Tag Archives: creative picture books
I give you 16 creativity-packed picture books that inspire me. I’ve chosen them specifically from my own life as a writer because they have spoken to me, either years ago or else become recent favorites. I hope you’ll add one of your favorite picture books on the topic in the comments!
Here’s to creativity and the picture books that inspire more of it!
Show the World! written by Angela Dalton illustrated by Daria Peoples (2022).
Picked because it’s super packed with self-expression of all different kinds and centers Black children shining as they show the world what they love and do.
Off-Limits by Helen Yoon (2021).
Picked because this new favorite playfully shows us that following our curiosity, breaking the rules, and getting messy are part of any artistic process. Plus, Mayel Creates made a wonderful office supply garland craft to match it!
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (2016).
Picked because this Basquiat picture book biography is incredible and captures not only his story, but how his story exemplifies that art is infused in place and culture. “Art is the street games of little children, in our style and the words that we speak. It is how the messy patchwork of the city creates new meaning for ordinary things.”
Lines by Suzy Lee (2017).
Picked because this is one of my favorite books about creativity, and I’ve never posted it on my blog! Wordless and meta too, it’s filled with joy, surprise, and creative camaraderie.
Studio by Emily Arrow and The Little Friends of Printmaking (2019).
Picked because it’s an ode to being you and finding your singular expression and space to cultivate it before sharing that with the world. It’s exuberant, and I’ll also disclose: dedicated to me by Emily Arrow! It’s a special book and that detail makes it incredibly special on my personal bookshelf as well.
WallPaper by Thao Lam (2019).
Picked because I love all of Thao Lam‘s work, and this wordless because contains a whole world that imagination makes possible. A world in which a shy girl gains just the courage she needs through her own creativity and resourcefulness. Plus, I made a corresponding fun paper creature craft for it a couple of years back!
Little People, Big Dreams: Louise Bourgeois written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara illustrated by Helena Pérez García (2020).
Picked because Louise Bourgeois is one of my very favorite non-living artists and this is a handy little compendium of her inspiring life. A fond memory of mine is seeing her giant spider sculpture, “Maman,” in Tokyo a few years go. The meaning of it, for me, is very different than for her, but I found it powerful and haunting and moving. “By using art to confront her fears, little Louise became one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, and the grandmother of modern art.”
Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois words by Amy Novensky pictures by Isabelle Arsenault (2016).
Picked because: more Louise Bourgeois and because it’s exquisite in depicting a life woven together with the threads of her childhood, her mother, their family tapestry business, Parisian fabrics, memory, and stitching itself.
Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu (2008).
Picked because I’ve admired this wordless story and its art for a long time, and actually got to see Tao Nyeu‘s art show exhibit of this book back in the day. It’s about children who plant seeds that grow into something wildly magical—an embodiment of creativity.
Aaron Slater, Illustrator by Andrea Beaty illustrated by David Roberts (2021).
Picked because this team is truly brilliant and this story truly speaks to kids, especially those who are dyslexic (and because my partner downloaded the font the text was printed in because he’s dyslexic and an artist like Aaron Slater too). “…beauty and kindness and loving and art lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.”
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken (2017).
Picked because this gorgeously illustrated book tells a poetic story of mistakes leading to magic, as they often do in the creative process.
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (2014).
Picked because it captures getting frustrated and getting fed up on a project, part of creativity too. And how often a walk (or any break) is just the thing to see things anew.
Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall illustrated by Benji Davies (2016).
Picked because the phrase “little bit of nothing” for what every story starts with is fantastic. And this book about storytelling is fantastic and fantastical and too.
Julia, Child words by Kyo Maclear pictures by Julie Morstad (2013).
Picked because this one (written by a favorite author, Kyo Maclear), is creative in its very concept: a fictional tale of a kitchen-loving child who bears some resemblance to Julia Child. It’s ingredients: friendship, slow-down, sweetness, wonder, and imagination. Oh and Coco Cakeland made chocolate almond cupcakes to celebrate it with me a few years back!
Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare (2019).
Picked because this one is tons of fun with crayons and creativity as a conduit to friendship–on the MOON!
What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada illustrated by Mae Besom (2014).
Picked because it’s a magical yet relatable allegory for having and nurturing an idea: curious and strange and wonderful.
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.
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.”
In 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.
Oh 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.
Pius 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!