Looking for the best children’s books about imagination? These picture books about imagination for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Fiction and nonfiction books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about creativity, innovation, invention, imaginative play and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?
Get the lesson plan and activities for Julian is a Mermaid HERE
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Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Pena
Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There’s the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets. There’s the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there’s the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler. But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo–walking the same path, going to the exact same place–Milo realizes that you can’t really know anyone just by looking at them. A great book about perspective!
Get the lesson plan and activities for Milo Imagines the World HERE
Frederick by Leo Lionni
Winter is coming, and all the mice are gathering food . . . except for Frederick. But when the days grow short and the snow begins to fall, it’s Frederick’s stories and poems that warm the hearts and spirits of his fellow field mice. An excellent book for talking about poetry as well!
Get the lesson plan and activities for Frederick HERE
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical train to the North Pole. The Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish. This is a story for all who believe in the spirit of Christmas and those who treasure the sound of a reindeer’s silver bell.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Polar Express HERE
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
Marian called it Roxaboxen. There across the road, it looked like any rocky hill—nothing but sand and rocks, and some old wooden boxes. But it was a special place. And all children needed to go there was a long stick and a soaring imagination.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Roxaboxen HERE
Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers
Finn lives by the sea and the sea lives by him. Every time he looks out his window it’s a constant reminder of the stories his grandfather told him about the place where the ocean meets the sky. Where whales and jellyfish soar and birds and castles float.
Finn’s grandfather is gone now but Finn knows the perfect way to honor him. He’ll build his own ship and sail out to find this magical place himself! And when he arrives, maybe, just maybe, he’ll find something he didn’t know he was looking for.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Ocean Meets Sky HERE
She Made a Monster by Lynn Fulton
On a stormy night two hundred years ago, a young woman sat in a dark house and dreamed of her life as a writer. She longed to follow the path her own mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, had started down, but young Mary Shelley had yet to be inspired.
As the night wore on, Mary grew more anxious. The next day was the deadline that her friend, the poet Lord Byron, had set for writing the best ghost story. After much talk of science and the secrets of life, Mary had gone to bed exhausted and frustrated that nothing she could think of was scary enough. But as she drifted off to sleep, she dreamed of a man that was not a man. He was a monster. A fascinating book about how imagination can be used to create stories that are truly a work of art.
Get the lesson plan and activities for She Made a Monster HERE
Proud As a Peacock Brave As a Lion by Jane Barclay
Much has been written about war and remembrance, but very little of it has been for young children. As questions come from a young grandchild, his grandpa talks about how, as a very young man, he was as proud as a peacock in uniform, busy as a beaver on his Atlantic crossing, and brave as a lion charging into battle. Soon, the old man’s room is filled with an imaginary menagerie as the child thinks about different aspects of wartime. But as he pins medals on his grandpa’s blazer and receives his own red poppy in return, the mood becomes more somber.
Outside, the crowd gathered for the veterans’ parade grows as quiet as a mouse, while men and women — old and young — march past in the rain. A trumpet plays and Grandpa lays a wreath in memory of his lost friend. Just then, the child imagines an elephant in the mist. “Elephants never forget,” he whispers to his grandpa. “Then let’s be elephants,” says the old man, as he wipes water from his eyes and takes his grandson’s hand. An amazing story for Memorial Day!
Get the lesson plan and activities for Proud As a Peacock Brave As a Lion HERE
Journey by Aaron Becker
A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? A masterful, engaging wordless picture book!
Get the lesson plan and activities for Journey HERE
Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
Enter the witty, intriguing world of Weslandia! Now that school is over, Wesley needs a summer project. He’s learned that each civilization needs a staple food crop, so he decides to sow a garden and start his own — civilization, that is. He turns over a plot of earth, and plants begin to grow. They soon tower above him and bear a curious-looking fruit. As Wesley experiments, he finds that the plant will provide food, clothing, shelter, and even recreation. It isn’t long before his neighbors and classmates develop more than an idle curiosity about Wesley — and exactly how he is spending his summer vacation.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Weslandia HERE
Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood
Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation. An amazing story also for Hispanic Heritage Month!
Get the lesson plan and activities for Ada’s Violin HERE
Dear Mr. Blueberry Dear Greenpeace by Simon James
It’s vacation time, so Emily has to write to her teacher to help when she discovers a blue whale living in her pond. Mr. Blueberry answers that she must be mistaken, because whales live in the ocean, not in ponds. Throughout the summer, Emily and Mr. Blueberry exchange letters, until Emily has a happy surprise to share with her teacher. In the process, Emily learns a lot about whales. And Mr. Blueberry learns even more about imagination, faith, and love.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Dear Mr. Blueberry Dear Greenpeace HERE
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories and books. But every story has its upsets. Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds. But the power of story will save the day. An amazing book about the value and importance of reading!
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba’s Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone’s crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library . . . and figured out how to bring electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind. An excellent story about a young Black inventor!
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind HERE
Drawn Together by Minh Le
When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words. An excellent story about family that is also perfect for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
Get the lesson plan and activities for Drawn Together HERE
Lift by Minh Le
Iris loves to push the elevator buttons in her apartment building, but when it’s time to share the fun with a new member of the family, she’s pretty put out. That is, until the sudden appearance of a mysterious new button opens up entire realms of possibility, places where she can escape and explore on her own. But when she’s forced to choose between going at it alone or letting her little brother tag along, Iris finds that sharing a discovery with the people you love can be the most wonderful experience of all.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Lift HERE
In a Jar by Deborah Marcero
Llewellyn, a little rabbit, is a collector. He gathers things in jars–ordinary things like buttercups, feathers, and heart-shaped stones. Then he meets another rabbit, Evelyn, and together they begin to collect extraordinary things–like rainbows, the sound of the ocean, and the wind just before snow falls. And, best of all, when they hold the jars and peer inside, they remember all the wonderful things they’ve seen and done. But one day, Evelyn has sad news: Her family is moving away. How can the two friends continue their magical collection–and their special friendship–from afar?
Get the lesson plan and activities for In a Jar HERE
Hum and Swish by Matt Myers
It’s a glorious summer day at the shore, and all Jamie wants is to finish her art project in the sand. A little time to herself is all she needs. But everyone around keeps asking her pesky questions she doesn’t know how to answer: what are you making? Aren’t you clever?
Jamie does her best to tune it all out and focus on her creation . . . until she finds a like-minded friend, who’s as happy to work quietly as she is: a fellow artist.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Hum and Swish HERE
The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat
This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and–at long last–is given his special name: Beekle.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Adventures of Beekle HERE
Best Books About Imagination
What are some of your favorite books about imagination? Are there any must read children’s books about imagination that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!
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[…] and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her […]
[…] From two-time Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Barbara Cooney and celebrated children’s book author Alice McLerran comes Roxaboxen, a treasured story about the magic of a child’s imagination. […]
[…] magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked […]
[…] discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any […]