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children's books
What If… photo courtesy Little, Brown and Company; How To Code a Sandcastle photo courtesy Penguin Random House; What Do You Do With An Idea? photo courtesy Compendium, Inc.; The Dot photo courtesy Candlewick Press; Hey Wall photo courtesy Simon & Schuster; Rosie Revere, Engineer photo courtesy Abrams Books

32 Books That Spark Creativity

Inspire young creators with these recommendations from local librarians and book experts.

October, to me, is the month that fosters creativity like no other. I love seeing how parents work with their kids to turn ordinary cardboard boxes into Minecraft creepers or umbrellas and pieces of fabric into Pac-Man ghosts. There are pumpkin carvings and paintings, corn-husk-and-falling-leaf decorations galore, and art-gallery-worthy Halloween makeup everywhere you look. In honor of all the hardworking creative souls that rise each October, here are some books to inspire young creators.

What If…

by Samantha Berger; illustrated by Mike Curato
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018)

The author wrote the first draft of this book when a flood forced her to evacuate her apartment with nothing but her sketchbook. Recommended by children’s librarians at the Denver Public Library, the young artist in the story wonders, through rhyme, what would happen if her art supplies vanished. She imagines ways she could adapt, using the materials around her: And what if that paper was not longer there? I’d chisel the table and then carve the chair. 

How To Code a Sandcastle

by Josh Funk; illustrated by Sara Palacios
(Viking/Penguin Young Readers, 2018)

When Pearl has trouble building the perfect sandcastle, she instructs her robot friend to build one using computer code. Using fundamental coding concepts like sequences and loops, Pearl breaks down her sandcastle problem into small, manageable steps. Penguin Young Readers partnered with Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, to help close the gender gap in tech. “We want to make coding a familiar part of every child’s world,” says Saujani. “By introducing core concepts of coding to children now, we’re helping prepare them for a future of changing the world through code.”

What Do You Do With An Idea?

by Kobi Yamada; illustration by Mae Besom
(Compendium, 2014)

A boy tells the story of an idea he had—which first appears as a golden egg with legs and a crown—the only color among black and white illustrations. At first, he’s not sure what to do with the idea, so he ignores it, but it follows him. When he starts to give his idea attention, it starts to grow, and color spreads across the black and white pages. One day, it spreads its wings and bursts into the sky: It went from being here to being everywhere. It wasn’t just a part of me anymore…it was now a part of everything.

The Dot

by Peter H. Reynolds
(Candlewick Press, 2003)

Young Vashti thinks she can’t draw and angrily makes one dot in the center of her paper. Her teacher asks her to sign her “art.” To Vashti’s surprise, the teacher frames the dot and hangs it above her desk. This inspires Vashti to experiment with more dots, and her work is the hit of the school art show. “Not everyone believes he-she-they are creative and it’s very special to see how creativity shows up in different human beings,” says Barb Langridge, retired library children’s instructor and research specialist, and founder of children’s book resource, A Book and a Hug.

Hey, Wall : A Story of Art and Community

by Susan Verde; illustrated by John Parra
(Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, September 2018)

A bare, abandoned wall stands in Ángel’s neighborhood, but Ángel wants to change it. Written in verse, the story shows how one boy’s idea, along with the help of his neighbors, can transform a community. “Children reading this book will see how powerful art can be and how it can bring people together and make something dull and dreary into something beautiful,” says author Susan Verde. “The rich illustrations and the messages in Hey, Wall are sure to inspire kids to create their own works of art that reflect who they are and what they want to tell the world.”

Rosie Revere, Engineer

by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts
(Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013)

Rosie is an inventor who dreams of becoming an engineer. When her great-great aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) visits, and mentions her unfinished goal of learning to fly, young Rosie builds her a flying contraption. When it crashes, Rosie deems it a failure, but Aunt Rose believes it is a success, saying that you can only fail if you quit. Also check out Rosie Revere, Engineer’s companion books, Ada Twist, Scientist and Iggy Peck, Architect.

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