Best Children's Books About Imagination

The 40 Best Kids Books to Foster Imagination

Updated Feb. 9, 2019

To quote Albert Einstein, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” The older I become, the more I value imagination. Researchers have long discovered that imagination affects children's cognitive development, leading to better problem solving skills and creativity. Plus, it's so much fun! Here are our favorite kids books that will spark and foster imagination!

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles book
#1
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

If I could, I'd rate this book higher! This has been my favorite chapter book for the past year, and is the perfect book to ignite and strengthen a reader's imagination, all while going on an incredible, courageous journey.

The Whangdoodle was once the wisest, the kindest, and the most extraordinary creature in the world. Then he disappeared and created a wonderful land for himself and all the other remarkable animals -- the ten-legged Sidewinders, the little furry Flukes, the friendly Whiffle Bird, and the treacherous, "oily" Prock. It was an almost perfect place where the last of the really great Whangdoodles could rule his kingdom with "peace, love and a sense of fun"-- apart from and forgotten by people. But not completely forgotten. Professor Savant believed in the Whangdoodle. And when he told the three Potter children of his search for the spectacular creature, Lindy, Tom, and Ben were eager to reach Whangdoodleland. With the Professor's help, they discovered the secret way. But waiting for them was the scheming Prock, who would use almost any means to keep them away from his beloved king. Only by skill and determination were the four travelers able to discover the last of the really great Whangdoodles and grant him his heart's desire. Julie Andrews Edwards, star of stage and screen, has written a unique and beloved story that has become a modern classic. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles is sure to continue to delight readers everywhere. This edition includes a new foreword by the author.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book
#2
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From the author of The BFG and Matilda! Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

Max's Castle book
#3
Max's Castle
Written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Boris Kulikov
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Lemony Snickers

Max's Castle is a really clever book and sure to fascinate any early reader. The book brilliantly explores words by mixing around or swapping the letters in one word to create an amalgamation of similar words and anagrams. Early readers are sure to enjoy, for example, that by simply adding an "l" block to the word "adder," Max and his three brothers smartly create a ladder to escape from the dangerous adder in the dungeon of the castle. Kate Banks and Boris Kulikov have some fun with the illustrations and anagrams surprising us with threatening pirates in one page before turning "pirates" into harmless "rat pies" in the next page. This book is sure to delight readers with its wit and imaginative exploration of letters.

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. This ingenious sequel to Max’s Words and Max’s Dragons shows readers just how much fun wordplay can be.

When Charlie McButton Lost Power book
#4
When Charlie McButton Lost Power
Written by Suzanne Collins and illustrated by Mike Lester
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

A wonderful book about unplugging and using your imagination and spending time with those you love! :) I didn't love the illustrations at first, but they've really grown on my and I think they, and the rest of this book, are so fun! I especially think all of the wording and rhyme is fantastic.

Charlie McButton likes computer games so much, he never plays with anything else. When a thunderstorm knocks out the electricity, his tech empire comes tumbling down, and his whole world loses power. Charlie needs batteries?FAST! But the only triple- A?s he can find are in his little sister?s talking doll. Will he resort to desperate measures and cause his sister to have a meltdown of her own? Or will he snap out of his computer craze long enough to realize his sister might be fun, even if she doesn?t come with batteries? Collins and Lester team up for a hilarious and timely tale that will crack up young computer addicts and those who love them!

The Magical Life of Mr. Renny book
#5
The Magical Life of Mr. Renny
Written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When he is unable to sell his paintings and has no money for food, Mr. Renny meets a man who is able to make his paintings come to life.

The Best Birthday Present Ever book
#6
The Best Birthday Present Ever
Written and illustrated by Ben Mantle
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

I still remember the anxiety I felt as a child of having the birthday gift I brought to a party unwrapped and wondering what their reaction would be, so as Squirrel watches Bear unwrap fancier and fancier presents and questions the carefully chosen stick he'd brought, I felt with him, but Bear's reaction is utterly perfect and priceless and teaches a great lesson about imagination, graciousness and the power of friendship. The illustrations are adorable too!

Squirrel is super excited: he’s been invited to Big Bear’s birthday party! Now he just has to find the perfect present for his friend—but what can you give a bear who already has EVERYTHING? Squirrel searches and searches and chooses . . . a stick! As Bear unwraps his stack of gifts Squirrel begins to worry: is it enough? But with a little imagination, and a good friend, even the simplest stick can become magical. This funny, heartwarming story of friendship is a great gift—and not just for bears!

Dog Loves Drawing book
#7
Dog Loves Drawing
Written and illustrated by Louise Yates
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

Such a cute book about imagination and the fun adventures it will take you. :) I love that this book starts with the dog unsure of what to think up next, and that it gives the idea to doodle to gain some inspiration. :)

Dog loves books, but one day he receives a strange one in the mail—it's blank! Soon, Dog realizes that this book is not for reading, but for drawing. Before long, Dog is doodling and drawing himself into a new world, full of friends and surprises.

I Spy with My Little Eye book
#8
I Spy with My Little Eye
Written and illustrated by Paula Vasquez
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

Mouse and Little Bear take readers on a journey with each page. Start with a color, point out a shape, and then use your imagination. Is that blue square an open window? Brrr! It’s chilly outside. And is that a red triangle? No, it is a scary volcano. Perfect for bedtime or playtime, this fun and unique primer puts a new spin on a classic game, teaching colors, shapes, and creative play.

Harold and the Purple Crayon book
#9
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This book is a wonderful example of imagination and the joy it brings! Harold can do anything he imagines. I love the simplicity of this book--all it takes is a purple crayon.

Essential Picture Book Classics—timeless stories for every child to treasure. "One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight." Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of wonder and excitement. Full of funny twists and surprises, this joyful story shows just how far your imagination can take you. Harold and the Purple Crayon has delighted readers of all ages for over fifty years.

Lily Wool book
#10
Lily Wool
Written and illustrated by Paula Vasquez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

The story of one little sheep with a big imagination is delightfully told and the illustrations are lovely and whimsical. While Lily Wool is a little reckless in her exploration (resulting in some consequences for others), I love that once she becomes aware of this she uses her imagination again to solve the problem she created, leading her to find her passion as a creator and entrepreneur. We don't have to be perfect, just try our best!

A little lamb with a great big imagination. A new picture book from Paula Vasquez 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 herd. Paula Vasquez,an avowed artist from childhood, studied graphic design at the Universidad Cat�lica de Chile, and honed her illustration skills with a post-graduate diploma from Finis Terrae University. She currently lives in Santiago de Chile writing and illustrating children's picture books.

Duncan the Story Dragon book
#11
Duncan the Story Dragon
Written and illustrated by Amanda Driscoll
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Duncan the Dragon loves to read. When he reads a story, his imagination catches fire! Unfortunately . . . so does his book. Fire breath is great for roasting marshmallows, but it’s not so great for reading. Duncan just wants to get to those two wonderful words, like the last sip of a chocolate milk shake: The End. Will he ever find out how the story ends? This bright, warm tale champions determination, friendship, and a love for books. And milk shakes!

Maggie and Wendel: Imagine Everything! book
#12
Maggie and Wendel: Imagine Everything!
Written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Illustrations and easy-to-read text portray a young brother and sister as they spend an afternoon imagining great adventures together.

Circus Girl book
#13
Circus Girl
Written and illustrated by Clare Pernice
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

When a little girl dons her leotard and socks, she becomes "Circus Girl," the star of a show that incorporates her toys and stuffed animals.

Not a Box book
#14
Not a Box
Written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

A box is just a box...unless it's not a box. From mountain to rocket ship, a small rabbit shows that a box will go as far as the imagination allows. Inspired by a memory of sitting in a box on her driveway with her sister, Antoinette Portis captures the thrill when pretend feels so real that it actually becomes real—when the imagination takes over inside a cardboard box, and through play, a child is transported to a world where anything is possible. This board book edition has sturdy pages and is a good size for the youngest readers.

What To Do With a Box book
#15
What To Do With a Box
Written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Chris Sheban
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I love how this book encourages creativity and imaginative play. This book doesn't have a lot of text, but I like that it's simple and shows how many different things you can do with a box.

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.

Sleepover with Beatrice & Bear book
#16
Sleepover with Beatrice & Bear
Written and illustrated by Monica Carnesi
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Beatrice & Bear meet one spring day and become best buddies. They play together through summer and fall. Then winter comes and Beatrice can't find Bear anywhere. She hears he's gone to hibernate -- but where on earth is that? When Beatrice learns that hibernation is not a place and that Bear will be sleeping all winter long, she fears it will be a lonely season...unless she can come up with a brilliant plan. This delightful story of an irrepressible bunny will engage readers on many levels as it celebrates creativity, making the best of circumstances, and the joy of the changing seasons.

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse book
#17
Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse
Written by Marcy Campbell and illustrated by Corinna Luyken
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is just beautiful: the story itself, the message, and of course the illustrations! The way that Adrian Simcox's white horse with the golden mane emerges from the white space, again and again, is amazing and truly captures the power and reality of imagination. Reminiscent of the oft-posed question of which is better—a lie that brings a smile or a truth that brings a tear—this story lands soundly on the side of the beauty of imagination and our power to create our own world.

A classic in the making, this heartwarming story about empathy and imagination is one that families will treasure for years to come. Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse--the best and most beautiful horse anywhere. But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse? The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn't get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important. Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.

Beautiful Oops! book
#18
Beautiful Oops!
Written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

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. An award winning, best-selling, one-of-a-kind interactive book, Beautiful Oops! shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope”—each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.

Willow book
#19
Willow
Written by Rosemarie Brennan, Denise Brennan-Nelson and illustrated by Cyd Moore
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

In Miss Hawthorn's art class, neatness, conformity, and imitation are encouraged, but when Willow brings imagination and creativity to her projects, even straight-laced Miss Hawthorn is influenced.

Two of Everything book
#20
Two of Everything
Written and illustrated by Lily Toy Hong
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When old Mr. Haktak digs up a curious brass pot in his garden, he has no idea what use it can be. On his way home, Mr. Haktak decides to carry his coin purse in the mysterious pot. But when Mrs. Haktak’s hairpin accidentally slips into the pot and she reaches in to retrieve it, the magic of the pot is revealed. Not only are there two hairpins inside, but there are also two purses!

Dressing Up book
#21
Dressing Up
Written and illustrated by Carol Thompson
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

We’re amazing! We can dance, dress up, sing and make music.

I Can Be Anything book
#22
I Can Be Anything
Written by Jerry Spinelli and illustrated by Jimmy Liao
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

When I grow up, what shall I be? This exuberant book offers up everything from a paper plane folder to a puppy dog holder, from a silly joke teller to a snowball smoother. Newbery-Award winning author Jerry Spinelli's simple and charming rhymes are accompanied by internationally-renowned illustrator Jimmy Liao's vibrant and fantastical illustrations. This book is an imaginative joyride about hopes and dreams, and a reminder of all the possibilities life has to offer. So, what do you want to be? Remember—you can be anything!

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato book
#23
I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato
Written and illustrated by Lauren Child
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Lola is a fussy eater. A very fussy eater. She won’t eat her carrots (until her brother Charlie reveals that they’re orange twiglets from Jupiter). She won’t eat her mashed potatoes (until Charlie explains that they’re cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji). There are many things Lola won’t eat, including - and especially - tomatoes. Or will she? Two endearing siblings star in a witty story about the triumph of imagination over proclivity.

Don't Push the Button! book
#24
Don't Push the Button!
Written and illustrated by Bill Cotter
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

The only rule in Larry's book is that the reader not push the button, but when no one is looking, it may be irresistible.

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat book
#25
The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat
Written by Coral Rumble and illustrated by Charlotte Cooke
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea, in a box on the living room floor. They sailed away for a year and a day and these are the things that they saw. Join two curious children on a quirky adventure, based on the classic Edward Lear poem, The Owl and the Pussycat. Illustrated by Charlotte Cooke, also known for Sunshine and Snowballs & Wish Upon a Dream, this exciting adventure tale will inspire the imaginations of children and adults alike.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.