A Perfectly Messed-Up Story – And Other Books to Teach Perseverance

I love it when a library book is great. I don’t mean a library book you put on hold because you knew you wanted to read it, or one you set out to find, or even one you picked because you know the author is great. I mean just one you happened to pick up off the shelf because it looked interesting. That is what happened with A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell.

We picked up the book because the cover was so cute and the premise was so interesting. I always love a story where things don’t go as planned, and this looked like it fit the bill perfectly.


We also picked it up because I could tell from the realistic jelly stain that it would be a book that broke the fourth wall, and they tend to be my favorite (anyone else love this baaaasically because Zack Morris did it in Saved By the Bell and you always felt like he was speaking directly to you?? No?? Just me??) If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I love these amazing Mo Willems books that break the fourth wall all the time. I feel like authors who do this successfully have an amazing opportunity to draw the kids into the books, make them feel like the books are speaking directly to them, and really engage them in the story by doing so. This one did not disappoint.

The thing that truly made this book great, though, was its message and the fact that the message hit home (albeit in a different way) for both my 7 yo and my 3 1/2 yo.

I knew the 7 yo would get it, he is at a great stage for talking about the lessons in books right now (if you would like to read more about doing so when reading to your kiddos, check out this post). We stop at the end and sometimes in the middle of almost everything we read and discuss what the author is trying to tell us and how it relates to real life.

This story was no exception. The character struggles to get through his story, then decides to keep trying and “finish this!” even though things are not what he thought they would be. The 7 yo and I talked about what the author was trying to teach us, and he came up with the idea that you have to keep trying in order to do things you want to do. When I asked him what he had to keep working at in his own life, he equated this to basketball and handwriting – two things he is currently working to get better at (PS – He LOVES practicing one of these things and HATES practicing the other. Any guesses which is which?? … I’ll give you a hint … he’s a 7 yo boy …)

And because he is a rule follower (first-borns are so weird! – my husband and I are both the babies of the family and having a first born is sometimes a mystery to us), he also thought the book was about making sure you follow the library rules: do not leave your little brother unsupervised with the book and refrain from eating or drinking while you read. (Seriously … weird … but I will admit that his need to please all authority figures makes him very sweet, so I probably shouldn’t complain.)

I do love leaving the initial question about what the author is trying to teach at that just to see what they come up with, sometimes it is completely different from what we expect!


All of the food stains and scribbles that my 7yo was so concerned about lead to my favorite part of the story itself, the fact that the character in the book truly freaks out when things don’t go as he expects. He even gives up for a little while before deciding to try again. It is not sugar-coated. The feelings are very realistic and very easy for kids to understand and connect with.

The most pleasantly surprising thing about the book, though, was the fact that my 3 1/2 yo understood the message too. He is not at the perfect age for discussing the lesson in books, as he is much more interested in tickling or hitting you with his stuffed animal or licking your cheek (you know … normal 3 1/2 yo baby of the family things to do) after reading.

However, this story was so simple and so engaging that even he was able to comprehend the message. He actually wanted to talk about it after we read, and we even talked about another perseverance-inspiring book that he knows and how it compared. He LOVES all things Toy Story, and of course you know about his dinosaur obsession from this post, so he is a big fan of this one where Rex has to try again and again in order to make his roar as loud as a dino-roar should be.


This Golden Book book is called, A Roaring Adventure by  Kristen L. Depken. It is great because it teaches the lesson through such familiar characters. The Toy Story Golden Books are all really well written, and combining these awesome characters/stories that your kid already loves with reading time is a wonderful way to get them excited about reading. 

We really knew the message had hit home, however, the next day when we came in from playing and it was time to take off our shoes and wash our hands. As he sat down on the rug and began to get frustrated with his shoe-removal efforts, he paused, looked up at me, and said, “Mommy, I will try again and again just like Rex.” I mean… c’mon kid … talk about making my heart burst and my whole body melt into the floor with love and pride…

And just like that, he took off his own shoes! It was a great day!!

Although we came across A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by chance, we have actually been purposefully reading a lot of books about perseverance lately. I became obsessed with Grit by Angela Duckworth while reading it to see if I wanted to teach it to my freshman English classes – answer = yes – earlier this year (you can find my post about it here). So I have been seeking out as many books as I can about passion and perseverance (the two things that make up grit) for my own kiddos to read.

Here are a few more of the ones we love:


She Persisted Around the World by Chelsea Clinton – check out my post all about it and the original She Persisted here.

*As promised: Here is the link to my Instagram post about She Persisted Around the World. 


What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

So, side note to begin with – I hate book jackets. Anybody else? They just get in the way. I immediately take them off when we get a new book. I keep them – who knows why – but I do not enjoy reading a book with one still on. In fact, that is my ONLY complaint about libraries … I wish they would let me remove the book jackets … book jackets are terrible … like really, really terrible … like I get mad just thinking about them being in my way … okay, I think I’m done … let’s continue …

This book is great for teaching about perseverance, especially when you have something you would like to accomplish that other people might not understand. My absolute favorite thing about it is how the color in the story grows as the idea grows. It is such a clever way to help kids visualize growth!

As promised: Here is the link to my Instagram post about What Do You Do With an Idea? 


Toad Makes a Road by Phil Roxbee Cox and Stephen Cartwright

*As promised: Here is the link to my Instagram post about Toad Makes a Road!

This Usborne book is very simple and very good. The phonics lessons make it even better!


Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

This one is not so clearly about perseverance, but it is about something I like to teach to my highschoolers in conjunction with perseverance – the fact that you sometimes need help in order to succeed.

*As promised: Here is the link to my Instagram post about Little Blue Truck


The Berenstain Bears Get Stage Fright by Stan and Jan Berenstain

This one is probably my favorite (maybe because I love the ENTIRE Berenstain Bears series so much – read this post to see why).

*As promised: Here is the link to my Instagram post about The Berenstain Bears Get Stage Fright. 

I’m going to try something a little different with this list, so I apologize that the other books don’t have much description above. My plan is to post about the rest of the books in more detail throughout the week on Instagram. I will come back here and link to those descriptions as they come, so you can find them even if you are not keeping up with my Insta at the time they are posted. I’m not sure how it is going to work out, but I’m hoping it will be fun!

Here is a direct link to my Instagram feed if you’d like to follow along: https://www.instagram.com/raisingboyswithbooks/

PS – We have never read any of Patrick McDonnell’s other books, but we are definitely going to be checking out more of them soon – especially this one: Tek: The Modern Cave Boy  about a boy who is so engrossed in his devices that he never comes out of his cave – and letting you know what we think!

As always, thanks for reading! Let us know your favorite books about perseverance in the comments below or on social media. And don’t forget to follow along on Instagram!

raisingboyswithbooks.com (1).png

19 thoughts on “A Perfectly Messed-Up Story – And Other Books to Teach Perseverance

  1. Great books! We have the little blue truck as well. Also love the part you said about first borns being rule followers! My first born is exactly like that as well while her little brother could care less! I’m glad you found a great book unexpectedly and thanks for sharing!! ❤️

  2. I love this list of books! I have two boys and will definitely be saving this for later. We are trying to figure out how to incorporate books where they don’t tear the pages out. They’re two so I’m not to overly concerned yet.

    1. It’s never too early to begin a reading routine :). We read before bed every night. It is a great way to help our boys develop a love for books that will last them a lifetime!

  3. I keep seeing “The aperfectly Messed Up Story” on my timeline, this must be a sign we need to add it to our collection! And She Persisted looks amazing!! Definitely going to be getting that one as well!

    1. They are both great! I did not know about A Perfectly Messed-Up Story at all, but we loved it and I am taking it as a sign to get more from that author as well :). Thanks for reading!

  4. Lovely list of books! Aww the library books bring back memories. Love finding me books like these that make a really good point and get kids asking
    Questions. On the hunt! Thx

Leave a Reply