8 Books for Kids with Big Imaginations

by Kathryn Haydon

Photo credit: Natalia Crespo, Moment/Getty Images

Is your child a dreamer? Are you? People who we call dreamers have big imaginations. A friend of mine says she’s never been bored a minute in her life because there’s so much going on in her head. Her capacity to think up new ideas has led her to contribute meaningful, original work to the world.

But the sad thing for dreamers like many of my Sparkitivity students is that they often hear comments like, “Come back to earth.” “Stop dreaming and get to work.” “Quit wasting time.” Sure, sometimes dreamers need a nudge to get down to business. But most often life doesn’t allow them space to use and develop their imaginations in ways that are valued by the people around them.

Imagination is an important aspect of creative problem-solving. If we squash dreamers, especially when they are young, we lose the very people who we need to help us solve complex problems. Fortunately for parents, this collection of read-alouds will help you nurture your little dreamers and show them you understand what makes them tick.

  • Happy Dreamer

    by Peter H. Reynolds

    Reynolds’s customary whimsy with words and illustrations offers a glimpse into the beauty of a dreamer’s mind. Vibrant drawings and color give the book forward-moving energy that offers support to humans of all ages who have experienced the ups and downs of a big imagination. Happy Dreamer includes a fold-out poster depicting different dreamers so readers can identify their own unique styles. Peter Reynolds and I share the mission to support square-peg kids; this upcoming book adds to his picture-book toolkit (The Dot, Ish, Going Places) that helps us do just that.

  • Willow

    by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan, illustrated by Cyd Moore

    In Miss Hawthorn’s strict classroom, Willow stands out like squirmy dreamers often do. Driven by her pure joy and rich imagination, she paints her apples blue and her tree pink — much to her teacher’s dismay and persistent criticism. Yet sweet Willow carries on with kindness and is the only child in the class to give her cold teacher a Christmas gift. Could it be that this extraordinary girl’s spark of love has the power to change everything?

  • The Puddle Pail

    by Elisa Kleven

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    Ernst’s brother Sol is a collector. He loves to collect typical things like feathers and shells. But independent thinking Ernst decides to collect puddles. Practical Sol thinks Ernst’s idea is silly, but as the story progresses Ernst’s imagination comes alive as he builds his puddle collection and, in the end, uses it to create art — a collection that Sol can understand. Kleven’s first book, Ernst, introduces Ernst through his never-ending stream of “What if?” questions that lead to a very happy birthday with family and friends.

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  • Weslandia

    by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

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    Wesley doesn’t buy into the trendy haircuts the other boys are getting, doesn’t share their interests, and is subject to constant bullying. His keep-up-with-the-Jones’ parents can’t understand why it is he prefers to read. However, on the brink of summer, an idea sparks and Wesley creates a new civilization in his backyard. As he brings the ideas in his imagination to life, the kids in the neighborhood come join him. This is a beautiful story about what can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.

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  • Day Dreamers

    by Emily Winfield Martin

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    From page one, children are invited into “the land of waking dreams” and are encouraged to turn everyday situations like playing at the beach or exploring a museum into opportunities to ride unicorns, conjure up sea serpents, and harness dragons. The book’s fantastical illustrations will connect with children who love to imagine pretend worlds or who need encouragement to spice up their daily lives.

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  • Cloud Dance

    by Thomas Locker

    What is it about clouds that inspires the imagination? Thomas Locker, known for his exquisite paintings in Sky Tree, captures the diversity and depth of cloud scenes in this book whose words are light as a poem. As a bonus to the imagination, kids who are often told to get their heads out of the clouds will learn a little of the science behind nature’s best dream-inspirers. If they want to take it further and actually write in the clouds, check out the awesome Skywriting Journal whose writable pages feature clouds!

  • How To

    by Julie Morstad

    Each full-spread illustration presents creative responses to a series of “how to” statements: how to go fast, how to go slow, how to wonder, how to be brave, how to make new friends. Morstad’s ideas resonate with a range of experiences kids find themselves in and show them that imaginative ways of looking at the world are, indeed, valid.

  • King Jack and the Dragon

    by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

    Charming rhyme reminiscent of The Cat in the Hat tells the story of Jack, Zack, and Caspar as they build forts and fight beasts before bedtime. Oxenbury’s (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt) drawings offer hints of Where the Wild Things Are in a story that is sweet and light. The “giants” that appear are mom and dad nudging the boys toward sleep. What a fun read to put little dreamers to bed!

Reading books that encourage imagination helps dreamers, who are often square-pegs, feel that their unique shape fits into the puzzle of life. They can inspire the imaginations of all readers, including parents who want to revisit daydreams.


Which books would you add to this list?