No doubt about it—there’s a direct connection between dreaming and doing. Three new picture books prove the imagination is a mighty tool, indeed. We may be living in the digital age, but as these books demonstrate, good old-fashioned make-believe never goes out of style.
CHASING DOWN A DREAM
Persistence pays off in Brian Pinkney’s inspiring On the Ball. Owen is having a less-than-stellar day at soccer practice. A fall on the field gets him sent to the bench, and then, to make matters worse, he fails to keep the ball from bouncing away. Owen chases it across a stream and into some bushes, where—imagining himself as a cat—he’s primed to pounce on it. But he can’t stop the ball on its mad journey, and his pursuit turns into an unforgettable adventure. When at last he reclaims the ball and zips back to the soccer field, Owen discovers he has new skills (“It was like his feet had wings”), and he always—always—watches the ball. Featuring minimalist lines amped up with washes of watercolor, Pinkney’s less-is-more illustrations of Owen on the run are wonderfully kinetic. As his story shows, determination and imagination are winning traits for a team player. Goooaaal!
CONCOTING THE PERFECT PLOT
A little make-believe saves the day in Nicola O’Byrne’s clever Use Your Imagination. Rabbit is bored: “I wish something would happen,” he says, and straightaway Wolf appears. Although his big green eyes and sinister grin indicate otherwise, Wolf says he’s a librarian (indeed!) and thus an expert in the art of storytelling. Despite this not-quite-credible claim, Rabbit agrees to Wolf’s plan of making up a fairy tale, complete with the requisite plot elements: a forest, a hero (Rabbit himself) and a villain (guess who). To this traditional scenario Rabbit adds a few surprises, including a huge pink elephant, but his ideas are quickly nixed by Wolf, who has his own plot in mind. An unhappy ending seems imminent until Rabbit outsmarts Wolf—using his imagination, of course! O’Byrne depicts the duo’s test of wits in lively, colorful mixed-media illustrations. Her delightful tale is a testament to the power of pretending.
CREATIVITY REALLY COUNTS
Faye Hanson’s The Wonder features a small boy with a big imagination. Fascinated by the world around him, the young lad is easily distracted. At the park, he wanders onto the grass and gets scolded by the groundskeeper. At school, he’s warned about daydreaming. But when art period rolls around and he’s urged by the teacher to use his imagination, the boy is in his element. On paper, he creates a fantastical realm where anything is possible (and walking on the grass is encouraged). There’s a flying car piloted by a pair of rabbits and a marching band composed of polar bears. What will this artist-in-the-making dream up next? His artwork earns the teacher’s praise and makes his parents proud. Hanson renders the everyday world in browns, tans and beiges, the better to play up the energy and sparkle of the boy’s imaginings, which brim with color. Her marvelous mixed-media spreads make this a book that lives up to its title.