Skeletons and Mood- Boosting Picture Books

There’s been some interesting news out of Great Britain lately. First, there was the announcement confirming the discovery of the remains of King Richard lll, the 15th century monarch vilified in Shakespeare’s Richard lll. The photo of his skeletal remains is quite chilling. You can see the pronounced curvature of his spine and are reminded of his words and evil hobbling in Shakespeare’s play… “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

The other news, while not quite as dramatic, is about bibliotherapy the prescription of self-help books to people suffering from anxiety or depression.

The British Reading Council, a partner in the initiative is also suggesting books to inspire and uplift peoples’ spirits. They have developed a core list of Mood- boosting books and are inviting people to share titles. Shakespeare’s Richard lll is not among them.

Children’s’ picture books are mood- boosters for me. I am immersed in the world of picture books and always on the look-out for examples to use in Artful Readi
ng, a program that integrates the arts and literacy. This work coupled with my love of book illustrations has allowed me to surround myself with a wide variety of delightful picture books.

In Artful Reading, the books are often shared through an interactive read-aloud. The strategic choice of picture books for read – aloud can help set the classroom mood and the environment for learning. Picture books are complex and can be quite sophisticated with multiple stories being told through words and visual language. The combination of words and pictures can leave us amazed, perplexed, howling with laughter, or filled with a sense of wonder about the world.

Here are some of my picture book mood-boosters for February:

The great paper caper

The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers invites readers to look closely at the illustrations and interpret an array of clues and occurrences. In the Great Paper Caper stick-legged characters spread across a curious landscape pull us into the mystery of disappearing tree limbs. The twist in this story is that we know who the culprit is from the beginning, but are immediately engaged by the launch of investigations, flimsy alibis, the examination of clues, and mock trials. An additional treat is the use of the front and back endpapers to introduce examples and directions for, “pulp-based aeronautical excellence”. This is a fine introduction to informational text features and loads of fun. The book sets the tone for working together, solving problems and hands-on learning. It leaves you giggling.


Brontorina by James Howe and illustrated by Randy Cecil is another mood-boosting favorite. This story of a dance – loving brontosaurus is part of a long line of picture books featuring animals who long to dance. The book’s star, an enormous, tangerine orange Brontorina fills every page and is contrasted with tiny supporting (and discouraging) characters who communicate their thoughts through facial expressions, body language and speech balloons. This is another story where you have to read the faces of all the characters carefully as well as the speech balloons to understand their thoughts and feelings.ontorina by James Howe and illustrated by Randy Cecil is another mood-boosting favorite. This story

The last page in the story says: “And it all began with a dream.” Brontorina has a dream and works very hard to achieve it despite the difficulties she encounters along the way. The pursuit of dreams, support of friends, and the effects of dreams on others is a wonderful lesson.

me jane bookThe final mood-boosting picture book to share is Me, Jane by Patrick McDonnell. This book tells the story of a young Jane Goodall and her toy chimpanzee, Jubilee. I have always loved picture books that tell the stories of real people while weaving together excerpts from journals and actual photographs with text. The author/illustrator combines delicate engravings of the natural world with watercolor illustrations to communicate Jane’s fascination and exuberance with the natural world. The story shows a young naturalist at work, curious about the world around her, a girl filled with wonder. This book inspires a sense of wonder about the world and provides a snapshot of a young naturalist on her way to becoming a preeminent primatologist and conservationist. The back flap of the book features a quotation from Dr. Goodall:

There are so many people who have dreamed seemingly unattainable dreams and, because they never gave up, achieved their goals against all odds, or blazed a path which others could follow… They inspire me. They inspire those around them.

If you have a moment, share some of the books that are mood-boosters for you, then take a walk outside.


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