books, Literacy, Passion, picture books, students

Great Picture Books to Spark Imagination

Whether it is to become less lonely, to find a friend, or to simply create – imagination is a huge theme of many amazing picture books at the moment. Behold some of my new, and not so new, favorites for inspiring students to use their imagination.  Beware; these tend to spark great conversations.


What to Do With a Box by Jane Yolen and Chris Sheban is excellent in its simplicity.  Think of all of the things we can do with just a cardboard box.

Frida and Bear Play the Shape Game by Hanne Bartholin is sure to inspire doodlers and anyone else who just wants to draw.  I loved how my own daughter right away wanted to do exactly what the characters in the book did.

An Artist’s Alphabet by Norman Messenger is stunning.  I would love to see what types of letters kids would create after reading this book.


I don’t know how I could have left off Peter Reynolds’ Creatrilogy from this list.  The godfathers of all creativity books these are must haves in your classroom library.

Box by Min Flyte and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw is a fun read with its fold out and flaps.  Yet the message is powerful, again, think of all of the things we can do with just a few items and out imagination.

Poppy Pickle: A Little Girl with a Big Imagination by Emma Yartlett is such a fun ride.  I love poring over the pictures to see all of the mischief that happens.  What a great way to talk about what we can imagine.

It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton is another great mentor text.  I wonder what students would have come in the mail if they could and what the consequences would be.

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead is a beautiful example of what happens when we are trying to write a story but seem so very stuck.  What a great book to share when we discuss writing process, how to find inspiration, and how to look for stories.

Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers packs quite the punch on the theme of friendship, loneliness, and also what the power of finding a friend can be.  I love how it also shows what can happen with determination and once we feel we find our place in the world.  I love how it is not just the “real” people that can use their imagination to fit in.

A common theme of many of these picture books is how visually stunning they are.  Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler speaks of a boy and what happens when he explores beyond the pond.  I love the vastness of the book and the journey he goes on.

I almost wrote a picture book post on powerful books about loneliness because I wanted to share the beauty of this book Lenny and Lucy written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead somehow.  While that post will be written at some point, I also think this picture book fits quite nicely here.  Lenny and Lucy is about using your imagination to conquer your problems, and that is a powerful message indeed.  On a side note; Erin E. Stead is a contender for the Global Read Aloud 2016 picture book study!

Again the power of an imaginary friend and how having someone no one else can see cam become a problem.  I love the book We Forgot Brock by Carter Goodrich because of the friendship it portrays.

the illustrations in Imagine A World by Rob Gonsalves are astounding.  I loved reading this with my own children as well as with my 7th graders because of their reactions.  This definitely sparks ideas in students!

I love Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes by Jeanette Winter for how it can inspire children to use their imagination when it comes to making and creating.  By taking seemingly simple things and turning them into works of art, Mr. Cornell changed the world of art.


Draw! by Raul Colon is a masterpiece when it comes to explaining how an artist mind works.  I love seeing the reaction when students get to the final page and discover what the meaning behind the book is.

Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov is a book I turn to for many things; theme, perseverance, conflict, and also imagination, because it si only with imagination that the father of the book solves his problem.

How can your imagination save the most boring story?  I love the message of Battle Bunny written by Jon Sciezka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers.  And I also love the students’ reaction when they first start to read it, someone always comes to report that the book has been defaced.

Only their imagination can save the kids in Chalk by Bill Thomson.  Another great wordless picture book to add to your collection.

Both Journey and Quest by Aaron Becker speak to the power of a girl’s imagination and the adventure that can unfold.  I also love how these books challenge my students’ imagination as they try to decipher what is really going on.

There are a few of our favorite books to spark imagination.  Please add those I missed in the comments.

To see the lists of other favorite books and picture books, please see the collection here.

7 thoughts on “Great Picture Books to Spark Imagination”

  1. “If…” by Sarah Perry has always been a hit with my middle schoolers. After testing season has passed, we use it to spark our creativity and include a dedication to someone who helps us see things differenlty.

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