15 lessons on creativity from picture books

As if we needed one more reason to read picture books, there is one. When you look at them through a certain lens, they give you creative advice and inspiration. It’s true!

I got the idea for this post from the first book on the list, but as I looked further, there were many great ones to include.

Come see!



The Most Magnificent Thing is for anyone who’s been frustrated by a project and gotten totally fed up or even given up. (I can raise my hand here.) The girl in the book feels that way and then she takes a walk with her dog. When she returns to her project, she sees it anew. She makes it magnificent. (Side note: Walks are the best places for ideas, don’t you think? But any break will do.)



Things don’t work out so well when A Funny Little Bird tries to be something she’s not. We funny little birds need to all embrace our own quirks for what they are—the things that make us unique.



DJ Kool Herc didn’t start out with that name, but he did start out loving music and records and parties. He pursued his obsession and made hip hop history. (Side note: the author’s note in When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop will put a tear in your eye.)



When Henri Matisse could no longer paint, he didn’t stop making art. He reinvented his. Henri’s Scissors shows how limitations can lead to invention.



I have a special place in my heart for Leo the Late Bloomer as I’m a bit of a late bloomer myself. His mother is truly wise. She doesn’t worry about how everyone else is farther along than Leo. Leo will have his time. The right time for him.



White Is for Blueberry doesn’t make sense at first, right? Shouldn’t it be blue? Or purple? But it does make sense if it’s referring to “when the berry is still too young to pick.” I love how this book challenges our expectations for what’s supposed to be. It’s full of surprises.



Pablo Neruda, Poet of the People took inspiration from nature, from his home in Chile, from small things like “buttons and feathers and shoes and hats…velvet cloth and the color of the sea.”


meandmommaandbigjohnIn Me and Momma and Big John a son learns what his mother does for work, the pride she takes in it, and the way one stone can be part of something truly great.



herman-and-rosieOh Herman. Oh Rosie. A crocodile and deer share a passion for jazz in a big city that keeps them apart until they meet because of music and become Herman and Rosie, duo.




In which a brother and sister take a walk that is not just A Few Blocks, but an adventure, a quest, and a lot of fun.



A girl who finds herself without a companion at home one day goes on a Journey by drawing a red door on one wall of her room. By going through the door, she goes on a journey born of her own ingenuity. She’s no longer alone.



If You Want to See A Whale you need time and you need not be distracted by sweet smelling flowers and pirates and caterpillars. Same goes if you want to pursue a creative project, yes?



No one believes the boy in The Carrot Seed. But he believes. He keeps believing and he’s right to!




A boy and girl plant some seeds and one of them grows into something absolutely wildly magical in Wonder Bear. It only takes one seed for something wonderful to sprout. You could even plant one today. I’ll cheer you on.


THE-ROOM-OF-WONDERS-SERGIO-RUZZIERPius Pelosi has a giant collection that all began with a pebble. His gut led him to that pebble and his passion. So when he listens to others and throws out the pebble, nothing is right in his Room of Wonders.


To picture books and creativity in any form! 


21 Responses to 15 lessons on creativity from picture books

  1. Eileen says:

    Great list! Henri’s Scissors, Carrot Seed and If You Want to See a Whale are wonderful. Will have to look for White is for Blueberry!

  2. Sarah Floyd says:

    Wonderful list! So glad you included THE CARROT SEED. : ) I added a few titles to my TBR list. Thanks!

  3. Erin says:

    What a wonderful list! I added several to my “to read” pile.

  4. Needed to see this list today. Thanks as always for the inspiration, especially about taking a walk. Works every time!!

  5. todd says:

    Incredible resource!

  6. Mary Jo Wagner says:

    It seems that Ashley Spires has written the story of my life! Thanks for such a great, inspiring list of books to both enjoy and inspire.

  7. SevenAcreSky says:

    A perfect list for idea-ing and creating…and the potential in story.
    After all, the “ideas” we pursue for our stories are really about deeper and truer “ideas” that are really already there.

  8. Bonnie Eng says:

    “Limitations can lead to inventions.” Sounds like these books are for everyone, adults and kiddos alike! 🙂 I want to read all of them…;)

  9. Julie Murphy says:

    What an inspiring list. Picture Books rock, at any age. Thanks!

  10. Pingback: a pair of picture books about ideas and the creative process (+ giveaway!) - This Picture Book Life

  11. Pingback: picture book life advice - This Picture Book Life

  12. anitajjones says:

    I love this list of books! Now I want them all!

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