#RaisingReaders Monday: 5 Fantastic Picture Books to Give College-Bound Kids

5 Fantastic Picture Book Gifts for Grads

A good friend of mine has a special copy of Dr. Seuss’ classic Oh, The Places You’ll Go for each of her three children. At the end of each school year, she makes the rounds of the classrooms, getting their teachers to write personal notes inside. By the time the kids are off to college, each will have a gift that is both an inspirational story and a priceless time capsule.

Yeah. She’s amazing like that. (You know who you are. Show-off!)

Since most of us haven’t got the wherewithal to plan a touching and meaningful present twelve years in advance, a little help would be nice. If you have or know a college-bound student, I highly recommend picking up one of these fantastic picture books for them to take along to the dorms. This is one of the biggest transition times in a child’s life, and having these encouraging words along means more to them than you’d imagine.

1. Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller. Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.Wherever You Go

Roads give you chances to seek and explore.

Want an adventure?

Just open your door.

Destined to be a new classic, this rhyming picture book will encourage young and old to look at any journey as a marvelous opportunity. New worlds, new friendships, and new possibilities greet the characters around every curve in the road. But that same road will always bring them home.

Perfect both for students eager to take off for uncharted territory, or nervous about those next steps away from home, Wherever You Go is a gift they will cherish.

2. What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobe Yamada. Illustrated by Mae Besom.

What Do You Do With an Idea? By Kobi Yamada

I showed it to other people even though I was afraid what they would say. I was afraid that if people saw it, they would laugh at it.

From the minute I picked up this book, I knew it had the power to speak to both children and adults. A young boy has an idea – but, like many of us, doesn’t know what to do with it. He tries to ignore it. He worries about what others might think. But then – he makes friends with it. He gives it the attention it demands. (Boy, does it demand attention!) And it grows and grows. And in the end, something incredible happens. He finds out what you do with an idea.

You change the world.

Illustrations that begin sparse, becoming more energetic, fanciful and bright as the story unfolds, make an amazing mirror for the process of discovery and exploration. This book belongs in the library of students young and old.

3. Going Places by Peter H. Reynolds and Paul A. Reynolds method=get&s=going-places-big

This quirky, happy book starts off as the students at Oak Hill School get their kits for the annual Going Places competition. Everyone gets the same box. Same pieces. Same instructions. But Maya wonders – is there more than one way to cross the finish line?

A celebration of thinking outside the box, but also a conversation on different styles of tackling problems, this book will make a great gift for grads who enjoy engineering, creativity, and trying non-traditional approaches to an end. Is there a “Maya” in your life who’d rather soar than roll with the crowd? This is the book to give.

4. I Wish You More by Amy Kraus Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld I Wish You More

I wish you more snowflakes than tongue.

Sometimes, the simplest way of saying things is the best.

From the sweet to the silly, these simple wishes -like more buttons than holes and more treasures than pockets – perfectly encapsulate the depth of love and hope parents (and aunts and uncles and teachers and neighbors) have for their college-bound kids. The energetic art and heart-felt wishes will bring a smile to the face and a tear to the eye of even the most “grown up” student as they head off to school.

(Not they’ll they’ll ever admit it to you.)

5. Instructions by Nail Gaiman, Illustrated by Charles Vess

For those looking for something a bit off the beaten path, a little less sentimental and lot more unusual, try this book.

…if any creature tells you that it hungers,

feed it.

If it tells you that it’s dirty,

clean it

If it cries to you that it hurts,

if you can,

ease its pain.

Originally published in Gaiman’s collection A Wolf At The Door (2000), this newly illustrated stand-alone takes the reader on a journey through a fairy-tale kingdom. The narrator talks you through peril and possibility, sometimes straightforward, other times charmingly cryptic. The idea that we each embark on a magical journey, complete with tricky imps, onerous obstacles, sparkling treasures and fellow travelers is a wondrous one. Grads drawn to the magical and mystical will understand that wisdom needed to survive in Faerie-land is quite useful here in the real world, as well.

I can think of more – but I also want to hear from you! What picture books speak to your heart, to your students, to your off-to-face-the-world kids? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!


28 thoughts on “#RaisingReaders Monday: 5 Fantastic Picture Books to Give College-Bound Kids

  1. I bought Curious George Curious You: You’re on Your Way, to give to my son after he graduated kindergarten, but it can easily be given to any grad at any age!


  2. These are great books. I have become a fast fan of I Wish You More. (I add the ending words of Nancy Tillman’s books to it when I read it aloud to my daughter. That is, “you are loved.”)


    • Stacey, that’s such a sweet idea! My girls spotted I Wish You More on a bookshop display and read it back and forth to each other right there on the floor. Like forty times. Something magical about that book.


  3. One of our Christmas traditions for each of the kids is to choose a book that reflects their past year. We write a message in the inside cover telling our child what character trait that we saw develop in them and how we would like to challenge them in the coming year. They open the book on Christmas Eve. And, we read it as their bedtime story. Last Christmas, we gave our 11 year old son What Do you Do With An Idea? It was the perfect book to reflect on his ingenuity. Yet, encourage his confidence.


  4. It’s great to see some picks that aren’t your go-to Oh The Places You’ll Go. It’s a great book, but the variety is fun. Great picks!


  5. At the preschool level, I like Ish and The Dot by Peter Reynolds. I really feel that both of these books encourage and motivate kids to try. They also show that creativity and success are not defined by perfection.


  6. My wife has done the “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”-thing with my eldest, who just finished his first year at school (she’s the organised one!). It was the first time his teacher had ever been asked to do that, as I don’t think this is as common here in the UK. I’m sure it will grow, although at the same time I like the fact that it’s limited to a select group here at the moment 🙂 .

    I don’t know your first four suggestions, but will have to check them out. I love pretty much everything by Neil Gaiman… his “Blueberry Girl” was written for his friend Tori Amos, as a prayer for the daughter she was carrying at that time. I think that it also applies to a time of transition and growth. This is an illustrated video, read by the author: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/02/this-is-prayer-for-blueberry-girl.html


  7. Pingback: Responsibililty, Readers and Rainstorms | kateywrites

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