Imagination Exploration!

Cleveland Park LibraryStaff Picks

Imagination Exploration!

Picture books that encourage imagination!

When I was a kid, I would spend lots of time creating worlds in my head and acting them out with my Barbies and assorted toys. I eschewed my Barbie Dream Car in favor of using my shoes as Barbie cars. Unfortunately for my parents, I drew all over the walls - creating a visual display of everything in my brain. I once pulled out all my stuffed animals, pillows, and blankets and created a soft floor for my bedroom. My poor parents had no reproach for my crazy and wild imagination. They had created the monster by making me a voracious reader!
Perhaps, I was a handful, but my imagination and creativity have been some of my greatest strengths in life. That is one of the reasons why I love working with kids - they are much more in tune to their imaginations then adults!
Side effects of imagination include: fort making, use of all the crayons, a million verses of Wheels on the Bus, an occasional mess, J.K. Rowlings, Broadway plays, scientific discoveries, cutting-edge technologies, Mo Willems, and children’s librarians.

Chalk by Bill Thompson

One rainy day three friends go to the park and find some chalk. They use the chalk and their imagination to dream up fantastical possibilities for their creations in this wordless picture book. I really love wordless books because you can retell it so many different ways - you are only limited by your imagination - and the beautiful illustrations. Wait until you see what this chalk brings to life for its users! These children have very fun and active imaginations!

Not A Box or Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis

Both of these books are grand! They really tap into the child experience of finding a large empty brown box or that perfect stick! I have many memories of fighting my brothers and cousins over a large refrigerator or oven box… it was so enthralling to have the command of that box and the possibilities that it could be like a spaceship, club house, kitchen, etc.
In these books, the little rabbit is arguing with an unseen adult about what they were going to do with either the box or the stick. The rabbit makes their case that it’s not a box or a stick by using their imagination and red lines over the simple black and white illustrations to show that the how each item is so much more to them. These books capture how children are so happy when given the space for their imaginations to be activated! And I think parents can relate with moments of their child being obsessed with the box the toy came in, and disregard the toy itself!

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw

I think so much of childhood is experiencing new things and learning to make connections to your own life. That is the case when you stop for a minute and look up at the clouds. You let your mind wander and imagine what is up there. This book has really simple pictures. The background is navy blue, and each page features a white object with the text reminding us that even though it looks like something, it’s really something else. At the end, you discover that it’s really a cloud! I love to use this book in programs! And make our own unknown shapes by folding a piece of blue construction paper in half and squirting white paint inside. Then pressing down on it, opening it back up, and letting the children write/tell me what it looks like! 

Sky-High Guy by Nina Crews

Donald Crews may be a household name - Hello - Freight Train! But, his daughter, Nina, is also a marvelous children’s author. I wish she had made more of these Jack and Guy books - I adore them! Jack is an average kid, but his best friend Guy is a toy. They have lots of adventures together - usually Guy gets into some trouble and Jack has to problem solve to help him. While Guy is in peril, there are imaginative white lines drawn over the story as Jack imagines different obstacles for his friend to face. In this adventure, Guy is parachute jumping in the backyard, and having a great time until he gets caught in a tree! Jack imagines all kinds of horror for Guy like snow coming down or birds attacking him, but luckily with the help of his brother, Gus, they are able to rescue Guy and reunite the friends!

Guess Again! by Mac Barnett

I am ready to be best friends with Mac Barnett! He just doesn’t know it yet! If you are not familiar with him, he writes insanely odd and funny stories. If you don’t already have an active imagination, these books will spark one for you! One of the funniest books of his is called: Guess Again!  I’ve read it at many story times, and children and adults are delighted by it! The rhyming text asks the reader to guess what is hiding in the blacked out illustration. Following the rhyme, they will have many guesses as to what the picture will reveal, but when you turn the page - you will learn to expect the unexpected!

How to Share with a Bear by Eric Pinder

Thomas has one desire - to read a book in the cozy cave that he made in his living room. But when he goes to get supplies, a bear has taken over his cave. He tries to lure the bear out of his cave with things that bears love like water or blueberries, but the bear always finds its way back to the cave. I won’t spoil the end for you, but it’s a great share for older siblings. Plus, it comes with instructions on how to build your own cave!

Outside by Deidre Gill

A boy longs to play outside, but no one will join him on the cold, wintery day. He goes out anyway to have his own adventure, and he finds it in a giant snow friend. The two of them embark on an adventure through the great outdoors, soaring over the sky and looking down at snow castles and dragons, until the sun is setting and it is time to go home! I love that the author shares her inspiration with us as she was always told to “go outside” when she was bored as a child. That time outside sparked an active imagination in her and led to this wonderful book. As I wrote this, a child came by and pulled the book off my desk to take home, even though we are months away from snow! 

Sector 7 by David Wiesner

Another wordless treasure of a book!  I’ve been a fan of David Wiesner’s books since I was a kid. Who can forget his book, Tuesday, with all the floating frogs on lily pads traveling throughout the neighborhood? This story takes us a bit higher into the air - so high up that we get to see where the clouds are made. When you add an imaginative boy to a cloud making machine, you will get some new and interesting clouds. I think this book, very interestingly, plays on the idea of seeing shapes and animals in the clouds. It’s such a simple and engaging activity for all ages to lay back and wonder about the world and what they see in the world around them. This is a great book to let the children tell their own story to, as they follow the adventures of this boy and his new friend, a cloud!

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

This was one of my favorite books from when I was a kid. Even though I lived in the suburbs, I dreamed of living in an apartment and seeing the city at night. The illustrations are bold and the colors invite you in to experience the journey through a children’s dreamy imagination. I loved seeing the world through the flying perspective, and being delighted by the city, like only a child could be! It seemed full of energy and life, even as the day was ending. It’s perfect for asking the children in your life what they would want to see at night, and where they could go if they were flying through their neighborhood?

Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds

Marisol wants to paint the sky for a class mural but she can’t find the color blue. This forces her to look at the world around her and see if it really mirrors her expectations. Is the sky always/only blue? I think this book, along with most of Peter Reynold’s work is great because it really invites the reader to think, without forcing their hand. It is great for a lap-sit or small discussion so you can really discuss and witness the experience as kids think through the topic.