While there are so many graduation gift ideas that we could give to this year’s accomplished graduates, from preschool to high school, we love giving sweet, inspirational books for graduation gifts. Especially when they deliver messages about empowerment, adventure, living your values, and pursuing your dreams.

So we’ve highlighted some of our favorite books for graduation, which we hope will remain on their bookshelves for life. And yes, those 18-year-olds who are heading out into the big big world will appreciate these children’s stories too — the same way so many of us appreciated Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Just think of it as an upgraded greeting card — and maybe slip in the cash they’re really hoping for, too.

Also be sure to check out our article on 7 outstanding high school or college graduate gift books, designed just for older grads.

This article has been updated for 2024. Some purchases may generate a small commission to help support the work we do at no additional cost to you, so thank you!

At top: Maybe: A Story about the Endless Potential in All of Us by Kobi Yamada and Gabriella Barouch

Inspiring Books For Graduation Gifts They’ll Treasure

Inspiring gift books for graduates: 12 ideas beyond "Oh the Places You'll Go"

A favorite tip: if you have younger children, buy one of these books now to hold onto until your child’s high school graduation. Each year, ask their teachers to write a special message to your child on the inside or back cover of the book. When you finally gift it to them after senior year, it will be a remarkable keepsake, and a reminder of just how far they’ve come — and how much they have ahead of them.


The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin: great books for grads

The Wonderful Things You Will Be

I’m a huge fan of Emily Winfield Martin’s quirky, beautiful art, and her book The Wonderful Things You Will Be  is filled with illustrations lovely enough to hang on your kids’ walls. But the beauty goes deeper than the art; this book challenges kids to think about what’s really important — standing up for good, finding beauty, and becoming life-givers as they go through this world. Preschoolers will love listening to it, and high schoolers will be inspired by it on a whole different level.


Books for graduation gifts: I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

I Wish You More

We adore the perfectly sentimental but not-too-sappy I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. And if you know Amy’s work, then you can already image why this makes a wonderful graduation gift book.Each page tells your grad exactly what you hope for them: More ups than downs, more woo-hoo than whoa, and more pause than fast-forward. This book is modern in its prose but has the potential to be a forever keepsake in your family.


Great high school graduation gift ideas: Whatever You Be a Good One is a fantastically illustrated book of inspirational quotes

Whatever You Are Be a Good One

You may recognize the illustrator responsible for Whatever You Are Be a Good One, because Lisa Congdon’s work often graces our pages. And you’ll definitely recognize the diverse list of authors who penned the 100 quotes she’s exquisitely hand-lettered in this book, from Harriet Tubman to Anne Lamott. For high school students in particular, I think this is a lovely gift. Especially if you pass it around to their favorite teachers and ask each to write a note alongside the quote they love most. It’s one of those books for graduation gifts that stays with you well into adulthood, gathering more meaning with each passing year.

Related: 7 outstanding high school or college graduate gift books: On stepping into the arena, dreaming with eyes wide open, and professional troublemaking (in the best possible way)


Books for graduation gifts: Dare to Dream Big by Lorna Gutierrez and Polly Noakes

Dare to Dream Big

As our kids head out of the house and off into the world on their own (gah!), Dare to Dream Big by Lorna Gutierrez and Polly Noakes will remind them that their biggest hopes and dreams for our world are still possible, and they can be the ones to help make that change. Our activist kids are so passionate about changing the world, and I love that this book recognizes that.

Maybe: An inspiring book for graduation gifts by Kobi Yamada

Maybe: A Story about the Endless Potential in All of Us 

One of my favorite books for graduation gifts is Maybe: A Story about the Endless Potential in All of Us by Kobi Yamada and Gabriella Barouch, especially for older kids. It thoughtfully explores the idea that maybe, just maybe you are here in this world at this exact moment for a reason with absolutely gorgeous illustrations. It’s a beautiful reminder that they have so much to contribute to our world.


Books for graduation gifts: And Off You Go to Change the World by Ashten Evans and Sabdo Purnomo

And Off You Go to Change the World

The upbeat, inspiring And Off You Go to Change the World, by Ashten Evans and Sabdo Purnomo, describes all the ways kids can change the world. I love that the illustrations hint at the things they can do (like becoming a doctor or building bridges) while the words inspire them about how they can do them — like being kind to friends, staying true to themselves, and looking for the good in the world. The book ends with a young child heading into a big school building, making it best for kids heading into elementary school after graduating from preschool.

Related: Good children’s books about starting kindergarten

Dear Graduate: A lovely gift book for grads of all ages | cool mom picks

Dear Graduate

Authors Charles McInerny and Adam Lawson flip the classic “What do you want to be when you grow up?” on its head, instead asking the far better question, “What will you do when you grow up?” in Dear Graduate. What a wonderful way to get us all thinking less about our job titles, and more about the marks we can leave on the world — whether it’s caring for other people’s bodies, rescuing people when they are in trouble, growing flowers, keeping an open mind, or honoring our elders. While not a picture book, the simple, colorful, two-toned pages of bold text make this graduation gift book simple enough for younger children, and thoughtful enough to inspire teens and young adults.

(It’s also available as part of this really lovely Dear Graduate gift box at Uncommon Goods, if you’re shopping for a high school or college grad.)

Books for graduation gifts: I Wish for You by David Wax and Brett Blumenthal

I Wish for You

Oof, the tenderness in I Wish for You by David Wax and Brett Blumenthal is nearly overwhelming, as I think about my oldest child heading off to college soon. Each page in this book features a beautifully illustrated animal parent-and-child pair, with a different wish for the child. The zebras wish for the child to be unique, the horses wish for freedom, and the wolves wish for them to find their voice. (PS : It just so happens that there are 12 animals featured; this is a perfect book to purchase when your child starts elementary, so a teacher each year can sign it leading up to their high school graduation.)

Related: 6 fun, creative ways to give your graduate a cash gift and make it special


Best books for graduation gifts: You're Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman

You’re Here for a Reason

If your child is feeling overwhelmed by life, and what the future holds, it’s perfectly normal. The lovely reminder in You’re Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman might be exactly the lift they need — that every child means something and every person matters.


Gift books for graduates: Rudyard Kiplings beautiful poem "If" comes to life with Giovanni Manna's watercolors


I’m completely mesmerized by Giovannia Manna’s gorgeous watercolors in her illustrations that accompany Rudyard Kipling’s classic poem If…. In case you don’t remember it from your own school days, this is the poem in which a father tells his son all the things he can do to be a person of good character, in a world that seems to be going crazy around him. Pretty timely.


Best Books for graduation gifts: You! By Sandra Magsamen


Sandra Magsamen’s whimsical illustration style has become iconic, and her modern classic, You!, captures this spirit of hope and inspiration. It’s a rhyming book all about following your dreams, which makes it a great graduation gift for preschoolers, high school seniors, or even adults who earn a college degree later in life.

Best books for graduation gifts: The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds

The North Star

Sometimes it’s hard to find your path, and The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds brings that struggle to life in a relatable way. He reminds us to look around, keep an eye on what’s going on, and sometimes get off the beaten path to make your own way in the world. Like the North Star itself, this book can help guide our grads to find their way. And that’s advice we can all get behind.