Our imagination is so powerful, and it can be wonderful when kids discover that there’s a whole world inside their heads. These picture books about imagination are all so gorgeous and take readers into the minds of kids and their dreams. Many of them also feature funny, imaginative stories to keep kids dreaming. If you or your kids love whimsical, creative, inspiring, and funny picture books, these are some lovely options.
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Here are 36 beautiful picture books about the gift of imagination:
Published: January 14, 2020
Meg is a brilliant and creative boxitect. She loves impressing her teacher and classmates with what she makes out of boxes.
But there’s a new kid at Maker School: Simone. Simone is good at everything, and worst of all, she’s a boxitect too.
When the annual Maker Match is held, Meg and Simone are paired as a team but can’t seem to stop arguing. When their extraordinary project turns into a huge disaster, they must find a way to join creative forces, lift each other up, and work together.
Not a Stick
Published: December 26, 2007
Experience the thrill of the moment when pretend feels so real that it actually becomes real!
Following the critically acclaimed Not a Box, this book proves that a stick is not always just a stick. Whether it’s conducting an orchestra, painting a masterpiece, or slaying a dragon—give a child a stick and let imagination take over and the magic begin.
Also an Octopus
Published: October 4, 2016
It begins with an octopus who plays the ukulele. Since this is a story, the octopus has to want something—maybe to travel to faraway galaxies in a totally awesome purple spaceship. Then the octopus sets out to build a spaceship out of soda cans, glue, umbrellas, glitter, and waffles. OK, maybe the octopus needs some help, like from an adorable bunny friend, and maybe that bunny turns out to be . . . a rocket scientist? (Probably not.) But could something even more amazing come to pass? Debut author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, with the help of illustrator Benji Davies, sets up an endearingly funny story, then hands the baton to readers, who will be more than primed to take it away.
Published: January 29, 2019
A fussy eraser and a mischievous pencil spar in this picture book adventure. In this funny and light-hearted picture book, a fussy eraser tries to keep the pages clean by erasing the scribbles of a mischievous pencil. But before long, the eraser discovers what can happen when two opposing forces come together to have fun. With humor and a keen eye for play, Max Amato crafts a delightful story that reveals the joys of collaborative imagination.
Published: March 5, 2019
What if you…
encountered another perspective?
Discovered another world?
Met another you?
What might you do?
I Am a Tiger
Published: July 30, 2019
This is a story about a mouse with BIG ideas. Mouse believes he is a tiger, and he convinces Fox, Raccoon, Snake, and Bird he’s one, too! After all, Mouse can climb a tree like a tiger and hunt for his lunch, too. And not all tigers are big and have stripes. But when a real tiger shows up, can Mouse keep up his act? With hilarious text by Karl Newson and bright and vivid illustrations from Ross Collins, this uproariously funny, read-aloud picture book encourages children to use their imaginations and be who they want to be! Doesn’t everyone want to be a tiger?
The Watermelon Seed
Published: May 14, 2013
With perfect comic pacing, Greg Pizzoli introduces us to one funny crocodile who has one big fear: swallowing a watermelon seed. What will he do when his greatest fear is realized? Will vines sprout out his ears? Will his skin turn pink? This crocodile has a wild imagination that kids will love.
This Is Sadie
Published: May 12, 2015
Sadie is a little girl with a big imagination. She has been a girl who lived under the sea and a boy raised by wolves. She has had adventures in wonderland and visited the world of fairytales. She whispers to the dresses in her closet and talks to birds in the treetops. She has wings that take her anywhere she wants to go, but that always bring her home again. She likes to make things — boats out of boxes and castles out of cushions. But more than anything Sadie likes stories, because you can make them from nothing at all. For Sadie, the world is so full of wonderful possibilities … This is Sadie, and this is her story.
Published: September 19, 2017
Flashlight Night is an ode to the power of imagination and the wonder of books. Three children use a flashlight to light a path around their backyard at night; in the flashlight’s beam another world looms. Our heroes encounter spooky woods, a fearsome tiger, a time-forgotten tomb, an Egyptian god, a sword-fighting pirate, and a giant squid. With ingenuity, they vanquish all, then return to their tree house—braver, closer, and wiser than before—to read the books that inspired their adventure.
They All Saw a Cat
Published: August 30, 2016
In this celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many views of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?
Wolf in the Snow
Published: January 3, 2017
A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home?
Paintings rich with feeling tell this satisfying story of friendship and trust. Wolf in the Snow is a book set on a wintry night that will spark imaginations and warm hearts, from Matthew Cordell, author of Trouble Gum and Another Brother.
Published: April 10, 2018
This girl is determined to express herself! If she can’t draw her dreams, she’ll sculpt or build, carve or collage. If she can’t do that, she’ll turn her world into a canvas. And if everything around her is taken away, she’ll sing, dance, and dream…
Stunning mixed media illustrations, lyrical text, and a breathtaking gatefold conjure powerful magic in this heartfelt affirmation of art, imagination, and the resilience of the human spirit.
Published: September 1, 2021
Tong Tong could never have imagined what everyone around him was thinking. But when he gets hold of some magic candies, suddenly there are voices everywhere. He can hear how his couch feels, what upsets his dog, that his demanding dad loves him. He even gets to catch up with his dead grandmother. It turns out, these voices in Tong Tong’s life have A LOT to say! Is Tong Tong ready to hear it?
Published: October 25, 2011
When Max finds a pile of forgotten toys under the bed, his brothers Benjamin and Karl wonder what’s so special about some old blocks. So Max shows them. With some clever twists of both blocks and imagination, he constructs not only a castle but an entire adventure, complete with pirates and knights, a dark dungeon, and a dragon.
Published: June 23, 2009
For Eva, a young girl with a lively imagination, a seemingly ordinary box becomes a portal to a magical, wonder-filled world. Eva wishes for a pet. She reaches into her magic box and pulls out Monty. But he’s not quite what she had in mind. (He’s a polar bear.) What else might be in the magic box? A colony of festive rabbits, some delicious food, and a band of the very best musicians (including a sax-playing leopard)! The party is officially on! Once everyone has danced their socks off, Eva clicks her fingers to make everything vanish. Well, not quite everything… Katie Cleminson’s lively and fanciful illustrations are the perfect vehicle to convey the transformative power of a young child’s imagination.
The Nowhere Box
Published: November 12, 2013
George’s little brothers wreck his toys and his games and trail after him wherever he goes. Try as he might, there’s just no hiding from them. George has had enough! So he commandeers an empty washing machine box and goes to the one place his brothers can’t follow: Nowhere. Nowhere is amazing! It’s magnificent! It’s also, however, free of pirates and dragons and . . . well, anyone at all. From the talented Sam Zuppardi comes an all-too-relatable story of an older brother who knows when he needs his space — and when he needs his siblings — played out in charmingly offbeat illustrations.
Just Add Glitter
Published: October 9, 2018
Bored, ignored, or feeling down? Need some fancy in your town? Want some shine upon your crown?
Just add glitter!
It all starts with a mysterious mail delivery, a little girl with a big imagination, and a sprinkling of twinkling glitter. Before long there’s glitter here, glitter there–glitter, glitter EVERYWHERE! But just when she’s about to add more glitter, the little girl realizes maybe there is such a thing as too much bling when you and your best pal start to get lost in it…
We Forgot Brock!
Published: August 25, 2015
Phillip and Brock are best friends. Everyone can see Phillip, but only Phillip can see Brock.
A night at the Big Fair is all fun and games until Phillip gets sleepy, heads home, and forgets Brock!
Brock misses Phillip. And Phillip misses Brock. Will they reunite? With the help of another pair of pals, they just might. Because even imaginary friends get lost sometimes. Finding them is part of the adventure.
The Year We Learned to Fly
Published: January 4, 2022
On a dreary, stuck-inside kind of day, a brother and sister heed their grandmother’s advice: “Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored you are now.” And before they know it, their imaginations lift them up and out of their boredom. Then, on a day full of quarrels, it’s time for a trip outside their minds again, and they are able to leave their anger behind. This precious skill, their grandmother tells them, harkens back to the days long before they were born, when their ancestors showed the world the strength and resilience of their beautiful and brilliant minds. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael Lopez’s dazzling art celebrate the extraordinary ability to lift ourselves up and imagine a better world.
What To Do With a Box
Published: March 8, 2016
If you give a child a box, who can tell what will happen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expedition. The most wonderful thing is its seemingly endless capacity for magical adventure, a feature imaginatively captured in cardboardesque art by Chris Sheban and rhythmically celebrated in this poetic tribute by renowned children’s author Jane Yolen.
What Do You Do With and Idea?
Published: February 1, 2014
This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It’s a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s just getting started.
Published: September 1, 2015
What would YOU do with a box? When four toddlers find some toys in cardboard boxes, they have fun with them for a while. But, before long, the friends’ interest in the toys wains and their attention turns to the boxes themselves. What could they do with SO many boxes, they wonder? An inspiring and charming novelty book celebrating the creative possibilities and limitless joy of the boxes.
Published: September 23, 2010
A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator.
On A Magical Do-Nothing Day
Published: September 12, 2017
All I want to do on a rainy day like today is play my game. My mom says it’s a waste of time, but without my game, nothing is fun! On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong about that…
Mix It Up!
Published: September 16, 2014
Accept Hervé Tullet’s irresistible invitation to mix it up in a dazzling adventure of whimsy and wonder. Follow the artist’s simple instructions, and suddenly colors appear, mix, splatter, and vanish in a world powered only by the reader’s imagination. Tullet—who joins such greats as Eric Carle and Leo Lionni as a master of his craft—sets readers on an extraordinary interactive journey all within the printed page. Tullet prompts plenty of giggles in addition to a profound understanding of colors, and once again displays his unique genius and vision in a work that is a glorious and richly satisfying companion to Press Here.
If You Come to Earth
Published: September 15, 2020
If you come to Earth, there are a few things you need to know . . .
We live in all kinds of places.
In all kinds of homes.
In all kinds of families.
Each of us is different. But all of us are amazing.
And, together, we share one beautiful planet.
There Is a Tribe of Kids
Published: May 3, 2016
When a young boy embarks on a journey alone . . .
he trails a colony of penguins,
undulates in a smack of jellyfish,
clasps hands with a constellation of stars,
naps for a night in a bed of clams,
and follows a trail of shells,
home to his tribe of friends.
The Old Truck
Published: January 7, 2020
When is an old truck something more? On a small, bustling farm, a resilient and steadfast pickup works tirelessly alongside the family that lives there, and becomes a part of the dreams and ambitions of the family’s young daughter.
After long days and years of hard work leave the old truck rusting in the weeds, it’s time for the girl to roll up her sleeves. Soon she is running her own busy farm, and in the midst of all the repairing and restoring, it may be time to bring her faithful childhood companion back to life.
Imagine That: A Hoot & Olive Story
Published: July 16, 2019
Olive is a little girl with a big, bright imagination. Hoot is her stuffed-animal owl…and her best friend. The two love adventures of all sorts. But on the rainiest of days, there is only one thing to do: stay inside and imagine a whole new world.
Just as they’re about to begin their adventure, Hoot makes a shocking discovery―his imagination is broken! Like the best of best friends, Olive comes up with some ideas to help him. But nothing is working: not the head unscrambler, the earmuffs, or the hypnosis. Just as the two are about to give up, Olive remembers the secret ingredient to imagination, and they give it one more try.
Published: October 6, 2015
Step inside the pages of a little girl’s magical book as she discovers the profound and inspiring notion that we each bring something different to the same story. Two-time Caldecott Honor artist Pamela Zagarenski debuts as an author in this tender picture book about the joy of reading.
Published: September 1, 2019
Every child feels different in some way, but Thuy feels “double different.” She is Vietnamese American and she has two moms. Thuy walks home one winter afternoon, angry and lonely after a bully’s taunts. Then a bird catches her attention and sets Thuy on an imaginary exploration. What if she could fly away like a bird? What if she could sprint like a deer, or roar like a bear? Mimicking the footprints of each creature in the snow, she makes her way home to the arms of her moms. Together, the three of them imagine beautiful and powerful creatures who always have courage – just like Thuy.
Mabel and Sam at Home
Published: June 5, 2018
This playful and endearing book celebrates imaginative play as Mable and Sam move into a new house and make it their own. They sail the high seas of their new home, tour the intriguing museum of their living room, journey through outer space to the safety of their own beds, and discover how far afield—and how close to home—imagination can take them. Funny and engaging, this celebration of moving in and settling in is both heart-warming and house-warming.
Secret Tree Fort
Published: April 12, 2016
I have a secret tree fort, and YOU’RE NOT INVITED!
When two sisters are ushered outside to play, one sits under a tree with a book while the other regales her with descriptions of a cool fort in a tree that grows ever more fantastical in the telling. What will it take to get the older sister to look up? The promise of a water-balloon launcher in case of attack? A trapdoor to stargaze through? A crow’s nest from which to see how many whales pass by or to watch for pirates? Or the best part of all, which can’t be revealed, because it’s a secret?
Isle of You
Published: December 11, 2018
Some days are harder to get through than others, but when you’re sad, or lonely, or angry, it helps to remember these words: the Isle of You. Take a moment to shake off your worries, then set sail to a land where your dreams can come true. Soar on the back of an eagle, hunt for treasure, watch dancing polar bears on roller skates — anything you can imagine is yours. Hopeful and dreamlike, Jaime Kim’s paintings illuminate a way for young readers to visualize a brighter, happier mood in this compassionate story by David LaRochelle.
Published: August 8, 2017
A little lamb with a great big imagination.
A new picture book from Paula Vásquez filled with delightful illustrations depicting a little lamb intent on being true to herself.
Lily Wool gets bored with all of the grazing and resting that the herd does and prefers to count stars and dream of adventures. When Lily finds a strand of loose wool, she lets her imagination run wild and has a grand time until she accidentally unravels a problem.
Children will love seeing how Lily Wool puts her imagination and creativity to work to fix things, and how Lily discovers a way to help others while she finds her special place in the flock.
Maggie and Wendel: Imagine Everything!
Published: March 22, 2016
When it comes to playtime, Maggie and Wendel’s imaginations are limitless. Whether the elephant siblings are pretending to rescue a pal from a burning building, buying a pet dragon at the pet store, or going on a wild jungle safari, no adventure is too far-fetched.
There they are: 36 of the best picture books about imagination! Which of these books have you read and loved? What did I miss?
What do you think? Leave a comment