The best children’s books that ignite your imagination

Wade Bradford Author Of Papa Bear's Page Fright
By Wade Bradford

Who am I?

Wade Bradford is the author of several picture books, including There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor and Papa Bear’s Page Fright. He has written over forty plays for young performers, and one middle-grade novel: Camp Omigosh

I wrote...

Papa Bear's Page Fright

By Wade Bradford,

Book cover of Papa Bear's Page Fright

What is my book about?

This is the story of a little girl named Goldilocks. Well, that's what it's supposed to be, but there's a problem. When Papa Bear discovers he's inside of a book and there are readers out there looking at him, he gets very nervous and forgets his lines. Poor Papa Bear... he has Page Fright! Can Mama Bear, Baby Bear, and Goldilocks help him find the courage to remember his lines and finish the story?

The books I picked & why

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Harold and the Purple Crayon

By Crockett Johnson,

Book cover of Harold and the Purple Crayon

Why this book?

A child and his crayon bring a world to life. I can’t think of a better example of the power of the imagination. I was a slow reader throughout elementary school. I preferred books with lots of pictures instead of a lot of words. So, it’s no surprise that I fell in love with Harold and his purple crayon. This book inspired me to create drawings of my own… and eventually just as Johnson does in this classic picture book, I began to combine my drawings with words. I began telling stories. 

Where the Wild Things Are

By Maurice Sendak,

Book cover of Where the Wild Things Are

Why this book?

Sendak’s masterpiece is deceptively simple. Like Harold’s adventure, there are few words and many images, and yet it manages to take the reader to another world, one populated by monsters – and yet at its core is a very human story. When Max journeys to an island filled with wild things, a realm devoid of rules, he frolics with his new friends until he realizes that he misses his mother (in spite of the fact that she punished him simply because he wanted to eat the family pet). My favorite part: When he finally returns to his room – after what seems like a month-long adventure – his supper is still hot! 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Book cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Why this book?

The idea of popping out of time, going on an epic quest, and then returning home in time for tea intrigued me so much, it’s no wonder that one of my favorite fantasies is C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The idea of walking through a portal into a fantastical universe has always entranced me. Sure, it’s been done before the tales of Aslan and the Pevensie children (perhaps most famously in Lewis Carrol’s Wonderland books) but no method of world-hopping has ever captured my attention like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia. Lewis’ descriptions are surprisingly economical, giving a splendid glimpse of the impossible, while allowing the reader’s mind to fill in many of the visuals. 

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Book cover of A Wrinkle in Time

Why this book?

This is the book I read every ten years. With every passing decade, I gain new perspectives on L’Engle’s compassionate, ever-relevant story of three children who travel across the universe to save their father. (Yes, I know, Calvin isn’t really the son of Mr. Murray, but the young lad becomes part of the family during the course of this book). Although I gain something new with each reading, one theme is always there for me: Love creates a better place, a better life. 

The Mysterious Benedict Society

By Trenton Lee Stewart, Carson Ellis (illustrator),

Book cover of The Mysterious Benedict Society

Why this book?

This book is different from the rest on the list in a few ways. It doesn’t transport the characters to new, magical realms. There are no whimsical beasts or mystical creatures. And, perhaps most significantly, I read this one as a “grown-up.” I had the honor of reading this book aloud to my children, along with its sequels, over the course of several months. My kids were delighted by these bright, young protagonists who, using their wits, imagination, and moral compass, save their loved ones from a devious villain intent on obliterating individuality. I fell in love with these characters, just as my children did. And when we read the final page of the final chapter of the final book, my daughter burst into tears. Not because the story was sad, but because spending time with these imaginary people had been a real experience. 

Good stories take us to other places. And that’s what each of these five books have done for me and my family.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in imagination, life satisfaction, and witchcraft?

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