohort. Read to discover who wins this round in the eternal battle of cleanliness.

The Big Fat Cow that Goes Kapow by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

On no – look out. This one is an EXPLODING cow! The Big Fat Cow is a great chapter book with lots of fun and clever rhymes for beginning readers.

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

Serenity Strainer was perfect. Until the day that the dreadful fluff ate most of her family – and she realised that being perfect isn’t as important as being strong.

Wolf Won’t Bite by Emily Gravett

The three pigs have captured the wolf – and proceed to demonstrate just how tame he is. Emily Gravett is awesome. Her stories are clever and often help us see the world from a different angle.

The Very Hungry Bum by Claudia Rowe

I absolutely love this parody of The Very Hungry Caterpillar – in which the “bum” makes the caterpillar look like he’s on a diet – and thank the senior students at Verney Road School for introducing me to it. I’m still not quite sure how the mountain goat gets devoured, but can only be thankful that the pinata was the main thing that attracted his attention at Friday’s birthday party. Claudia Rowe has also written two other parodies that are well worth the read.

And I would love to hear about your favourites books in this category as well –  as I know many others would too.  Please add more suggestions in the comments below – and I will add future finds to my Picture Books for Older Readers Pinterest Board as well.

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Comments (16)

  1. Anna Newstead


    Thanks so much Jane! I’ve read a few of those so can’t wait to read the rest and have them in my collection.

    • jane


      Anna – if you haven’t got Baa Baa Smart Sheep yet, then I’d start there. Hilarious!

  2. Reply

    This is a favorite of mine: Pole Dog by Tres Seymour. No, its not funny, actually it the heartbreaking story of a dog abandoned on the side of the road. There is, fortunately, a happy ending; he is adopted by a family driving by. It has some repeatable phrases and rhymes and the theme lends itself to good discussion about responsibility and compassion. It is out-of-print but can be found online from 3rd party book sellers. I love this book.

  3. Rebecca


    I was disappointed that only 5 of the 13 books mentioned were in our local library system. maybe i will buy some books and start a co-op? if anyone else has any suggestions, i am open!

    • jane


      Hi Rebecca – some of them are free ones from Tar Heel Reader so you can download them yourself as PowerPoints or ePubs. You could also put a request list into your library. And if you look at the Pinterest board there are a lot more Tar Heel Reader ones you can access for free. Hope that helps.

  4. Laura Coakes


    Thanks Jane this list is great – I can’t wait to read some of these – I love the look of “The Very Hungry Bum”!

  5. Denise Hunt


    Thank you for the list! I have been on a search for picture books to use for shared reading with my high school students. Here are three of our favorites that we read during summer school. They are not funny, but thought-provoking and sweet. They generated some interesting discussions: the Summer My Father Was Ten, The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, and Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed.

  6. Pingback: Picture Books for Older Readers Update | Jane Farrall Consulting

  7. Leesa Wilgar


    Hi Jane, have been planning on adding books to this forum for ages. Here are some that have been a hit in our home with an older student:

    Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray
    I need a new bum by Dawn McMillan
    Why do dogs sniff bottoms by Dawn McMillan and Bert Signal
    The Terrible Underpants by Kaz Cooke
    Walter the Farting Dog Banned from the Beach by William Kotzwinkle, Glenn Murray and Elizabeth Gundy
    The Duck in the Gun by Joy Cowley

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