Children’s Literature and Guided Questions


Picture Book for K-3

Swimmy by Leo Lionni (Dragonfly Books, reissued 2017; original Knopf 1963)


A small fish that is different has to figure out how to not be eaten in the big see where it lives.  Caldecott Honor Book. 


1.     How is Swimmy different and how does that affect what Swimmy does?  How are you like Swimmy?

2.     How does Swimmy deal with being different?  What would scare you if you were Swimmy and would you do about that?

3.     Was Swimmy the only fish who felt scared?  Why do you think Swimmy did what he did?

4.     The author, Leo Lionni, said he could see himself as Swimmy, since he wanted to be the eye of the “larger fish” and see things for others.  When someone is scared or alone how should they be helped?  Who do you ask for help?  How have you helped someone who is scared?

5.     Who are the people in the world who are most like Swimmy?   How should they be treated?

For Grades 4-7

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown (HMH for Young Readers, 2015)


An award winning graphic novel of the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans.

1.     Who were the most vulnerable people during Hurricane Katrina? Why were they vulnerable?

2.     Why do you think the police offers who abandoned their posts and left did this?

3.     If you knew a hurricane (or other natural disaster) were coming, what would you do?

4.     What might have been helpful to the people of New Orleans that didn’t happen?

5.     When have you felt (or seen someone) who is vulnerable and overwhelmed, what would you have liked to have seen happen? 

Other worthy books: 

Grades K-3    Winnie-the-Pooh.   A.A. Milne illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard (Methuen and Co. Ltd, 1926)  In some ways Pooh and Piglet are poster children for vulnerability and figuring out how to navigate a larger, complex world.

Grades 3-6Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes Eleanor Coerr Dell, 1977) Sadako suffers from the effects of atomic bomb being dropped on Japan. She eventually dies because of the leukemia.  The accompanying link is moreinformation along with a video from Rappers against Racism based on the story.

Grade K-3 Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz(HMH Books for Young Readers, 2000) The story of Wilma Rudolph’s childhood in a leg brace and how she then went on to be an Olympic champion.

Grades 3-7 What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein (Disney Hyperion, 2016)  The story of Nandu, an orphan, and elephants who try to survive, set in Nepal. An excellent coming of age story about vulnerability, ecology, trust, and wisdom.

Grades 3-6 Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor(Atheneum,  1991) A boy tries to help a vulnerable, abused beagle in the Newberry winning book.  Author is a Unitarian Universalist.

Grades 3-Adult Aarvy Aardvark Finds Hope by Donna O’Toole  illustrated by Kore Loy McWhorter (Compassion Books, 1988)   Apicture book/case study.  Aarvy’s sister and mother have disappeared, probably to a zoo, though he doesn’t know. His friend Ralphie accompanies Aarvy through the grieving process.  The pictures in the story can be colored too, and it’s likely to make adults cry.  But no book for children has ever explained the grief process and the vulnerable feelings accompanying this so well.

Grades K-5 The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams illustrated by William Nicholson (Avon, 1977)  Classic tale of a rabbit who decides to be vulnerable in order to become real and loved.