Celebrating Imagination – Picture Books

Imaginations are beautiful. While we see a cluster of trees, a couch full of laundry, or a muddy drive way, our children see jungles with wild beast lurking, ships sailing on the high seas and a swamp teaming with alligators. There is nothing more delightful that sharing a book  with your children that embraces that gift of seeing the unseen.

We have enjoyed two picture books recently that showcase the wonders of imagination. Much conversation was had after reading these selections. It was fun to see everyone’s observations and different spins on how they heard the stories.

Beyond the Pond (Joseph Kuefler) We meet a young boy, Ernest D, in his backyard. It is just an ordinary day with no excitement in sight. Ernest decides to see how deep the pond is in his backyard and discovers that it could be bottomless.  Suited up in diving gear, Ernest dives into the depths of his pond to discovery the expected pond life. But as he goes deeper more is to be found in the shadows.

This tale of imagination and adventure is illustrated perfectly. The story begins with an ordinary house and backyard. Once Ernest returns from the depths of his pond, his world is no longer ordinary and gray and boring. There is now color and life. Imaginations are powerful. What is in your backyard?

The Whisperer (Pamela Zagarenski) was a lovely surprise for me. It happened to catch my eye from the library shelf and I tossed it in the book bag. What an enchanting treasure!

A young girl is given a magical book. As she journeys home, the letters and words fall off the pages and out of the book. When the girl arrives home and opens the book to read she is startled and troubled to see no words, no story. Then, inspired by the illustrations she sees, the girl weaves her own stories for the book. And here she finds a hidden treasure: her own imagination and her own stories.

The Whisperer celebrates the gift of reading, storytelling and imagination. I love hearing the stories and adventures that my children create. What a gift to encourage in our children. Whimsical, enchanting illustrations will inspire even the youngest reader to spin a tale. We enjoyed The Whisperer again and again. I think you might as well!

What books have you enjoyed that has celebrated childhood and imagination?


Monday Mayhem

I have  friend who lives in the midwest. She works in the local public school system that has implemented a most ingenious concept. Every Monday the school flows on a two-hour delay schedule. Mondays are hard, am I right? A two-hour delayed scheduled seems simply brilliant to me. Brilliant!

I thought to myself, “Well, this concept is so scrumptious that I should give it a go here. And if a two hour delay is great, well a four hour delay is even better! Right?” (Side note: Every time I type “delay” I spell “dealy”. I may be suffering from a caffeine shortage. )

Perhaps a four hour delay was a bit much but we definitely hit the two hour delay this morning. All of us seemed to have trouble jumping out of our cozy beds and jumping into school work. Add in that it was an absolutely gorgeous day outside. The struggle is real.

It was a bit chaotic. This happens when you have a 16 month old who is quite fast at destruction. Wooden blocks + mommy’s computer = a mom/sibling attack from both sides. Three kiddos worked in shifts on my computer. A simple “game” with index cards with line drawings and craft sticks counted as preschool math and my three year old was so glad to be “finished with her hard math”.  Screaming and not so nice words over an allegedly stolen peg doll. Two kiddos begging to do grammar because we get to start a new week and they are so ready to do their poster. Can we please do it now? Checking math. And then checking another level of math. And checking another level of math.

Then. Yes. Everything seemed to settle down. No one was fighting. No one was screaming. Work was underway. Laundry was washing and drying. All math was checked. The computer was available for Spanish. Ahhhh. Then. Yes. Then my daughter noted that the time was 1pm and the little ones might want lunch. Really? Is it necessary to eat three meals a day? Really.

And those phone calls I was suppose to make? Yeah. Let’s just bump those to Tuesday.

On the bright side, my little ones and I had a lovely discussion on sin, consequences, discipline, and forgiveness. My kitchen is clean. I have a lovely dragon and knight on my dry erase board. I finished another book from the Cybils nominations. We enjoyed a loud, lively dinner with lots of laughs. Another episode of the Great British Baking Show has been enjoyed. Many adventures happened in the backyard. My three year old loves me and loves her footed sleeper. I, thankfully, do not have a footed sleeper. Much to smile about, am I right? Why, yes I am.

Just keepin’ it real.  How was your Monday?

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend

With nine children in our home, there isn’t much we haven’t encountered in the past sixteen years. However, there is one childhood experience that has never been a part of our lives. Imaginary friends. Not one of my children (so far) has had an imaginary friend. There is no shortage of imagination. It seems that with so many siblings no one has felt the need to create a companion.

When I selected the book Confessions of an Imaginary Friend it was purely for me to read and then perhaps to pass along to my nine year old daughter. She is definitely the most challenging of my children to find books for. She can be quite the picky, um, selective reader.

“The truth is, that’s all anyone wants, to be known that way, to be seen. I don’t mean our hair or our clothes, I mean seen for who we really are. We all want to find that one person who knows the real us, all our quirks, and still understands. Have you ever had anyone see you? Really, truly, the deepest part that seems invisible to the rest of the world? I hope you have. I have. I have always had Fleur. “

But as often happens, we had finished our evening read aloud and needed a new book. The book was determined by Listeners’ Choice. Mary and I chose five or six books. A few classic read alouds and a couple of new books. The winner, as you know, was Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas.

I will make my own confession right now. I began this book thinking it was going to be a simple story of an imaginary friend. Maybe an adventure or two to share. I would have never selected it on my own as a read aloud. Would it appeal to that broad of an audience? I didn’t think so.

Wrong. I was most assuredly wrong. Jacques Papier is quite the character. His memoir is worth the read.

“And then, I was really, truly alone. Who are you when everything you’ve ever known about yourself is gone?

Who are you when there’s nobody around to remind you of your role, and no memories to regret or keep you warm?

What would you look like if you couldn’t remember ever looking like anything? What form would you take?

What would you dream at night if you had no memories? What notes would get stuck in your head if your remembered no songs?”

Jacques thinks that he is not a very popular guy. The teacher never calls on him during class, no one ever picks him to be on their team, and often his parents forget to tell him goodnight. Thankfully, he has his fabulous sister, Fleur. She is the best. (We will not even mention the annoying doggie, Francois.)

A chance encounter with Roller-Skating Cowgirl changes Jacques world forever. Cowgirl gives the shocking new that Jacques is an imaginary friend. At first Jacques scoffs at such a thought but finally accepts the truth. Then Jacques begins his quest for freedom. Can he really be free?

Jacques meets other imaginary friends at Imaginaries Anonymous such as Mr. Pitiful, Stinky Sock, and The Everything.  Yes, a support group for imaginary friends. Just think how difficult it is to be imaginary!

Not only does Jacques find encouragement from fellow Imaginaries but he also becomes the imaginary friend of other children besides Fleur. Those experiences change Jacques. He comes to realize an important truth about himself and others.

“The truth is…you’re only as invisible as you feel,       imaginary or not.”

From the beginning pages, we were all chuckling. Old and young alike found Jacques view of the world quite funny and the occasional sarcasm was perfectly timed. Ms. Cuevas did a masterful job of balancing humor and deeper strands running through the story. By the end of the book, there were a few of us in tears. Absolutely beautiful, sweet, childhood perfect ending. My nine year old even cried at the end and she has never cried over a book before.

I think you should add this to your Read Aloud Basket. The suggested age range is 8-12 years but we all enjoyed it immensely. We would finish a chapter and my older children would comment on the depth of the story. There is much to discuss and think about. Chapters are short so it works well for reading during lunch or at bedtime. If a rainy afternoon pops up, you might could read it in a day. Two thumbs up from the Tribe!