Using picture books to teach mood and tone will help your students better understand emotion, develop deeper comprehension, and practice critical thinking by Teaching Tone and Mood through engaging picture books. Unleash the power of stories to improve reading comprehension and literary understanding – all with a single picture book!
Why Read Picture Books to Teach Mood and Tone?
Using picture books to teach mood and tone offers a unique combination of visuals and text to help your students better analyse the tone and mood portrayed by the author.
So, what is tone and mood? A book's tone is essential in creating the setting and atmosphere the author wants the reader to experience. Mood is a powerful tool to make readers feel a certain way and can change depending on the author's intention.
Picture books work well in Teaching Tone and Mood because they provide space for interpretation. You can explore how we feel, think, and react to different emotions by utilising illustrations and storytelling techniques within a book. By examining the story structure, characters, dialogue, setting, and author's point-of-view, readers can infer the writer's intentions.
Additionally, students will have an easier time understanding the complexity of some emotions through illustrations. Authors create stories with certain tones to evoke certain emotions in their readers, and you can use your observations of the picture to help you determine the story's tone.
Look for expressions on faces, words used, and the colours and shades used. Consider how the characters feel if the author is trying to make you feel a certain way and how the pictures make you feel. By reflecting on these elements, you can gain insight into the story's tone and better understand the author's intent.
Not only can picture books teach mood and tone to provide vivid visual context, but the characters' conversations and interactions enable readers to connect with and explore emotions from multiple perspectives.
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Picture Books to Teach Mood and Tone
Alte Zachen: Old Things by Ziggy Hanaor
Benji and his grandmother, Bubbe Rosa, walk around New York shopping for Shabbat. Bubbe Rosa is elderly, irritable, and a little confused. She thinks of good and bad memories from her childhood in Germany. Surprisingly, this past appears in front of her while shopping with Benji.
Promotes discussions on intergenerational relationships, identity, and religious and cultural traditions.
Amma's Sari by Sandhya Parappukkaran
Shreya initially feels awkward about her mother's sari when they go outside their home. Amma explains to her the importance of the sari, and Shreya learns to appreciate her cultural identity as she navigates the world outside her immigrant family.
The Barnabus Project by Terry Fan
Strange animals kept in glass bell jars in a mysterious laboratory are failed attempts to make the perfect pets. Destined to be recycled, Barnabus, half mouse, half elephant, takes action to reach his goal of freedom. Through teamwork with his fellow captives, he does what it takes to reach the outside world.
The Bird In Me Flies by Sara Lundberg
Berta Hansson grew up on a Swedish farm and dreams of being an artist. With her frail mother ill in bed with tuberculosis, she had to take on extra responsibilities. Her childhood builds a determination to follow her dreams to be an artist… “Because I have a bird inside me that must fly where it will…”
This translated biography prompts discussions on believing in yourself, following your dreams, courage, and determination.
Black Dog by Levi Pinfold
The first of two picture books to teach mood and tone by Levi Pinfold. A family is afraid of a large black dog outside their home. As they each spy a dog through their window, it grows in size and menace. It is the smallest member of the family who discovers the dog is not what the rest of the family imagined.
Change Sings: A Children's Anthem by Amanda Gorman
A young girl bands together with a group of children to influence change in their community. They realise they have the power to change the world for the better, big and small, with their words and actions and inspire others to do the same.
The Christmas Truce by Carol Ann Duffy
This poem celebrates the Christmas truce between the British and German soldiers, enemies during World War I. Amidst the horrors of the trenches, there was an unexpected truce. The soldiers met in No Man's Land and sang songs, shared girls and played a game of football during the temporary ceased fire.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
A young black boy expresses the importance of a visit to his local barbershop. He poetically describes how a fresh cut makes him feel like a king and the excitement of being surrounded by other men from his community.
The Dam by David Almond
Kielder, in Northumberland, is rich in legend and folk music. The village is abandoned to make way for a new reservoir. Before the water fills the valley, a father and daughter return. The girl plays her fiddle in each of the empty homes to honour the music that once filled the village. Based on a true story, the villagers chose to sing and dance in memory of their home that would end up beneath the water.
Read The Dam to promote discussions on change, music, musicians, loss, and memories.
The Dark by Lemony Snicket
The dark frightens Lazlo. The dark beckons him to come to the basement when his nightlight goes out. Lazlo tentatively goes into the basement, where he thinks dark lives, and the dark leads Lazlo to a drawer full of light bulbs.
The Day Saida Arrived by Susana Gómez Redondo
A girl befriends a new girl, Saida, who she thinks has lost her words because of her silence. She learns Saida speaks Arabic and has moved from her home in Morocco. They share their languages and learn about each other's culture, which helps Saida feel welcome in her new home.
The Day War Came by Nicola Davies
The first of two picture books to teach mood and tone by Nicola Davies. A girl returns home to find a bombed-out hole. Alone, she follows a stream of refugees to an immigration camp. She visits a school but is turned away because there is no chair for her. That evening she is visited by a boy who brings a chair with him – a chair to sit on and learn.
A Different Pond by Bao Phi
A tender glimpse of the relationship between a father and son and two unique cultures. Based on the author’s own childhood in Minneapolis, the reader learns about the difficulties of building a new life in an unfamiliar country.
Flood by Alvaro F. Villa
A wordless book about surviving a natural disaster. A family rides out an oncoming storm but flees when it gets too bad. The returning family find their home in ruins, which they decide to rebuild.
The Fragile World by Alexandra Mîrzac
A conflict, with a long-forgotten reason, exists between the Reds and the Blues in a china cabinet. The Blue wanted to have what the Reds had, and after trying to paint the Reds blue, an all-out war began. When everything is destroyed, the Reds and Blues realise they are stronger together.
Free Fall by David Wiesner
A boy falls asleep while reading a book. He dreams about dragons, a castle, creatures and strange objects in a fantastical faraway land. As his dream ends, he finds himself back in his bed.
Freedom Soup by Tami Charles
Freedom soup is an important part of the Haitian Independence Day celebrations. Ti Gran and Belle dance and clap in the kitchen as Belle learns about the traditions of Haiti and the soup, including the history of Haitian slavery and freedom.
The Garden of Inside-Outside Chiara Mezzalama
In 1981, Chiara moved to Tehran to be with her father, the Italian ambassador to Iran. She discovers a neglected, walled garden that seems a world away from the war going on in the city. A boy, Massoud, climbs over the wall and drops into the garden. Despite their lack of a common language, they make friends, and Chiara’s life changes.
The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon by Aaron Blabey
Annabelle Spoon haunts the town of Twee, and the townspeople are fed up. They want her gone. Herbert Kettle takes the time to listen and realises all Annabel Spoon wants is a friend.
Grandad's Camper by Harry Woodgate
A girl listens to her grandad reminiscing about his life with gramps in their camper van. He no longer feels like travelling since gramps died. So his granddaughter plans to fix up the old camper van and take grandad out on the road again.
Promotes discussions on LGBTQ+ characters, grief, intergenerational relationships, enthusiasm, and memories.
Happy Right Now by Julie Berry
Happy Right Now lets children know it's fine not to feel okay and find happiness in any situation. The reader learns strategies to help them overcome sadness and find moments of joy and positivity.
Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall
As the seasons pass, a lighthouse keeper records every detail of his routine in his logbook. He records the family's daily activities as the days pass with fog, strong winds and icebergs drifting by. When he falls ill, his wife takes over his role to keep the warning light shining and care for her husband.
I Am the Subway by Kim Hyo-eun
Told from the perspective of the Seoul subway in Korea. Each stop brings onboard new characters with different stories, dreams, hope, fears, and memories.
I Go Quiet by David Ouimet
In a dystopian-looking place, a shy girl struggles in the world of noise. She sees herself as insignificant and finds solace in the pages of books. ‘When I read, I know there is a world beneath my branches.’ In her imagination, her words are powerful, and she realises that when she finds the courage, her words will have meaning in the real world.
Into the Forest by Anthony Browne
The first of three picture books to teach mood and tone by Anthony Browne. A boy visits his grandma by travelling through the forest, against his mum’s instructions. He meets fairy tale characters in strange circumstances. Afraid, he runs to his grandma’s house, where he finds a surprise.
King of the Sky by Nicola Davies
The second of two picture books to teach mood and tone by Nicola Davies. A lonely Italian boy moves to the Welsh countryside. An unexpected friendship with an old man who races pigeons helps him feel like he is no longer a stranger and that he belongs in his new home.
Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead
Peter moves to a new house in a dark, unfriendly wood. He makes imaginary protectors, Lenny and Lucy, from a tall pile of pillows, blankets and string. Feeling safer, Peter meets his next-door neighbour, Millie, and discovers that his new home is not as dangerous as he imagined.
The Librarian's Stories by Lucy Falcone
Lillian's Right to Vote by Jonah Winter
Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, is determined to walk up the steep hill to her polling station to make her voice heard. During her journey, she remembers the difficult voting history of her family. After the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment, her great-grandfather voted for the first time, she witnessed her parents registering to vote, and she marched from Selma to Montgomery.
Migrants by Issa Watanabe
A group of animals are leaving an unknown situation. Exhausted during the journey through a forest, they are unaware they are being followed by death. They travel in a crowded boat to a new home where life seems a little brighter, but it is not without loss.
Paradise Sands: A Story of Enchantment by Levi Pinfold
The second of two picture books to teach mood and tone by Levi Pinfold. While travelling to visit their mother, a girl and her three brothers step into the mysterious Paradise Sands hotel. Inside, the brothers fall under the spell of the Teller. The girl is cautious and makes a deal with the Teller to set her brothers free. It is a deal that comes at a price, but a deal she is willing to follow through.
Small in the City by Sydney Smith
In this practically wordless book, a girl searches a large, desolate city covered in snow while her mother waits at home. Initially, it seems she is talking to the reader, explaining how to survive in the city, but we later find out she is talking to her lost cat. Use to promote different perspectives and points of view.
Sonam and the Silence by Eddie Ayres
Sonam lives in Kabul, where the Taliban banned music. One day, she follows the sound of music and finds an old man playing a rubab. She returns daily and is filled with joy when she hears the music. The man gives Sonam a rubab, but she doesn't play because of the ban, and soon her world is filled with the sounds of war. Depressed, she returns to the old man's home and realises the music is within her.
A Story About Afiya by James Berry
Afiya wears her white dress every day. As she goes about her day, the dress becomes imprinted with memories of her day, including sunflowers, flowers, fish, butterflies and tigers. She washes her dress every night so it is ready to record more memories.
The Station Cat by Stephen Hogtun
A lonely station cat brings life to the grey station and the grey passengers. She helps the travellers with loss and loneliness by filling their lives with hope, kindness and colour.
The Tin Forest by Helen Ward
An old man living in a gloomy wasteland of old metal scraps dreams of a forest full of colour, animals and sunshine. One day he decides to make his dreams a reality.
The Tunnel by Anthony Browne
The second of three picture books to teach mood and tone by Anthony Browne. Two siblings discover a tunnel. The brother rushes in, dismissing his sister’s fears. When he doesn't return, she finds the courage to follow him.
Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
The third of three picture books to teach mood and tone by Anthony Browne. Four different characters describe their visit to the same park from their personal perspective. These characters see the world differently and have their own perspectives on the same events.
Picture books allow students to appreciate better the complexity involved in perceiving mood and tone. Carefully choosing books gives students a new outlook and equips them with the skills to interpret literature.
Reading picture books to teach mood and tone is an effective way to help students comprehend nuances in literature and draw on their own experiences to understand the impact of mood and tone.
Leave a comment below with other ways you have used picture books to teach mood and tone!