Tag Archives: imagination

Sweet, light, fluffy

someonelikemeIt’s January, and it’s been really cold, although not “bomb cyclone” cold.  Just super-duper, the-car-doesn’t-even-warm-up-enough-for-heat-until-you-get-to-work cold.

And I never seem to sleep well in January, which could be for all kinds of reasons this year—politics, teenagers, old friends and illness, memories creeping out.  You might think this would make me want to read things uplifting and positive and joyful, but really, I find myself heading straight for murder mysteries and teen novels on most days.  I find Flavia de Luce, a connoisseur of poisons, especially relaxing.

But then books pop up on my desk, and I have to read them.  Someone Like Me is full of light and fond memories and drawings that are beautiful but a bit hazy.  There is not an ounce of snark or dark humor.  It’s exactly what should annoy me right now, but I found myself reading it twice.  Why?  It’s not really a story. It’s more a description of how you might become a writer, by listening and imagining and reading.  It is sweet, but it’s wonderful, too, for this brief moment.

Someone Like Me by Patricia MacLachlan and Chris Sheban

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Not one word more or less

linesIs this book about a lone figure skater?  An artist?  A community?

You’re on your own to figure that out, but if you’re a fan of wordless picture books, you’ll like this one, too.  Kids who love details in picture books will love this, but you can make it as simple or elaborate as you imagine it all to be.

Lines by Suzy Lee

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Read. Repeat. Now read it again.

turn on the nightI came across this one in the new picture books at another library.  (Yes, I’m just that much of a geek that I visit other libraries in my free time.)  I glanced at it, and seeing it was wordless, it went into my stack to take home.  On the first read, I thought it was a little weird.  Then I read the inside flap.  Aha… I read it again, noticing a few more details.  And then again.  More.  And again.  Even more.

It’s the best kind of wordless picture book.  You could read the story each time in a slightly different way, and it might change a little as you notice more and more of the details.  Don’t get me wrong – the pictures are not full of tiny, over-the-top drawings that make you stay on a page for five minutes.  They’re simple, but deceptively simple.  Is that another reindeer?  Are the lights different now?  What happened to the sleeping girl?  Definitely worth another look.

Turn On The Night by Geraldo Valério

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Are Colette’s pants on fire? Or is she just blessed with an awesome imagination?

colettes lost petPerhaps a little of both.  Colette might be wanting a pet.  A LOT. Other neighborhood kids seem to be looking for something to do.  Clearly they don’t have 24/7 access to electronics, because so many of them are playing outside.  Before you know it, they rally to look for the pet, not even seeming especially bothered by the Colette’s announcement later on that her pet bird became so large it wouldn’t fit in the house anymore.

It might be an interesting book to read with a child who has a flimsy grasp on honesty.  How would they react to Colette’s story?  Or you might just like to read it for its whimsical and imaginative journey through an afternoon with some neighborhood kids.  It’s a sweet read either way.

Colette’s Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault

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You might not know it, but you have a story, too.

everywhere-wonderYou don’t have to look very far in my past posts to realize that I love picture books about imagination.  Over the years, I have bored countless friends and roommates and scholarship committees with my story about the red shoes an Indian graduate student of my dad’s gave me when I was five.  They were sparkly, pointy and 100% wonderful, in case you have somehow missed hearing about that particular memory of mine.  Why did I dream of joining the Peace Corps?  Why did I try to learn so many languages beyond English?  (French, German, Spanish, Esperanto, Thai, Vietnamese, a little bit of Arabic, and I think I’m forgetting one.  Sadly, what I speak of them now is very limited.)  Why did I think writing a senior thesis on that six-week trip I took on my own was such a good idea?  Red shoes.

There are no red shoes in this book, but there is a lot of imagination and a lot of traveling around the world, which also makes it pretty darn wonderful.  Look at all these amazing and intriguing places and things!  Sockeye salmon!  Pyramids!  Shirley from Sheboygan!  Gardens without plants! The moon!  And one polar bear that walks off the page.  What a joy to read to little ones or just to our solitary adult selves!  We can all use a little escape and a lot of imagination right now, right?

(P.S. Just to be clear, the title of this post is a direct quote from the book.)

Everywhere, Wonder by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr

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outside-229x300If you time traveled back about 12 years ago, you could witness the joy and excitement wrapped up with this one word in our family:  OUTSIDE!  Always in capital letters and needing an exclamation point, often really shouted right before thump, thump, thump, thump, the run to the back door, we loved OUTSIDE! in our house.  Even if it meant bundling up in snow pants and coat and boots and hat.  Even when we might just be running around in circles on the driveway.  There were afternoons of building forts and lounge furniture.  (You might be surprised to find out how comfortable a snow sofa can be.) There were days of chasing the neighborhood bunnies and creating complicated chalk railroad tracks so that Thomas or Percy could escape Diesel 10.  We scootered around the block and looked for pennies in the dead drops we created.  We ate peas from the pod in the garden as we talked about how much we liked the weird purple flowers.  Yes, the past is a little rosy where OUTSIDE! is concerned.

Then, years later, you come across a book like Outside.  And it all comes back. A kid goes outside.  That’s all you need if you’ve got your imagination.  Giants and dragons can be found just a few steps from your home.  Masterpieces can be created from snow and trees and what you can dream up.  It’s all there, just waiting for you.  OUTSIDE!

Outside by Deirdre Gill

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2 stories about stories

I Am A Story – Dan Yaccarino

Follow a red bird as it travels through history, and you will see what a story can be.  Whether illuminated by monks or shared in a public library, by a campfire, or in a crowd on the street, stories go with us.  Banning, censoring and burning doesn’t stop them; technology doesn’t leave them behind.  This one is definitely worth a look as a conversation starter about how storytelling has changed in different cultures and across the centuries.

A Child of Books – Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

“I am a child of books.  I come from a world of stories and upon my imagination I float.”  It seems like a simple concept:  a girl leading a boy, a new friend, on a trip through stories.  On one level it is simple, and then you look more closely at the pictures.  Words are used to make mountains and branches, fill out a monster, and create a rope to climb down from a castle.  (Using the words from Rapunzel to make the rope – genius!)  The clouds of song are words from lullabies.  There’s so much to love in this for word lovers and story lovers and artists and dreamers.  And I will use my imagination, friends, to find a reason to buy this one and share it with children of all ages.  I’ve already mentioned it to a few!


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5 imaginative picture books — very different but very wonderful!


As sometimes happens when publishing season hits and I’m blessed with too many books at once – aren’t libraries wonderful? – I’d just been thinking about how much I enjoyed the five books below when it struck me.  They’re really all about imagination in one form or another, whether it’s coming up with a toy that’s a huge hit or singing songs to imagine a better life or solving a problem or taking a walk to the playground or painting a mural.  So, if you need a boost and are looking for something different, find these five and settle in for something wonderful.  Your mind will fill with color and joy and sadness and awe and excitement.

  • The Marvelous Thing that Came from a Spring:  The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation by Gilbert Ford.  Who knew that the Slinky had such an interesting backstory? It’s unexpected, and the art is interesting and fun and wonderfully quirky.  It’s also nice to see a successful partnership between two very different kinds of people who work together to create something memorable.
  • Like a Bird:  The Art of the American Slave Song by Cynthia Grady and Michele Wood.  You might not know all of the songs, but the explanations of their meanings and the art that accompanies them will draw you in. The pictures are powerful and both joyful and sad, and if you can read music, you can also sing along and feel the deep power in another way.
  • Playground by Mies Van Hout.  Bright, happy, zippy, busy, too busy but not really, creative, colorful – I could go on and on. This one is just flat out bubbly joy in a book.  Imagine it and you can be it, and real world might just pale in comparison!
  •  Maybe Something Beautiful:  How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howel and Rafael Lopez.  In a time of expanding interest in diverse picture books—thank goodness!–this a real treat. You see the whole wild variety of a community–ages, jobs, personalities, skin tones and all.  Art is transforming and power and beautiful and joyous!  Yay!
  • Follow the Moon Home:  A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson and Meilo So.  There’s a new kid, a new school, and a new group project. They’ll have to figure out a problem to solve and work within their community to change something – where to begin?  In this case, it’s keeping the beaches dark on the nights the baby sea turtles are heading into the ocean.  This would be a perfect one for kids who need reassurance that they can be the change that makes the world a better place.
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