Best Children's Books About Problem solving

Top 46 Books to Teach Your Kids About Problem Solving

Updated Feb. 20, 2019

Whenever my son encounters a problem—be it Duplo piece that won't fit together the way he wants them to, a door he can't open or a bucket on the playground his friend won't share—my mom heart immediately leaps to help him. I want to solve his problems for him, to help him be happy and make life easy... but the truth I know deep down is that if I always help him, I'm not helping him at all. By allowing him opportunities to problem solve himself when a problem of appropriate difficulty arises, while it may be painful for both of us at the moment, he's developing crucial problem-solving skills that will serve him well for a lifetime. To help build confidence and showcase different techniques for problem-solving, as well as to have shared references to help us through a learning moment, books can be an enormous help. Without further ado, here are some of our favorite titles about problem-solving!

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear book
#1
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
Written and illustrated by Don Wood, Audrey Wood
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6
Thoughts from Grammy

I have long loved this book and read it literally hundreds of times. The likable Little Mouse, loaded with personality, expends great effort and imagination to protect the strawberry from the thieving bear. Use of varying font sizes cues the reader and adds to the drama and suspense as do the delightful illustrations. There is one illustration in particular, where the mouse is desperately tugging on the stem of the strawberry, in which the manner of illustrating--visual vibrations-- communicate perfectly the mouse's actions. With plenty of suspense and humor along the way, this story has a satisfying ending, although it does leave one wondering just who has been speaking to the mouse.

Little Mouse worries that the big, hungry bear will take his freshly picked, ripe, red strawberry for himself.

Rosie Revere, Engineer book
#2
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I love this book! The fun and colorful illustrations and rhyme text are wonderful, but the story and message are the best. Rosie's a great female role-model and I love that she learns the great lesson that "the only true failure can come if you quit." Even when embarrassment or failure hold her back, she keeps on trying and recognizes that failure is a step towards success!

Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she’s a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal—to fly—Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true. But when her contraption doesn’t fly but rather hovers for a moment and then crashes, Rosie deems the invention a failure. On the contrary, Aunt Rose insists that Rosie’s contraption was a raging success: you can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit. From the powerhouse author-illustrator team of Iggy Peck, Architect comes Rosie Revere, Engineer, another charming, witty picture book about believing in yourself and pursuing your passion. Ada Twist, Scientist, the companion picture book featuring the next kid from Iggy Peck's class, is available in September 2016.

Appleblossom the Possum book
#3
Appleblossom the Possum
Written by and illustrated by Holly Goldberg Sloan
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Mama has trained up her baby possums in the ways of their breed, and now it’s time for all of them—even little Appleblossom—to make their way in the world. Appleblossom knows the rules: she must never be seen during the day, and she must avoid cars, humans, and the dreaded hairies (sometimes known as dogs). Even so, Appleblossom decides to spy on a human family—and accidentally falls down their chimney! The curious Appleblossom, her faithful brothers—who launch a hilarious rescue mission—and even the little girl in the house have no idea how fascinating the big world can be. But they’re about to find out! With dynamic illustrations, a tight-knit family, and a glimpse at the world from a charming little marsupial’s point of view, this cozy animal story is a perfect read-aloud and a classic in the making.

To the Sea book
#4
To the Sea
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

I absolutely LOVE To the Sea. The text is simple and relatively sparse, making it a pretty quick read while tackling the issues of loneliness and friendship in a kid-friendly and optimistic way. To help his friend get back to the sea, Tim brainstorms his best ideas and the sifts through them to find the perfect one... then puts in the hard work of pulling a whale on a bicycle to make it happen! The illustrations are fun, modern and so expressive—such a fun read aloud!

Sometimes Tim feels invisible at school-until one day, when Tim meets Sam. But Sam isn't just any new friend: he's a blue whale, and he can't find his way home! Returning Sam to the sea is hard work, but Tim is determined to help. After all, it's not every day you meet a new friend! This picture book about the power of friendship by new talent Cale Atkinson is brought to life by charming, dynamic illustrations.

Dough Knights and Dragons book
#5
Dough Knights and Dragons
Written by Dee Leone and illustrated by George Ermos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I think this book is so fun! I love that the unlikely pair become friends, use their creativity and problem-solving skills, and most of all, that they stand up for what they think is right! Very cute illustrations, too! :)

In a mythical kingdom, a knight and a dragon cook up a delicious plan to save their friendship! In Dough Knights and Dragons, a curious knight and an amiable dragon meet serendipitously, and instantly bond over their shared love of baking. But the friends are filled with sadness when, according to the law, the two must duel one another. Can the unlikely pair find a way to evade the law, save their friendship, and spread good throughout the land? Kids will devour this scrumptiously clever tale!

The Paper Bag Princess book
#6
The Paper Bag Princess
Written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Over five million copies in print! When the fiercest dragon in the whole world smashes Princess Elizabeth’s castle, burns all her clothes, and captures her fiancé, Prince Ronald, Elizabeth takes matters into her own hands. With her wits alone and nothing but a paper bag to wear, the princess challenges the dragon to show his strength in the hopes of saving the prince. But is it worth all that trouble? Readers the world-over have fallen in love with this classic story of girl power. Now a newly designed Classic Munsch edition will introduce the tale to a new generation of young feminists.

The Big Ideas of Buster Bickles book
#7
The Big Ideas of Buster Bickles
Written and illustrated by Dave Wasson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Buster Bickles's big ideas are always getting him into trouble. But when Buster gets to test the newly invented What-if Machine, anything Buster imagines becomes reality. Packed with rivers of chocolate, robot dinosaurs, and eggs-ray vision, the world becomes Buster's creation in this fantastically creative picture book by debut author-illustrator Dave Wasson.

Duncan the Story Dragon book
#8
Duncan the Story Dragon
Written and illustrated by Amanda Driscoll
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

Poor Duncan. He loves to read, but because he is a fire breathing dragon he can't seem to ever get to the end of the book without it catching fire. Talk about a problem that needs solving! Instead of giving up and becoming miserable, he finds the best solution of involving someone else, creating a lasting friendship. I like that this story shows that sometimes we do need to turn outwards and ask for help for some things we can't do on our own. This can be difficult, but often creates the most rewarding experiences.

Duncan the Dragon loves to read. When he reads a story, his imagination catches fire! Unfortunately . . . so does his book. Fire breath is great for roasting marshmallows, but it’s not so great for reading. Duncan just wants to get to those two wonderful words, like the last sip of a chocolate milk shake: The End. Will he ever find out how the story ends? This bright, warm tale champions determination, friendship, and a love for books. And milk shakes!

The Templeton Twins Have An Idea book
#9
The Templeton Twins Have An Idea
Written by Ellis Weiner and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I love how witty the Templeton twins are! This book reminds me a little bit of a Lemony Snicket tale, which I thought brought in some great humor. The twins have a great, smart, inventive father and they are kidnapped and held as ransom, as the perpetrators want their father's invention as payment. What the perpetrators don't realize is that the twins have learned a lot from their father--using the lessons and smarts they got from him, the twins save the day! I thought this book was adventurous, imaginative, fun, and clever.

Suppose there were 12-year-old twins, a boy and girl named John and Abigail Templeton. Let's say John was pragmatic and played the drums, and Abigail was theoretical and solved cryptic crosswords. Now suppose their father was a brilliant, if sometime confused, inventor. And suppose that another set of twins—adults—named Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean, kidnapped the Templeton twins and their ridiculous dog in order to get their father to turn over one of his genius (sort of) inventions. Yes, kidnapped. Wouldn't it be fun to read about that? Oh please. It would so. Now in paperback, this is just the first in a series perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever, and funny (just like the twins), and enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn't?!). And now, there's more!

Beautiful Oops! book
#10
Beautiful Oops!
Written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

Near the very top of my list of things I want my children to learn is to not be afraid of mistakes or failure—they're simply part of the process. The interactive way multi-media mistakes are transformed in this book into quirky artwork is endearing and keeps the mood light and my little reader busy while I read the slightly more serious message present in the text. My toddler wants this "again" and "again", and thus far it's been sturdy enough to withstand toddler exploration, which is a plus!

A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator. An award winning, best-selling, one-of-a-kind interactive book, Beautiful Oops! shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope”—each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.

Russell the Sheep Board Book book
#11
Russell the Sheep Board Book
Written by Rob Scotton
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

This is Russell. Sometimes Russell is just a little bit out of step with the rest of the flock. All the sheep are falling asleep -- except Russell. What's a sheep to do? Russell tries everything ... until, at last, he falls asleep.

The Whale in My Swimming Pool  book
#12
The Whale in My Swimming Pool
Written and illustrated by Joyce Wan
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

I'm a huge fan of Joyce Wan's signature illustration style (as a side note, did you know she can even make worms look cute?! I digress). This cute book combines a preposterous situation with one little boy's innovation and problem-solving to create happy humor and good feels all around.

One sunny day, a little boy heads outside for a swim, but his pool is already taken . . . There's a big whale in the water and it's not budging! The boy tries everything to get the whale to leave. Nothing seems to work. Not fetch. Not tag. Not even offering his allowance. What's a boy to do? Luckily, he comes up with the perfect solution: he decides to chill out on a spray of water over the whale's spout. This colorful whale of a tale from the talented Joyce Wan is sure to inspire giggles from little guppies!

The Book of Mistakes book
#13
The Book of Mistakes
Written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Zoom meets Beautiful Oops! in this memorable picture book debut about the creative process, and the way in which ""mistakes"" can blossom into inspiration One eye was bigger than the other. That was a mistake. The weird frog-cat-cow thing? It made an excellent bush. And the inky smudges… they look as if they were always meant to be leaves floating gently across the sky. As one artist incorporates accidental splotches, spots, and misshapen things into her art, she transforms her piece in quirky and unexpected ways, taking readers on a journey through her process. Told in minimal, playful text, this story shows readers that even the biggest “mistakes” can be the source of the brightest ideas—and that, at the end of the day, we are all works in progress, too. Fans of Peter Reynolds’s Ish and Patrick McDonnell’s A Perfectly Messed-Up Story will love the funny, poignant, completely unique storytelling of The Book of Mistakes. And, like Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, it makes the perfect graduation gift, encouraging readers to have a positive outlook as they learn to face life’s obstacles.

Black Dog book
#14
Black Dog
Written and illustrated by Levi Pinfold
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In a modern fairy tale about the power of fear and how it distorts our view of the world, the Black Dog that appears outside the Hope family's home seems to grow larger and larger as each frightened member of the Hope family sees it, but the youngest member of the household is not afraid and is able to break the spell.

Journey book
#15
Journey
Written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is a beautiful wordless picture book following a young girl through her imagination to a world where things don't always work out as she expects. She has to think fast, but with a little creative problem solving and a lot of imagination she's able to discover just what she was looking for—a friend. A fresh take on a journey with elements vaguely reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon!

Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship. A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.

Oliver and the Seawigs book
#16
Oliver and the Seawigs
Written by Phillip Reave and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre, Phillip Reave
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This adventurous and imaginary tale will keep you guessing what will happen next! When Oliver's parents disappear, Oliver goes after them on his own journey, facing problem after problem. I love the Oliver is brave and instead of just complaining when a problem arises or his idea fails, he thinks about the next step he can take solve his problem and get his parents back. Plus, he makes a wonderful friend along the way. :)

Get ready for moving islands! Mischievous monkeys! And a splashy adventure with illustrations on almost every page. When Oliver’s explorer parents go missing, he sets sail to find them with some new friends. There’s a grumpy albatross, a nearsighted mermaid . . . even a living island! But the high seas are more exciting and strange than Oliver could have imagined. Can he and his crew spar with sarcastic seaweed, outrun an army of sea monkeys, win a fabulous maritime fashion contest, and defeat a wicked sea captain in time to save Mom and Dad? For early chapter book readers who are ready for something longer, the Not-So-Impossible Tales are packed with silly humor, action, and larger-than-life fun.

Charlie's Boat book
#17
Charlie's Boat
Written and illustrated by Kit Chase
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Best friends really are the best when they use their imaginations to help each other. Charlie, Oliver, and Lulu love to play outside together. One fine day they all go fishing, but Charlie doesn’t have much fun—all he can catch are sticks. Next, they build little boats and have a race, but, once again, things don’t go very well. Charlie’s boat comes in last. Things seem pretty gloomy until Oliver comes up with a plan. They build a special boat they can all play on, together! Kit Chase offers a sweet ode to friendship in this tale of three best friends who can count on each other to always make play time fun.

Max and Marla book
#18
Max and Marla
Written and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Two fearless Olympians sled to victory in this delightful new picture book Max and Marla are best friends. And aspiring Olympians! With their eyes on the prize, they know exactly what it’ll take to reach sledding success: preparation, practice and perseverance. So when rusty blades, strong winds and difficult slopes get in their way, Max and Marla realize true joy lies not in winning but in friendship. Obstacles turn into victories! With delightful illustrations and charming text, Alexandra Boiger brings to life the story of two unstoppable pals—true Olympians who never give up!

Papa's Mechanical Fish book
#19
Papa's Mechanical Fish
Written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

All about an inventor who never seems to be able to get anything just right, but who, with the help of some thought-provoking questions from his daughter, lots of iteration and oodles of family support tries and tries again to perfect one design... a mechanical fish! The illustrations are fun and quirky and the lesson that failure is just a step on the pathway to improvement is important.

In the summer of 1851, with encouragement and ideas provided by his family, an inventor builds a working submarine and takes his family for a ride. Includes notes about Lodner Phillips, the real inventor on whom the story is based.

Stuck book
#20
Stuck
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from Grammy

The boy in this story may be a little single-minded when it comes to problem-solving, but wow, does he have a strong arm! There are plenty of opportunities to anticipate and predict what might happen next; just when you think he might use an object for its intended purpose and change the trajectory of the story, he lobs it into the tree. Kids find this absolutely hilarious! I love the simply-drawn illustrations and the creative variety of the boy's resources. It is a wonderful thing to be so engaged in the resolution of a problem that one is completely distracted from the problem itself.

From the illustrator of the #1 smash The Day the Crayons Quit comes another bestseller–a giggle-inducing tale of everything tossed, thrown, and hurled in order to free a kite! When Floyd’s kite gets stuck in a tree, he’s determined to get it out. But how? Well, by knocking it down with his shoe, of course. But strangely enough, it too gets stuck. And the only logical course of action . . . is to throw his other shoe. Only now it’s stuck! Surely there must be something he can use to get his kite unstuck. An orangutan? A boat? His front door? Yes, yes, and yes. And that’s only the beginning. Stuck is Oliver Jeffers’ most absurdly funny story since The Incredible Book-Eating Boy. Childlike in concept and vibrantly illustrated as only Oliver Jeffers could, here is a picture book worth rescuing from any tree.

Lulu's Party book
#21
Lulu's Party
Written and illustrated by Kit Chase
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

All about being a good friend, making the best of situations and problem solving, this book is incredibly sweet and delightful. I love that one crucial part of the story is told ONLY with illustrations, giving parents and children the opportunity to dive in past just the words to uncover the full story. I'm also a huge fan of how the friends politely say nothing about how yucky the "special treat" tastes until their host acknowledges it, but then work together to create a new treat to help their friend feel better.

Follow-up to Kit Chase’s popular and utterly charming debut, Oliver’s Tree, starring Lulu, Charlie, and Oliver The weather is stormy and Lulu is disappointed that she can’t play outside, so she makes a special Rainy Day Treat and plans the perfect party for her friends Oliver and Charlie. But when it’s time to taste the creamy hot chocolate, they quickly realize something went very wrong. Lulu is devastated that her party is ruined, but with some quick-thinking, Charlie and Oliver figure out a delicious solution to save the day! Kit Chase offers a sweet ode to friendship in this tale of three best friends who are always ready to use their imaginations and help each other out.

Oliver's Tree book
#22
Oliver's Tree
Written and illustrated by Kit Chase
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

This is such a great story about friendship and working together. Sometimes we see things differently and this book shows us how we can work through those differences and make things better for everyone involved.

A board book about three adorable best friends! Oliver, Charlie, and Lulu love to play outside together. Their favorite game is hide-and-seek, but it’s not fun for Oliver when his friends hide in the trees—he can’t reach them! So the friends set off to find a tree that Oliver can play in. But there’s a reason we don’t see elephants in trees, and just when Oliver is ready to give up the search, Charlie and Lulu surprise him with the perfect tree for them all to play in together!

The Most Magnificent Thing book
#23
The Most Magnificent Thing
Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from Mr. Stacatto

One of the concepts in The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown is that sometimes when we fail, our reaction is to blame ourselves, "I'm no good." The more positive response to failure, though, is to blame our actions, "there was something wrong with the process." This book presents a similar idea as it follows a young girl and her assistant as they attempt to create the most magnificent thing ever. Try as she might, though, the girl can't quite get it right. Eventually, frustration sets in and she loses her cool. Thankfully, her trusty sidekick helps her go for a walk and get a new perspective on things. This is a great book for not giving up and learning from "failure".

A little girl and her canine assistant set out to make the most magnificent thing. But after much hard work, the end result is not what the girl had in mind. Frustrated, she quits. Her assistant suggests a long walk, and as they walk, it slowly becomes clear what the girl needs to do to succeed. A charming story that will give kids the most magnificent thing: perspective!

Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit book
#24
Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit
Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

Ernest is a rather large moose with a rather large problem. He is so big he can't fit inside his book! Luckily, Ernest is also a very determined moose, and he and his little chipmunk friend aren't going to give up easily. With some tape, odd bits of paper, and plenty of enthusiasm, the pair constructs an enormous gatefold page by themselves, and everything fits together in the end.

Monster Trouble book
#25
Monster Trouble
Written by Lane Fredrickson and illustrated by Michael Robertson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Nothing frightens Winifred Schnitzel—but she DOES need her sleep, and the neighborhood monsters WON'T let her be! Every night they sneak in, growling and belching and making a ruckus. Winifred constructs clever traps, but nothing stops these crafty creatures. What's a girl to do? (Hint: Monsters HATE kisses!) The delightfully sweet ending will have every kid—and little monster—begging for an encore.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.