Oh Wonder! 10 Delightful Books to Power Up Your Child’s Imagination

Photo by Jakob / Stocksy / 1247732
Photo by Jakob / Stocksy United

By Rachel Ward

Imagination is a magical power, and children possess it in spades. Through their wondrous eyes and with the power of their minds, clouds turn into dragons, sticks become wizards’ wands, and a cardboard box can take them all the way to the moon! But there’s more to imagination than mere flights of fancy: Children learn to solve problems with creativity, deepen their empathy and understanding of others’ points of view, and think about possibilities unfettered by “rules” (all while having fun!). These 10 books celebrate imagination—and encourage it to soar! (Which makes them excellent reading for adults, too.)

Iggy Peck Architect cover
Text copyright © 2007 by Andrea Beaty. Illustrations copyright © 2007 by David Roberts. Used by permission of Abram's Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

1. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

Age group: Preschool and up

Iggy has had a knack for construction since he could crawl—he loves creating towers and buildings out of anything, from leftover breakfast to chalk! But when his new teacher tells him there will no more building in her classroom, Iggy no longer has an outlet for his imagination. Can he change his teacher’s mind?

Once Upon a Cloud cover
Once Upon a Cloud by Claire Keane. Used by permission of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.

2. Once Upon a Cloud by Claire Keane

Age group: Toddler and up

When Celeste wants to get the perfect gift for her mom, a brisk wind sweeps her away on her bed and into the sky to aid her search. She meets the Sun, the Moon, and the stars, but it isn’t until she returns to Earth that she finds exactly what she’s looking for.

Not a Box cover
Copyright © 2007 by Antoinette Portis. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

3. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Age group: Toddler and up

A creative little rabbit emphatically denies that his box is actually a box. Instead, it’s a burning building, then a rocket ship, then a mountaintop, and then a hot air balloon! This book is guaranteed to help your little inventor-to-be start thinking, well, outside the box.

Poppy Pickle cover
Text and illustrations copyright © 2015 by Emma Yarlett. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

4. Poppy Pickle by Emma Yarlett

Age group: Preschool

Poppy runs into trouble when she’s sent to her room and everything she imagines starts to come to life. Soon her room is filled with tap-dancing bunnies, mustachioed octopi, and a castle made of cake—and that’s when things really start to get rowdy. Can Poppy figure out how to get rid of her creations before her parents find out?

Skippyjon Jones cover
Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner. Used by permission of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.

5. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

Age group: Toddler and up

A little Siamese kitten with a giant imagination, Skippyjon Jones catches sight of himself in a mirror and thinks he looks like a Chihuahua. Thus begin his adventures as El Skippito, the fearless, swashbuckling swordfighter who braves bandits and rescues his friends from a giant bumblebee!

The Dot cover
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

6. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Age group: Preschool

Vashti doesn’t have the imagination to draw—or so she thinks. With her teacher’s encouragement, Vashti finds that even a dot can turn a plain canvas into an artful masterpiece. Turns out, she has more creative inspiration than she knew.

Journey cover
Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

7. Journey by Aaron Becker

Age group: Toddler and up

With no one to play with and nothing interesting to do, a bored little girl draws a door on her bedroom wall, steps through, and finds herself in a magical world filled with color. As she travels through the kingdom, she finds herself on an unexpected mission to free a bird captured by the powerful emperor. (Fun twist: There’s no words in this Caldecott award-winner, just beautifully detailed pictures!)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs cover
Used by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

8. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

Age group: Preschool and up

In the land of Chewandswallow, it rains soup, snows mashed potatoes and peas, and even has the occasional hamburger-storm. But when the weather starts getting unpredictable (Gorgonzola blizzards and tomato tornadoes make appearances), the townsfolk decide it’s time for a change.

My Garden cover
Copyright © 2010 by Kevin Henkes.

9. My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Age group: Toddler and up

A little girl helps her mother in their garden and imagines what she would plant in her own. With flowers that change colors, chocolate-bunny plants, and glowing strawberries, her garden is one of a kind! What would your garden grow?

Snow Dog Sand Dog cover
Text copyright © 2014 by Linda Joy Singleton. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Albert Whitman & Company. Used by permission of Albert Whitman & Company. All rights reserved.

10. Snow Dog, Sand Dog by Linda Joy Singleton

Age group: Preschool and up

Ally has severe allergies, which means that even though she desperately wants a dog, it’s just not in the cards. But Ally doesn’t let that stop her—one winter, she builds a dog out of snow and her imagination brings it to life. As the season changes, she simply rebuilds her snow dog out of something else, like sand or leaves, so her companion can join her year-round!

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