Monday, December 22, 2014

Teaching Multiple Plot Lines with 12+ Picture Books

Subplots involve a secondary character who has his/her/its own emotional journey, yet whose story contributes and aligns in some manner (may offer contrast) to the main plot. This secondary chain of events that occur broaden the scope of the main plot by revealing perspectives about the main character. Subplots are easily found in children's easy-reader books and chapter books, but are less likely to be found in picture books. Picture book subplots are developed through the development of a minor character, interruption of the primary narrator, or through the illustrations.

These picture books have stories within stories through character development.

Bunting, Eve. (2006). Pop's Bridge. Illustrated by C.F. Payne. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers.
DiSalvo-Ryan, Dyanne. (1994). City Green. New York: HarperCollins.
Johnson, Angela. (2003). I dream of trains. Illustrated by Loren Long. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Noble, Trinka Hakes. (1992). The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg. New York: Puffin.
Say, Allen. (2005).Kamisibai Man. New York: Walter Lorraine Books.
from The Three Little Pigs

These picture books develop subplots through the Illustrations.

Blexbolex. (2013). Ballad. Brooklyn, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.
Floca, Brian. (2014). Five Trucks. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Fox, Mem. (1998).  Tough Boris. Illustrated by Kathryn Brown. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers.
Gilman, Phoebe. (1993). Something for Nothing. New York: Scholastic.
Hutcins, Pat. (1971).  Rosie's Walk. New York: Aladdin.
Klassen, Jon. (2012). This is Not My Hat. Somerville, MA: Candlewick
Rathman, Peggy. (1995). Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York: Putnam Juvenile.
Wiesner, David. (2001). The Three Pigs. New York: Clarion Books.

To see samples lessons teaching plot, subplot, and characterization, see this post: Teaching Plot, Subplot and Characterization in Grade 2 through Read Aloud and Writing.


  1. Thank you for this great post in which you share how picture books can be just as complicated in using subplots as chapter books and MG. Great examples! Sara

  2. Thanks, SL Eastler for bringing this awesome post to my attention. We were discussing this very topic on ReFoReMo's Facebook page, and SL linked to this article. I've read many of these examples, but I'm adding to my list based on this post. :)