Archive for Imagination

Except If

Written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck

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This beautiful and surprising book is really a lesson in not taking things at face value. When the reader encounters a blue egg, she might expect to see a bird emerge EXCEPT IF the egg contains a baby snake. The snake slithers along EXCEPT IF it’s really a baby lizard, complete with legs. The lizard can scurry up walls EXCEPT IF it grows into a dinosaur. And the dinosaur will stand as tall as the hills EXCEPT IF it’s already a fossil, a craggy hill that shelters a nest. With an egg.

The repetitive nature of the text is a good draw for first graders, who love to anticipate. The fun illustrations make it a good candidate for a read aloud, with the listeners guessing what the next exception will be. All this combines to increase comprehension of the story line and literacy skills.

The author’s website,, contains a tremendous amount of information about the author and his books. The publisher also highlights the author at

Except If

  • Title: Except If
  • Author/Illustrator: Jim Averbeck
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, 2011
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, Imagination
  • ISBN: 978-1-4169-9544-9



Written and illustrated by Aaron Becker

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A Caldecott Honor book for the gorgeous, vivid, and detailed illustrations, this book is worth a look just for the pictures, but it has so much more to offer. A young girl’s sepia world is punctuated only by her red scooter, red kite, a red ball, and a red crayon. When she uses the crayon to draw a door, a whole new and colorful world opens up. With castles, windmills, numerous waterways, and various flying contraptions, it’s indeed a fascinating world. The girl finds the crayon can also create a boat, a hot air balloon, and a magic carpet. The magic carpet and a purple bird lead her to a boy with a purple crayon. Together, she and the boy create a bicycle and ride off to more adventures.

This wordless picture book is easily followed by first graders just beginning their reading journey, but would be great as a read aloud so that kids can be encouraged to use imagination about what will come next. Kids could even lead the discussion and practice their speaking and leadership skills. The publisher provides a great “Guide to Reading a Wordless Book” on their website,, with many reading activities.

  • JourneyTitle: Journey
  • Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Genre: Picture book, Art, Imagination, Friendship
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6053-6


Snowflakes Fall

Written by Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by Steven Kellogg

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This beautiful picture book brings back all the joy and excitement of snowflakes. The wonderful illustrations by Steven Kellogg show children sledding, making snow angels and leaving tracks with their little red boots.

The sparse, poetic language by Patricia MacLachlan sings the story of all the wonderful places and ways that snowflakes fall. She talks of the snow quilted meadows and covered evergreens. But mostly she talks about how beautiful each one is and how unique that no two are alike. Just like children.

This wonderful book is a project by two people who were deeply hurt by the tragedy that took the lives of so many beautiful children in Sandy Hook, CT. It is their gift to the hurting community and a gift to all who read it. Enjoying these pages helps adults to relive past snowy fun, children to expect snowy fun and all of us to appreciate each other as the beautiful, unique creatures we are.

It is a wonderful read aloud for any age.

First grade readers will enjoy seeing poetic Patricia MacLachlan’s text is and how perfectly the illustrations match it. Literacy skills abound beginning with the parts to whole relationship as she talks about the fur on the dog and the tongues of laughing children. The story contains many beautiful similes for readers of all ages to admire. This book will be a treasure to read year after year after year and will always bring a smile to everyone’s face.

  • Snowflakes FallTitle: Snowflakes Fall
  • Author: Patricia MacLachlan
  • Illustrator: Steven Kellogg
  • Publisher: Random House, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-385-37693-8
  • Genre: Picture Book Realistic Fiction
  • Grade level: First up
  • Extras: Teaching Tools Available at

Kangaroo’s Out of This World Restaurant

Written & Illustrated by Eva M. Sakmar-Sullivan

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In the Australian Outback, Kangaroo wallows in misery and complains she’s worthless. Why Kangaroo feels this way is unclear, but wise old Koala hobbles into the picture with his cane and gives Kangaroo advice: “Everyone has something to offer. You just have to find it.” All Kangaroo can do is jump, so she does, higher and higher until she reaches the moon. When she lands on the moon’s surface, she’s delighted to discover it’s made of cheese and tastes great, too. She loads up her pouch with cheese and brings it back to Earth to share. Her furry friends love the moon cheese so much that Kangaroo bounces them back to the moon for more, and she opens up a restaurant (hence the title). She also becomes a taxi service, transporting her friends whenever they have a hankering for this out-of-world snack. Kangaroo has found her calling and her true happiness.

This didactic tale relays a positive message for the first grade and under crowd, but Sakmar-Sullivan’s strengths really lie in her art: big shapes and bright, bold colors that pop off the page. Inside the back cover, there’s a full-page spread, which identifies all featured creatures as native to Australia, and the author suggests a reading activity (i.e. find the platypus, the dingo, the numbat, etc.) I do think her impressionable audience could have benefited from another extra, though, explaining that the moon is actually made of rock, not cheese.

Author’s website:

  • Kangaroos RestaurantTitle: Kangaroo’s Out of This World Restaurant
  • Author/Illustrator: Eva M. Sakmar-Sullivan
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7643-4519-7
  • Genre: Picture Book, fantasy, animals

Shadows on My Wall

Written & Illustrated by Timothy Young

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Monsters are a familiar problem for children at the first grade reading level. Helping youngsters find ways to deal with the idea of monsters in a way that is fun and empowering for them is not easy. This book, whether used to build comprehension or as a read aloud, will help youngsters deal with some of their terrors.

Shadows on My Wall is a well-written and illustrated picture book that will capture the imagination of youngsters. It opens with a little boy’s bedroom at night, light from the streetlights shining in through the window with very creepy shadows on the wall by his bed. While it is clear these are simply spooky-looking tree branches, soon the boy’s imagination takes over and they look more like monsters to him. But maybe they aren’t monsters. Maybe they are dinosaurs, and dinosaurs are pretty cool. The boy’s imagination keeps on working and the shadows take on new form after new form until the boy makes a shadow of his own. That is the beginning of the boy’s ability to take charge of those pesky shadows. This is very empowering for little ones.

A spread at the back of the book shows several shadows children can make with their hands and how to do them. The author/illustrator has a web site at, however, there are no teaching materials there or on the publisher’s website.

There are three other picture books by the same author, two of which have monster themes.

  • Shadows on My WallTitle: Shadows on My Wall
  • Author/Illustrator: Timothy Young
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, 2012
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Format: Paperback, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0764342240
  • Genre: Fiction, Imagination