I focused on 10 books I would use in my college-level writing courses. Some would be good for writing prompts; others have something important to say about what it means to be a creative person. All could be used for short writing craft lessons.
The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleishman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatouline. A wonderful book about the power of objects to hold memories and trigger stories.
This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Showcases many different poetic forms as well as showing how one mentor text by William Carlos Williams can inspire multiple pieces of writing.
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. A model for collage and biography–as well as what it means to be a writer.
Art and Max by David Wiesner. Absolutely gorgeous illustrations, effective use of humor, and a message beginning college writers need to hear about art and mistakes.
The Three Pigs by David Wiesner. Turns the familiar fairy tale on its head.
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. A mostly wordless picture book that could be used to inspire writing.
Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon. Ralph doesn’t think he has anything to write about, but it turns out that his daily life is full of interesting stories.
Ish by Peter Reynolds. Beginning college writers often come to my writing class beaten down by the harsh criticism their writing received in high school. They need to hear this story about a young artist learning to have confidence in his art.
When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode. Does anyone write better sentences than Cynthia Rylant? We’ll start class with the “When I Was Young” prompt.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffreys. Duncan’s crayons go on strike and write him letters explaining why. I can imagine so many ways to use this book to inspire writing.
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. The classic wordless picture book now can be paired with The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tale.