It’s no secret I love to read. I am in awe of the amazing imagination of so many writers. But some books aren’t just imaginative in and of themselves; some actually stimulate and feed imaginative thought. For some reason, I’ve found these books tend to be ones aimed at middle readers (maybe it’s because that was a time in my life I felt most free to explore and imagine: now that might be another topic to consider). A couple of cases in point:
Anything by Blue Balliett. Reading her books is like attending a class for gifted students. I can say this because I myself had the privilege of going to special “gifted and talented” classes when I was in my middle-school years, and they were fun and fascinating and inspired us to think “outside the box.” I LOVED them. Balliett’s books feature protagonists who either attend a special school that focuses on inspiring kids to think differently while learning (in Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, and The Calder Game) or whose parents inspire them to imagine and think creatively (Hold Fast). She introduces all kinds of fun and interesting concepts to young readers, many of whom might not have had the opportunity to attend these kinds of enrichment classes. Her writing truly gets those brain juices flowing and makes all of the topics come alive, whether it’s art or architecture or the rhythms of poetry or the things you can do with pentominoes. She uses puzzles and riddles and hidden messages and makes readers do a little work, though it’s too fun to really think of it as such. Reading these books makes me feel like a kid again, set loose in a gifted-classroom setting.
The other book that gave me that same wonderful feeling is one a friend reviewed for my website, Rated Reads. As soon as I read the review of Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, I knew I had to get a copy from my city library, first for my 11-year-old to read, and then for me to escape into.
This one centered around the amazing resource that is a library, and it incorporated similar mind-expanding elements: riddles, puzzles, mysteries and clues to piece together. It featured the most amazing library that any kid (or kid at heart) could pretty much just live in, if given the opportunity. Just reading about the cool gadgets and state-of-the-art electronics incorporated into this fictional library made me almost drool with jealousy for the kids in the book who got to use it. And it features a rich, eccentric game-manufacturing benefactor who makes it all possible, á la Willy Wonka. Only this is better — as much as I love chocolate, this library sounds far more like a dream come true to me. Games, prizes, and a night spent locked in an amazing library? Yes, yes!
If you want to reawaken the creative kid in yourself, read these books. If you want to do so for your child, hand the book over to him or her.