Going public





Narrative tips

Persuasive tips

Research writing

Poetry tips

Reflective thinking


For parents

Other resources

• Introduction
• Conferring
• Content writing K-2
• Content writing 3-12
• Websites & magazines K-6
• Professional books
• Children's books
• Places to publish

My favorite picture books

for teaching narrative writing

(Click on titles to go to related websites)

The Night I Followed The Dog

Nina Laden, Scholastic, 1994 - How many books do you have in your library that are written in first person? This one is. It's appealing to students. Kids can easily adapt the story structure: i.e., The Night I Followed My Frog, etc. It uses a humorous ending so it gives you the opportunity to talk about funny endings. It's a good book to use when talking about inventing imaginative elements in a short story. The main character, a dog, rides in a limousine and owns his own dog club so the imaginative parts are controllable - no aliens or violence. The book shows a strong progression through time, easily outlined so that your young readers can see the organization.

The Wednesday Surprise

Eve Bunting, Clarion Books, 1989 - engaging story with a surprise twist at the end. I love the simple yet effective first line and great last line, and it lends itself to talk about how often first lines and last lines go hand in hand. The mood of the story brings tears to kids eyes. You'll want to talk about what Bunting did to achieve the mood. What clues were planted throughout the story that the reader missed the first time through which the author created surprise? How can we do the same? This book is my favorite personal narrative.

The Bear's Toothache

David McPhail, Little, Brown & Co., 1972 - an imaginative narrative that's just the perfect length for planning backwards, identifying key events, and studying all characteristics of narrative. This book would probably not score a 4 on the NC writing test because some of the pages are "off topic." The kids can see ways to improve this published book as they tweak it towards the testing genre. It's a lovable imaginative story kids enjoy.


Julie Brinkloe, Aladdin Paperbacks, 1986 - a perfect narrative, as perfect as perfect can be, a good story, the organization is easily definable, and it surprises, creates a mood, and uses great language and voice. The book is a sample of what we wish every 4th grader could write and it seems attainable to the kids as well.

The Relatives Came

Cynthia Rylant, Scholastic, 1993 - another perfect narrative with great word choice, golden language, and a story structure similar to what's required on the test. Cynthia Rylant sent the book off to the publisher thinking it would come back beautifully illustrated as a tribute to her relatives. Instead, Stephen Gammell, the illustrator, drew the characters as country bumpkins. It turns out, it's been one of Rylant's most successful books and she's come to terms with it. Great book to talk about visualization and how the writer uses words to make pictures in the reader's head.

Night Noises

Mem Fox, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1989 - a scary, funny, personal and imaginative book with which everyone can identify. Mem uses a surprise ending (time you were surprised), and wonderful, rich language, which builds suspense beautifully and appeals to most 4th graders. It works as a story they can emulate.

Where the Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak, Harper Trophy, 1963 - great imaginative or is it personal? (Could be a dream sequence.) All kids have been sent to their rooms and so this book gets them thinking about what could happen there. It's great to read as a springboard to writing.

Christina Katerina and the Time She Quit the Family

Patricia Lee Gauch, G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1987 - another narrative kids can identify with - the time they left the family because they got mad. It's a simple, clean narrative. Your students can write on the same topic, and study the literary devices Gauch uses to develop the story.

Elbert's Bad Word

Audrey Wood, Harcourt Brace, 1988 - another imaginative story about what happens to a boy who says bad words. It turns out all right with an ending that brings the story full circle from beginning to end. Clever. Witty. Kids love the whole concept of the bad word idea. Adults like the book because it teaches a lesson.

Dog Breath

Dav Pilky, Scholastic, 1994 - imaginative story about a dog who saves the house with his bad breath. It's a humorous book, which kids love. How does Pilky make the book funny? What can we learn from him? The book has a clever lead and ending - both very simple. The bulk of the story is in the middle like we would like our kids to do.

Owl Moon

Jane Yolen, Philomel Books, 1987 - looking for the perfect book to teach just about everything? Beautiful language, strong action verbs, effective use of similes, and voice. I make a text copy for kids to underline and mark on to find the golden language and name the literary devices she uses (after we read for enjoyment first, of course). You could teach from this book for months!

The Amazing Bone

William Steig, Puffin Books, 1976 - great imaginative. Shows kids how to be clever with language by making up words when writing imaginative narratives. The book, of course, is humorous. All his books lend themselves to a study of how to create the humor.

Amazing Grace

Mary Hoffman, Caroline Binch, Scholastic, 1993 - wonderful first line. The story teaches a lesson, develops the problem and solves it. Hoffman tackles prejudice and makes us all think about how everyone can do what he or she put his or her mind to. Use this book to talk about teaching a lesson with a narrative story.

Piggie Pie

Margie Palatini, Clarion Books, 1995 - very funny imaginative story. It shows kids how they can take a story structure and write their own story using the same story structure. Lots of authors take an idea that's been used before and make it their own. Kids can too!

The Moon and I

Betsy Byars, Julian Messener Publisher, 1991 - a memoir by the author. Byars shares her own poignant stories and insights into how this author writes.

Jazmin's Notebook

Nikki Grimes, Dial Books, 1998 - great chapter on how great it is to carry a writer's notebook with you by the character in the book. The content of the whole book is not appropriate for young kids but this one great chapter is worth owning and can be shared. Page 25 begins, "It seems like ideas are like gossamer, or mist, fragile as a dream, forgotten as soon as you awake." Jazmin needs her writer's notebook just as we all do.

Looking Back: A Book of Memories

Lois Lowry, Walter Lorraine Books, 1998 - one series of narrative stories inspired by photographs in Lowry's life. Great idea book for getting topics using photos for kids as well.

Tough Boris

Mem Fox, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1994 - the perfect book to teach word choice. Mem says there are 69 words in the entire book and it took her 3 years to write it because she pored over every word, making sure each word was just the right word. Great way to introduce a study of word choice and how important each word is to the narrative.

NEXT: Places to publish!


Home | About Karen | Contact Karen | Learner log-in

A resource for people passionate about helping students write well, compiled by Karen Haag

 Home  About Karen Haag  Contact Karen  Karen's blog