Picture Books to Explore Different Forms of Government


Although many of my more recent posts here tend to have an early years focus, I am actually a high school ELA teacher, and in my first few years I happily taught some grade Social Studies and Grade 11 Canadian History sections.  Just before the holiday break, I had the opportunity to “go back to my roots” and co-teach in those very subject areas.  The classroom I was working in was just about jump into the different forms of government (autocracy, monarchy, dictatorship, representative and direct democracy, oligarchy, theocracy, anarchy) and the teacher was wondering if there was a way to explore these concepts other than the traditional read an article, answer some questions, sort of style.

Enter, picture books!  I am a firm believer that all kids at all ages (even the “big” kids) deserve to experience picture books. And there’s something magical about a read aloud that doesn’t ever disappear, even as we get older. Often, the first time I pull out a picture book in a high school classroom, some students greet me with scepticism, but it’s not too long before the richness of the text and the complexity of the storyline quiets even the most cynical teenager. This was exactly the case in the classroom I was co-teaching in before christmas. By the time our second picture book read aloud occurred, a particularly cynical table of teen boys, scampered to pull their chairs closer so that they could get a better look at the pictures.  Got ’em. Hook, line and sinker 😉

As we explored each picture book we used the ever favourite Notice/Wonder thinking routine to chat about what form of government we might be seeing, and talk about colours, images and symbols the book was using to convey it’s message around the balance of power in government.  For some students this was an exploration of a topic they hadn’t really though much about, and other students were able to make connections to various historical or current forms of government.  All in all, the picture books gave the class a common story in which to anchor our discussions, regardless of how little or how much previous knowledge students had around the various forms of government.

See below of a list of titles we explored, plus a few more. As an added bonus, I have developed provocations for many of these titles, so keep an eye out for future blog posts showing those in more detail!

Louis I, King of the Sheep

Readers will delight in Louis’s increasingly elaborate fantasy of what comes with being a supreme ruler: the pleasures, the responsibilities, the capriciousness.  “What’s good for me is good for my people,” thinks King Louis in this clever fable about the randomness and absurdity of power, but also its abuses, and the hidden dangers in a society built on conformity.

The Sad Little Fact

There once was a fact who could not lie.

But no one believed him.

When the Authorities lock the sad little fact away, along with other facts, the world goes dark. But facts are stubborn things. With the help of a few skillful fact finders, they make a daring escape and bring truth back to brighten the world. Because after all, “a fact is a fact” and that’s that!

The Wall: A Timeless Tale

Wonderful things can be accomplished when people come together! In this moving story, a king banishes anyone who looks different than him and builds a wall to keep them away. Soon, he sees that without people with various types of talents and expertise, his kingdom can no longer flourish. Realizing his mistake, he orders the wall to be knocked down so he can meet and thank all the talented people that make the community beautiful. With simple yet profound illustrations, pop-up and disappearing wall elements, and an important lesson about diversity that’s relevant to the world today, children will see how a society can be harmed when barriers are built and thrive when people work together.

We Are All Dots: A Big Plan for a Better World

Beginning with a set of prosperous dots on one page and another set of impoverished dots on the other, the book takes us through their struggle to bridge their differences. Just when it looks look like the dots will be forever doomed, they work together to find a solution that will help them all. Great things happen when we learn to share and work together.

Rulers of the Playground

One morning, Jonah decided to become ruler of the playground.

Everyone agreed to obey his rules to play in King Jonah’s kingdom . . .

Everyone except for Lennox . . . because she wanted to rule the playground, too.

President of the Jungle

Lion may be King of the jungle, but lately he only seems to care about himself. His subjects are fed up, so they decide to try something new–hold an election! Once Owl explains the rules, the fun begins, and Snake, Sloth, and Monkey all announce they will be candidates. But oh no, Lion is going to run too! It’s a wild campaign season as the animals hold rallies, debate, and even take a selfie or two, trying to prove why they’d make the best president of the jungle.


***All book plot summaries from Amazon

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