Picture books combine both visual and written mediums to create texts that bring stories to life for children and adults alike. When we reminisce about childhood, we’re bound to remember the experiences surrounding at least one particular picture book: the person who read it with us, the feelings it evoked, or how it piqued our imaginations.
As we seek to cultivate children’s creative lives, picture books are a simple–but powerful–way to model how they can innovate and think creatively. Here are 10 of our favorite books that demonstrate creative and innovative thinking:
1. Not A Box by Antoinette Portis
Have you seen a child build a cardboard fort? If not, you’re missing out! In this whimsical picture book, Antoinette Portis shows readers that a cardboard cube is anything but a box.
2. Round Trip by Ann Jonas
Typical early childhood reading skills include understanding how to hold a book with the correct orientation, and reading the book from front to back. In Round Trip, author-illustrator Ann Jonas, surprises readers with a story that can be read from top-to-bottom and front-to-back, but when it’s flipped upside down, the story continues through words and images that reflect into a new plot.
3. Bad Day At Riverbend by Chris Van Allsburg
What happens when a story incorporates a secret threat from outside the pages of its book? You get an amazing story with rogue crayons attacking the characters. In this often overlooked picture book, author-illustrator Chris Van Allsburg demonstrates some of his most creative thinking as he re-imagines how a reader can affect a story’s plot.
4. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
There’s nothing more frustrating for a child than feeling like they can’t draw. But, when a teacher intervenes to show them the genius of their “dot,” a child’s despair is transformed into a creative drive that leads to a gallery of work. Who says it’s just a dot?
5. Press Here by Herve Tullet
When toddlers can unlock a smart phone and understand the power behind the tap of their finger, what’s so cool about a picture book? Author-illustrator, Herve Tullet shows children that the pages of a book can be just as responsive as a mobile app.
6. Duck Rabbit by Amy Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
There’s nothing like a good ole’ optical illusion to get your brain ticking. Don’t let the simple text and images fool you! This book gets a room full of children asking: is it a duck or a rabbit? Well, it depends on how you look at it…
7. Big Frog Can’t Fit In by Mo Willems
Who says a picture has to be stuck on a page? Not Mo Willems. In this whimsical “pop-out” book, poor Big Frog just won’t fit! Based on this hilarious story, it looks like it might be time to make a bigger book.
8. Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
Every artist understands the frustration of making a mistake–too much shadow, the wrong shade of green for that leaf, or a splatter of paint in the middle of that white cloud. Barney Saltzberg shows readers that the most frustrating mistakes can be transformed into our most creative work.
9. What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom
When you’re trying to explain how an idea comes to life, there’s nothing handier than a metaphor. In this delightful picturebook, the author and illustrator work together to create a visual metaphor that shows children how their ideas are like an egg that needs to be protected, nurtured, and given the time to grow before it can hatch.
10. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Every creator and innovator knows that their process is magnificent, but painful. Things don’t always go according to plan, the ideas in our heads don’t come out the way we imagine them to be, and sometimes, our ideas just don’t work. In The Most Magnificent Thing, children can see that even though the process can be frustrating, when we step back and relax, we can see our work with a fresh eye and sometimes, we find the perfect solution!