Our Top 5 Favorite Books to Spark Kids’ Imaginations!

November 8, 2022
By Beth Herrild

I design the monthly boxes for Outside the Box Creation. Each box includes a book to read to spark kids’ imaginations and set the stage for the art project. Parents love that our boxes all contain books and I love that I get to read children’s books a lot. So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite picture books. You may be thinking “My child is too old for picture books.” Certainly that may be true, but don’t be too quick to dismiss picture books. They are all works of art in themselves. I’ve known many a middle schooler who would wander over to listen if a reading an engaging picture books was being read aloud.

Here are our top 5 favorite books to spark kids’ imaginations! Some of these have been in our boxes and some haven’t. Discovering new worlds and new ideas together is the perfect way to deepen your connection with your child and to help her create new neural pathways in her brain! Books can also help kids understand big ideas and introduce tough discussions. Reading is a meaning making activity that helps kids make sense of the world. When you combine text with beautiful illustrations kids also use visual images to make meaning which enhances their visual literacy.

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I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse

The first thing you’ll notice about this book is the absolutely beautiful watercolor illustrations and the fact that it is a super sweet story! A mother and her two sons go fishing. The boys keep trying to get her to say which one she loves best and which one is better at fishing. The mom not only refuses to choose a favorite, but uses color and vibrant adverbs and adjectives to bring their unique gifts and personalities alive. The author’s words conjure striking visual images. They even incorporate some onomatopoeia (words that phonetically imitate or resemble the sound they describe). This book is a great way to launch kids’ imaginations in full color! “Why Max, I love you the reddest! I love you the color of a leopard’s eyes when it prowls through the jungle, the color of a campfire at the edge of the flame…”


My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

This book was actually published after Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Seuss Geisel, passed away. Dr. Seuss said this book was his “first book ever to be based on beautiful illustrations and sensational color”. It isn’t exactly onomatopoeia, but the words really convey the feelings he is expressing about each color: “On Purple Days, I’m sad, I groan, I drag my tail, I walk alone.” When reading this book aloud, children really understand in a visceral way, how colors can convey feelings. They also begin to understand that feelings aren’t forever, they will pass. And that all of us have days when we feel down, , as well as days we feel happy and bright.

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Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds

Sky Color is about a little girl, Marisol. She volunteers to paint the sky in a class mural. But there’s no blue paint! Then, she sees a beautiful multi-colored sunset on the way home from school. She realizes that skies aren’t just blue, but lots of colors. This book encourages kids to notice all the colors around them. We also see how Marisol comes to the realization that skies aren’t only blue. Younger kids are concrete thinkers. Around the tween years they begin to think more abstractly. Helping your child expand her thinking beyond “tree trunks are brown; sky is blue” and encouraging her to really see what colors appear in a tree trunk or sky, will help her important powers of observation. It will also enhance her focus and imagination. For more about this, read our blog Drawing Brings Out the Best in Your Brain.


The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne by Peter H. Reynolds

The King Who Rained is an older book but still just as charming and fun. A little girl is visualizing her parent’s expressions literally because she doesn’t understand them, like a fork in the road, or a head on a beer. The illustrations hilariously show common homophones and idioms used in the english language. This book will make kids laugh out loud! It’ll also stimulate their imaginations to think of other funny words and what they might look like if illustrated literally!


An Atlas of Imaginary Places by Mia Cassany, illustrated by Ana de Lima by Fred Gwynne by Peter H. Reynolds

We featured An Atlas of Imaginary Places in one of our boxes last year. It’s a pure delight for the eyes and the creative imagination! The illustrations are fun and fanciful encouraging kids to suspend reality and dream! There’s an erupting pink volcano and an entire city on a whale’s back! Encourage your kids to pick up some markers or gel pens and doodle away!

Why We Include a Book in Every Box

The first reason we put a book in every box is to give kids a context for the art project. Reading about a particular artist helps them understand why what they’re learning with the project and why. When the book’s illustrations show the medium or technique they’re learning in the project it gives them a context. One of our customers said, “

“Today the boys chose to do one of the art boxes from Outside the Box Creation and we learned about value and shading, plus various techniques in black/white drawing. We learned to observe objects closely for shadow whether it’s round or with hard edges. The book included to depict these techniques was Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. The 7yo poured over the illustrations once he realized they were done using the same techniques we were learning. The entire experience was excellent!”

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photo credit @ashleyselvarajah

Reading books with your child is a perfect way to integrate language, literature, history and other disciplines with art. Reading vivid text encourages children to use their imaginations and create images in their heads. According to a study published in Pediatrics, children who had been read to at home showed significantly greater activation of a brain area that is, “…all about multi-sensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation,” according to Dr. John S. Hutton, the lead author and a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Reading to children not only builds neural pathways in their brains, but also creates an amazing long-term bond between adults and children. We hope you’ll check out these books to spark kids’ imaginations. Reading and creating art together help you connect with your child in ways that will last a lifetime!

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One young artist enjoying the Bird’s Eye View – Worm’s Eye View Box

The young artist above loved creating with the Bird’s Eye View – Worm’s Eye View box. AND we love that he reads the book, Tuesday David Wiesner, every night before bed! Also, check out another one of our blog posts on How Art Can Help You Raise a Reader.