The best books about imagination

22 authors have picked their favorite books about imagination and why they recommend each book.

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Planet Kindergarten

By Sue Ganz-Schmitt, Shane Prigmore (illustrator),

Book cover of Planet Kindergarten

In this brilliant book, the author draws parallels between the first day of kindergarten and a space mission – it turns out the two are not that different, after all. There are gravity issues in kindergarten as well, with kids trying hard to stay in their seats, and hands flying up. There’s the equivalent commander in the teacher, mission control in the principal, crewmates, experiments, and a flight plan! Peppered with space lingo, this charming book is double the reading pleasure, with its combined introduction to space and kindergarten. I am all set for kindergarten now. Can’t wait! Again, a great read for little humans.

Who am I?

Who doesn’t like space? I love learning about space! Tip: Picture books are easier to comprehend compared to graduate courses – there’s only so much of Newton-Euler dynamics, inertia tensors, eccentricity vectors, etc. one can handle. Plus, there are no nasty mind-boggling equations in picture books. I mean, do you really want to calculate the maximum flight path angle and the true anomaly at which it occurs? Or solve Kepler’s equations for hyperbolic eccentric anomaly? No, right? Always stick to the picture book if you have a choice! I mentioned some fun picture books (fiction and non-fiction) with amusing or complementing illustrations that helped me on my journey to understanding space. Enjoy!


I wrote...

Simon's Skin

By Nidhi Kamra, Diane Brown (illustrator),

Book cover of Simon's Skin

What is my book about?

Simon thinks his skin is bo-rring. Simon doesn't like boring. So, he tries on different skins, and to his surprise, each comes with its own challenge. Simon soon makes a pleasant discovery about his own skin. This book is about a little boy who discovers he is perfect the way he is.

Mommy's Khimar

By Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Ebony Glenn (illustrator),

Book cover of Mommy's Khimar

My Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn was one of the first picture books by a traditionally published author I read and I was hooked! I love the relationship between the mom and child, but also the grandma, who is not Muslim, but so loved by mom and child. It’s a tender and fun story for kids to enjoy!


Who am I?

I am a freelance journalist and have written on many topics related to Arabs, Muslims and immigrants. I also teach an intercultural communication class at the University of Toledo and have taught Arab culture in the past. I have a master’s degree in Education with a focus on teaching English as a second language.


I wrote...

The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

By Aya Khalil, Anait Semirdzhyan (illustrator),

Book cover of The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

What is my book about?

Kanzi's family has moved from Egypt to America, and on her first day in a new school, what she wants more than anything is to fit in. Maybe that's why she forgets to take the kofta sandwich her mother has made for her lunch, but that backfires when Mama shows up at school with the sandwich. Mama wears a hijab and calls her daughter Habibti (dear one). When she leaves, the teasing starts. That night, Kanzi wraps herself in the beautiful Arabic quilt her teita (grandma) in Cairo gave her and writes a poem in Arabic about the quilt. The next day her teacher sees the poem and gets the entire class excited about creating a "quilt" (a paper collage) of student names in Arabic. In the end, Kanzi's most treasured reminder of her old home provides a pathway for acceptance in her new one.

Alice the Fairy

By David Shannon,

Book cover of Alice the Fairy

Written and illustrated by David Shannon, this delightful story is about a “temporary fairy” who aims to be a “permanent fairy,” but can’t quite seem to get there. Using a wand and ordinary items from her world, she effects “magic” on everything she touches, to measurable success—except when she turns a white dress into a red one and The Duchess locks her into a tower. (She escapes.) A fun story for fairy lovers!


Who am I?

I have published over 50 books, including award-winning and bestselling titles. I am also a publishing executive and editor with 20+ years of professional experience. My latest The Twins of Auschwitz: The Inspiring True Story of  Young Girl Surviving Mengele’s Hell, with Eva Kor, got a stellar review by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and is an international bestseller. As well as spearheading four publishing startups, I have run my own business, Editorial Services of L.A. I was Editorial/Publishing Director for Golden Books, Price Stern Sloan, Intervisual Books, Hooked on Phonics, and more. I am also the Publisher & Editor in Chief of NY Journal Of Books, the premier online-only book review site.


I wrote...

The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

By Eva Mozes Kor, Lisa Rojany,

Book cover of The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

What is my book about?

Eva Mozes Kor was just ten years old when she arrived in Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Subjected to sadistic medical experiments, she was forced to fight daily for her and her twin's survival. In this incredible true story written for young adults, readers learn of a child's endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil.

The book also includes an epilogue on Eva's recovery from this experience and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. 

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna,

Book cover of On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

This story of renewal through nature begins with a mother and child going to the same cabin, in the same forest, in the same rain and the child finds entertainment in destroying aliens on a handheld game. When the mother takes the game away, the child finds it and steps outside into the rain, to play unseen. But when the game is lost in the pond, the child is whisked into experiencing the rainy woods with snails and mushroom paths, sunbeams through storm clouds, and a sudden fall that turns the world into something brand new. The illustrations in this book are full of textures and earthy colors, and dramatic points of view that will have you tumbling through moss, tasting raindrops, and transformed by the wonders of nature.


Who am I?

I began as a picture book illustrator and gradually started writing my own stories, but I still love illustrating other people’s stories. From their manuscripts, I learn to look at the world in new and unexpected ways. As a visual artist, I learned from a young age to pay attention and really look at the world around me. When I have days full of errands and chores and forget to look and be present, the day becomes gray and boring. All of these books in words and pictures offer nature and the act of paying attention and celebrating as transformation and connection.


I wrote...

Yellow Time

By Lauren Stringer,

Book cover of Yellow Time

What is my book about?

Many years ago I stood looking out the window at the yellow leaves on the trees up and down the street. All of a sudden, a huge wind blew and the window became filled with yellow leaves that swirled and twirled everywhere. I had never seen so much yellow. It was so beautiful, I sat down and wrote a poem. Many years later, that poem turned into a story with pictures. Yellow Time is a celebration of that special day every fall when the wind suddenly blows all of the leaves off the trees at once and the world becomes a magical place filled with golden leaves and dancing children. It only comes once a year. It is a moment to celebrate and remember.

The Green Umbrella

By Jackie Azusa Kramer, Maral Sassouni (illustrator),

Book cover of The Green Umbrella

The cover illustrations for The Green Umbrella captivated my attention. It shows a playful elephant holding a green umbrella floating in the rain, jumping through puddles. The world that elephant lives in feels both foreign and familiar. On his rainy day walk, he encounters a hedgehog, cat, bear, rabbit, who all claim the green umbrella as their own. Each of them using it for a delightfully inventive purpose. As in all great kids' books, the message of sharing is tenderly disguised. The painted collage illustrations are textured with gorgeous details.

Who am I?

I was born into a large, unique family. Our house was nestled in the Colorado foothill mountains. Our small tv with the rabbit ear antenna had one fuzzy station, so we depended upon our imaginations for entertainment. We read fairy tales, performed puppet shows, fed fairies on the full moon, painted, drew, wrote stories, explored the canyon. I once observed a small pebbled cylinder inch its way across a puddle. I thought it was magic! It was a caddis fly larvae. That spark of excitement from nature, imagination, and whimsy are what inspire me today when I create. I hope these books will inspire you–or at least make you laugh.


I wrote...

I Am Goose!

By Dorothia Rohner, Vanya Nastanlieva (illustrator),

Book cover of I Am Goose!

What is my book about?

I am Goose! was inspired by the children at Head-Start. They loved playing Duck, Duck Goose, but not all of the children cared about the rules. The story starts out with a simple, friendly game of Duck, Duck, Goose. It goes off the rails in giggle-inducing confusion when a silly goose tries to make it all about him. “Are you kidding me? I am Goose!”

A literal-minded goose derails a favorite childhood game—Duck, Duck, Goose—by objecting when Pig, Fox, Dodo, and other players are tapped as “Goose”. Distraction, squabbling, and asking for snacks threaten to end the game completely. Bossy Rabbit restores calm, but Goose doesn’t understand what the problem is until he gets a taste of his own medicine.

The Adventures of Beekle

By Dan Santat,

Book cover of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

An unnamed imaginary friend waits and waits for a child to choose him; but when he has waited long enough, he sets out on an adventure into the real world to find his Alice. The sweetness of Alice and Beekle’s new friendship is heartwarming, made all the sweeter by the wait. Beekle won the Caldecott Medal, so it won’t surprise you that the illustrations are brilliant. Santat’s use of shadow and color is just mesmerizing.


Who am I?

I expect that the folks at Shepherd.com approached me as a picture book author, since I’m the author of eleven picture books, including the four books of the Vampirina Ballerina series, which were adapted into the Disney Junior hit series Vampirina. But my thoughts and ideas about friendship and community really stem from once having been a child myself and from being a parent of four children, each of whom approached the roller coaster ride of childhood friendship in their unique ways. I was always happy to help them find answers in a book, even when those answers involved more, and deeper, questions.


I wrote...

Groundhug Day

By Anne Marie Pace,

Book cover of Groundhug Day

What is my book about?

Starring a cast of lovable forest animals, Groundhug Day is ostensibly a book about late winter and spring holidays, but more deeply, it’s about friendship. If we value our friends, we take time to appreciate the ways in which we are all different from one another. Instead of dismissing Groundhog because he is afraid of shadows, the friends learn to work with him to help him conquer his fears. And while Porcupine’s quills make it difficult to hug him, the friends find other ways to express affection.

Groundhug Day may start out being about a Valentine's Day Party, but in the end, it’s really a celebration of community.

The Yellow Bird Sings

By Jennifer Rosner,

Book cover of The Yellow Bird Sings

It’s Poland 1941, and Roza and her 5-year-old daughter Shira are hiding in a neighbor’s barn, and hoping beyond hope that they will remain safe, because the rest of their family has all been taken away. This is a lyrical read which many musical analogies since Shira is a musical prodigy. I loved this book because you are right there, staying silent, while trying to create a life with your daughter.  This was inspired by the true stories of hidden children during WWII and stayed with me long after. 


Who am I?

I love to write stories of historical injustice, so this is mainly the genre I read. In recent years, many new novels merely rehashed the same theme, such as the horror show known as Auschwitz or the other camps. Although those are worthy of the people who died there, I’m always on the hunt for a fresh story that has never been told about those tragic years. 


I wrote...

When We Were Brave

By Karla M. Jay,

Book cover of When We Were Brave

What is my book about?

When We Were Brave tells three little-remembered stories that weave together and beg to be heard. We find a conflicted SS officer, Wilhelm Falk, who risks everything to escape the Wehrmacht and get out the message about the death camps. Izaak is a young Jewish boy whose positive outlook is challenged daily as each new perilous situation comes along. American citizens, Herbert Müller, and his family are sent back to the hellish landscape of Germany because of the DNA coursing through their veins. In the panorama of World War II, these are the high-stakes plots and endearing characters whose braided fates we pray will work out in the end.

The Egypt Game

By Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Alton Raible (illustrator),

Book cover of The Egypt Game

As a kid, I was fascinated by the mysteries of ancient Egypt. My mother, an elementary school librarian, introduced me to this book when I was in the fifth grade — and I’ve loved it ever since. The story centers around April Hall, the daughter of a famous movie actress. When the girl goes to live with her grandmother, she and two neighbor kids amuse themselves by creating their own ancient Egyptian “society” based on a shared fascination with archaeology. They make costumes, devise rituals, and even choose a pharaoh to rule them. Their “Egypt” is located in the forgotten storage yard behind a creepy antique shop, but this secret world is threatened first by neighborhood bullies and later by a serial killer who’s stalking children.


Who am I?

I’ve always loved mysterious and hidden places — and they often appear in my writing. My Summer (with Robots) is a great example, as both an underground desert fort and a mysterious house inhabited by robots play significant roles. Both were inspired by events from my childhood in Tucson, Arizona, but who hasn’t created secret places of their own? How about a blanket fort? Or a treehouse? Or maybe you were that kid who made a private den by pulling the covers up over your head and reading your favorite book by flashlight? I hope my selections help you recapture this simple thrill of discovering mysterious places!


I wrote...

My Summer (with Robots)

By Marsh Myers,

Book cover of My Summer (with Robots)

What is my book about?

Quinton Wyatt's summer break before high school should be nothing but wall-to-wall fun. Instead, his best friend has stopped talking to him; his fiendish older sister has filled his head with tales of a sadistic high school ritual called "The Freshman Stomp"; and his divorced father has started dating the city's most notorious barfly. Maybe a robot rabbit and a boy from his past can help salvage Quinton's vacation and launch him into the difficult — but often hilarious — world of young adulthood. This is Book 1 in the Quinton’s Curious Mind young adult series.

Here in the Real World

By Sara Pennypacker,

Book cover of Here in the Real World

I felt so much kinship with Ware, the introverted hero of this story, I kept reading out loud to my family the things he said and thought and felt. When Ware’s parents tell him he’ll need to spend the summer at forced-group-togetherness Rec camp, I moaned in horrified sympathy. When they tell him he’ll temporarily have to live in the glassed-in back porch, I wailed with Ware, “It’s not a room if it doesn’t have walls!” I was over the moon when Ware discovers a way to navigate his life so his needs are met. 


Who am I?

Every one of my books is centered around characters finding a place where they can be fully, unapologetically, joyfully themselves. If you had asked my child self where my happy place was, I would have told you it was my room, empty of other people but full of books. I am very friendly and would love to meet you, but I also delight in solitude, and my imagination sparks and cartwheels when I am quiet. It turns out there’s a word for this inborn trait of mine: introversion. I’m always looking for stories that celebrate the strengths of us quietly powerful introverts. 


I wrote...

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle

By Christina Uss,

Book cover of The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle

What is my book about?

One girl. Two wheels. Four thousand miles to go. Introverted Bicycle has lived most of her life quietly—and happily—at the Mostly Silent Monastery in Washington, D.C. When her guardian says she must attend a summer friend-making camp, Bicycle seeks a different path. She sets off on her bike for California to prove she can make her first friend her own way.

Who knew that a ghost would haunt her handlebars, or that she would have to contend with bike-hating dogs, a bike-loving horse, and bike-crushing pigs? Over the uphills and downhills of her journey, Bicycle discovers that friends are not such a bad thing to have after all, and that a dozen cookies really can solve most problems.

The Ice Garden

By Guy Jones,

Book cover of The Ice Garden

This is an absolute heartstopper of a novel. The protagonist, Jess, has a rare skin condition that means she is allergic to sunlight. Even the tiniest exposure can cause her serious injury and pain. She lives her life in a world of loneliness and shadows, but is desperate for an adventure. When she sneaks out one night she discovers a garden of ice that will change her life forever. Not only did I love the magic of this novel, I loved Jess’s humour and I was weeping for her towards the end. A wonderful book that really touched my heart.


Who am I?

Whatever story I’m telling, I try to write female characters who are smart, funny, kind, and ultimately empowering; characters that drive the narrative, not the other way around. It is really important for me that my female characters have agency – that they actively move the story forward, make decisions and step up. Those are the kind of stories I like to read too. The books on this list are some of my favourites and all contain strong female protagonists. I hope you enjoy.


I wrote...

Girl (in Real Life)

By Tamsin Winter,

Book cover of Girl (in Real Life)

What is my book about?

Girl (in Real Life) is a funny and heartfelt novel exploring the highs and lows of online fame from award-winning author Tamsin Winter. Eva's parents run a hugely successful YouTube channel, and Eva is the star of the show. But she is getting sick of being made to pose in stupid mum-and-daughter matching outfits for sponsored posts. The freebies aren't worth the teasing at school. And when an intensely humiliating "period party" post goes viral, Eva is outraged. She's going to find a way to stop the channel, even if she has to sabotage it herself.

“Winter's funny and thought-provoking third novel vividly evokes the sense of powerlessness and exposure on the flip side of viral fame.” The Guardian

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