Best Kids Books About Imagination

The 42 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!

Where the Wild Things Are book
#1
Where the Wild Things Are
Written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

In the forty years since Max first cried "Let the wild rumpus start," Maurice Sendak's classic picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children's books of all time. Now, in celebration of this special anniversary, introduce a new generation to Max's imaginative journey to where the wild things are.

When Charlie McButton Lost Power book
#2
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!

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.

The Magical Life of Mr. Renny book
#4
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.

Harold and the Purple Crayon book
#5
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.

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.

What To Do With a Box book
#8
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.

Lily Wool book
#9
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.

Oh, the THINKS You Can Think! book
#10
Oh, the THINKS You Can Think!
Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Young readers will delight in Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! which celebrates the imagination and encourages young readers to think . . . about thinking! “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the Thinks you can think up if only you try.” Originally created by Dr. Seuss, Beginner Books encourage children to read all by themselves, with simple words and illustrations that give clues to their meaning.

Maggie and Wendel: Imagine Everything! book
#11
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
#12
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.

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse book
#13
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.

Sleepover with Beatrice & Bear book
#14
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.

Duncan the Story Dragon book
#15
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!

Beautiful Oops! book
#16
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
#17
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
#18
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!

If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party book
#19
If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party
Written and illustrated by Jill Esbaum
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

You never know what will happen when a "T. Rex" crashes your birthday party. Sure, you'll be super excited when he turns up. But then he ll stomp. He ll ROAR. He ll wonder how you taste with a little mustard. In the end, though, you may find yourself asking him to come back next year! This delightfully whimsical picture book has a fun twist kids will love."

The Gruffalo book
#20
The Gruffalo
Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A mouse is taking a stroll through the deep, dark wood when along comes a hungry fox, then an owl, and then a snake. The mouse is good enough to eat but smart enough to know this, so he invents . . . the gruffalo! As Mouse explains, the gruffalo is a creature with terrible claws, and terrible tusks in its terrible jaws, and knobbly knees and turned-out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of its nose. But Mouse has no worry to show. After all, there’s no such thing as a gruffalo. . . .

Oh, the Places You'll Go! book
#21
Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-17

Dr. Seuss's wonderfully wise Oh, the Places You'll Go! is the perfect send-off for grads--from nursery school, high school, college, and beyond! From soaring to high heights and seeing great sights to being left in a Lurch on a prickle-ly perch, Dr. Seuss addresses life's ups and downs with his trademark humorous verse and illustrations, while encouraging readers to find the success that lies within. In a starred review, Booklist notes, "Seuss's message is simple but never sappy: life may be a 'Great Balancing Act,' but through it all 'There's fun to be done.'" A perennial favorite and a perfect gift for anyone starting a new phase in their life!

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.

Sophie's Squash book
#24
Sophie's Squash
Written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

"Perfect for the fall season, Sophie's Squash is a delightful story of friendship and imagination." - Seira Wilson, Amazon Editor On a trip to the farmers' market with her parents, Sophie chooses a squash, but instead of letting her mom cook it, she names it Bernice. From then on, Sophie brings Bernice everywhere, despite her parents' gentle warnings that Bernice will begin to rot. As winter nears, Sophie does start to notice changes.... What's a girl to do when the squash she loves is in trouble? The recipient of four starred reviews, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor, Sophie's Squash will be a fresh addition to any collection of autumn books.

The Red Boat book
#25
The Red Boat
Written and illustrated by Hannah Cumming
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Posy is afraid of her new house and all the unknown that comes with it, but when she and her dog find a red boat in the garden, she imagines all kinds of adventures and gains confidence despite being the new kid.

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