Imagination can be as seasonal as the fruit and vegetables in our kitchens, with each holding its own set of delights. Snowball fights and sledding in winter, long hours in the pool and under shady trees in summer–you understand what I’m saying. Being that we’re coming out of a long-ish winter that was heavy on negative temperatures and inches of snow, the thunderstorm forts, tree-climbing, and pond-sailing of spring are particularly exciting to be circling back to.
Also circling back in our home are some stacks of favorite picture books to inspire this seasonal imagination, because everyone can use a boost, right? There are so many great titles out there, of which everyone will have their favorites, but I’ll share just five of ours with you to get your own stack started.
“To most everyone, Andrew Henry Thatcher’s enthusiasm for building things was a nuisance,” reads the inside cover page of Andrew Henry’s Meadow (by Doris Burn). If this isn’t enough to draw young listeners in, they’ll surely give rapt attention to how Andrew Henry good-naturedly
handles not being able to reconcile his family to his passion. I’m convinced that as he settles into a secluded meadow that soon fills with his equally misunderstood friends and their wonky houses (all built by Andrew Henry, of course), that just about every child will find something to relate to and delight in (think, private teepees with tunneled entrances for music lovers and dugouts with tiny, confusing passageways for animal lovers). There are a lot of children’s stories that address the troubles of creative young hearts a little aggressively, but this little gem simply tells a good story with a realistic yet happy ending. Out of print but easy to find, this is one of those books I find myself wanting to slide into everyone’s bookshelves.
Fairly new both to the market and us, we used The Boy Who Drew Birds (by Jacqueline Davies) to introduce Audubon into our studies last year. It was such a hit that we stuck it in our seasonal rotation as well. Any child who fills their pockets with rocks, sticks, and other curiosities will surely delight both in the story and pictures of this one. Rather than launching into
Audubon’s life story, this book focuses on what he was like growing up, his collections, some of his young struggles, and how he ended up breaking a lot of scientific notions of his time by simply being curious and paying attention. A note of warning though: Besides encouraging curiosity, having this book around may also lead to larger than normal outdoor collections on all your flat indoor spaces.
Everyone loves Robert McCloskey, right? From characters to settings to two tone drawings, his tales always manage to capture the simplicity and delight of childhood in a way that open his readers’ eyes to the magic of everyday life. Though I wavered between One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal (also in our warm weather rotation), I ultimately fell back on the first because we reach for it the most. Those who know Sal though, will be delighted to find her in this story as well. In some ways it’s a coming of age story from toddler-hood to those middle years of childhood, where losing a tooth is the day one becomes a big kid, and being the older
sibling means teaching the younger set the etiquette of making a wish. With his usual capacity for quirky characters and illuminating the world they’re set in, this is another McCloskey classic perfect for any type of weather.
If you haven’t yet met Patricia Lee Gauch’s Christina Katerina, it’s surely a delight to be introducing you. Eccentric yet creative, she’s the one of those literary friends that everyone needs for a richer and more hilarious life. In this particular story of Christina Katerina & the Box , she manages to embody the lament of nearly every parent at one time or another in saying, “they would been happier with just the box!” Beneath the front apple tree with her own fridge sized box, this girl manages to give her tidy mother grey hairs as she plays everything from castle to race car. With the box growing more and more tattered with every page turn, readers will surely delight in wondering what Christina Katerina can possibly come up with next.
Photo by freepik
Like most families with children ranged in ages, we’re big on pretend play. I have noticed that this is something that comes to the older ones more easily than the younger ones though, so I’m always on the lookout for picture books that stretch their imaginative play. When I picked up In the Forest (by Marie Hall Ets) at a used sale a couple years ago, I had no idea I’d stumbled on a story equal to all the imaginative delight of Helen Oxenbury’s We’re Going On a Bear Hunt. Walking through the forest with a little boy, readers will meet both bird and animal friends who insist on joining “the parade.” But as father comes looking for his boy near the end, we’re left with a little curiosity and wonder over this parade and all those animal friends. This is definitely for the younger crowd (though I have had pre-teens listen in) and unfortunately out of print, but it’s another that is completely possible to find at a steal, so keep an eye out for it.