Picture books about storytelling (and why it’s so important!)

“If I had a little book, I would name it Friend.
Friend would go wherever I went,
our story would never end.”
— from “If I Had a Little Dream,” by Nina Laden

Never mind the whole multiverse thing. Our particular universe is complicated enough. It operates on a multitude of scales simultaneously, from the incomprehensible immensity of black holes, galaxies and superclusters to the inconceivable tininess of quantum particles.

But our normal scale of reference is based on the unaided eye, ear, voice and hand; we humans can’t even properly grasp the incredible, invisible busyness of our own cells.

To make sense of the world, our brains take our limited sensory inputs and create networks, frameworks and hierarchies; we organize categories, find patterns, compare and contrast similarities and differences, note sequence and duration, inject emotion, then shape these elements into coherent narratives we tell ourselves.

For us, as the poet Muriel Rukeyser writes, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

We tell stories: It’s what we do.

Every question and every answer is a story.

The connections made in our brains create the stories that connect us to the world and, more importantly, connect us to each other.

Our remarkable human culture is nothing more, and nothing less, than a compilation of stories — stories, first oral, then written, shared across the world and down the ages.

Stories have consequences — the kinds of stories we learn shape our characters and our civilizations.

To preserve our humanity in this vast and lonely universe, we need to teach our children to value great stories that inspire them to make great stories of their lives. Hence a first step: picture books about storytelling.


“The Incredible Book Eating Boy,” written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Ages 4-8. The benefits of reading stories.
“A Squiggly Story,” written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Mike Lowery. Ages 4-7. Making your own stories.
“I Am a Story,” written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Ages 4-8. The history of stories.
“How This Book Was Made,” written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex. Ages 3-6. How a story gets made into a book. (Note: Rex, an Arizonan, wrote “The True Meaning of Smekday,” the basis for the DreamWorks animated film “Home.”)
“A Child of Books,” written by Oliver Jeffers and illustrated by Jeffers and Sam Winston. Ages 4 and older. The joy of reading stories.
“Ralph Tells a Story,” written and illustrated by Abby Hanlon. Ages 6-8. Where stories really come from.