Years ago, I attended a parent education seminar, sponsored by my school district, at which the speaker talked about the need for imagination in children’s lives. She quoted Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” She made the point that humanity cannot have anything that it can’t first imagine. These days, when we are doing less outside of the home, it doesn’t mean we have to imagine any less, and these books can help.
by SOOSH (Little, Brown and Company, 2020)
Started as a series of illustrations posted on her Instagram account, author and artist SOOSH tells a story of a girl who imagined mermaids, until the day one actually showed up. The story highlights all of the adventures and similarities a girl can share with an underwater friend, and how her non-mermaid-believing friends come to her rescue when the mermaid needs help.
by B.J. Novak (Penguin Young Readers, 2019)
Kids can imagine their own stories with this fill-in-the-blank companion book to B.J. Novak’s New York Times bestseller, The Book with No Pictures. They can write their own rules, invent silly sounds, and reveal their “secret real names.” Stickers in the back help kids embellish their ideas.
by Paul McCartney; illustrated by Kathryn Durst (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019)
In singer/songwriter Paul McCartney’s debut picture book, Grandude greets his grandchildren on a dreary day, with a stack of travel postcards. With a rub of his magic compass, he takes his grandchildren on adventures all around the world, based on the photos on the postcards.
by Adam Lehrhaupt; illustrated by Magali Le Huche (Paula Wiseman Books, 2017)
This book teaches kids the parts of a story—a character, setting, plot, conflict, and climax—in an imaginative way. The girl in the book helps come up with different details and contemplates what would make a good story every step of the way.
by Lita Judge (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020)
When a little girl is nervous to attend a new school, she is reminded that the sound she hears is not her heart thumping, but the sound of her own wings. The wings allow the little girl to fly far away, find treasures, and dance with animals. Ultimately, the power of her imagination gives her strength to face a new challenge.
by Helena Ku Rhee; illustrated by Pascal Campion (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2020)
When Daniel’s babysitter cancels, he has to go with his parents to their jobs as nighttime office cleaners. Daniel isn’t happy about it, until his parents concoct the story of a “paper kingdom” to entertain him. As Mama and Papa vacuum, mop, and dust, they add to the story, imagining a king, queen, and messy dragons in the office building. As the night continues, Daniel begins to imagine, too.
by Lina Maslo (Balzer + Bray, 2020)
As a boy growing up in Ireland during the early 20th century, author C.S. Lewis didn’t always like the world he lived in, so he would so he would dream of other worlds. This nonfiction picture book about Lewis’ life shows that, even through challenging circumstances, his imagination stayed with him. As an adult, he began to write about the characters he imagined, which became the well-known book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and later, the Chronicles of Narnia series.
Book experts and librarians also recommend:
- The House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Lane Smith
- Imagine! by Raul Colón
- Ruby’s Sword by Jacqueline Veissid; illustrated by Paola Zakimi
- The Little Green Girl by Lisa Anchin
- Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom; illustrated by Shane W. Evans
- Nerp! by Sarah Lynne Reul
- Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet by Adam Hargreaves
- One Snowy Morning by Kevin Tseng
- My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano and Jillian Tamaki
- Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe
- We’re Going On a Goon Hunt by Michael Rex
- Fire Truck Vs. Dragon by Chris Barton; illustrated Shanda McCloskey
- Poetree by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds; illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani
- Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall by Derek Hughes; illustrated by Nathan Christopher
- Ten Fat Sausages by Michelle Robinson; illustrated by Tor Freeman
- The Great Indoors by Julie Falatko; illustrated by Ruth Chan
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
- Max’s Castle by Kate Banks; illustrated by Boris Kulikov
The Paper Kingdom, My Book with No Pictures, and Hey Grandude!: Penguin Random House. This is a Good Story and When You Need Wings: Simon & Schuster. Through the Wardobe: HarperCollins. Mermaid and Me: Hachette Book Group.