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Best Children’s Books to Read for Creative, Curious and Courageous Minds

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Creativity, the courage to embrace it, and the curiosity to wonder, are some of the most important skills one can hone because they’re the  root to how we can live as our best selves. We become better problem solvers, we feel more resilient to changes, and we find it’s easier to find joy in everything we do because it is interesting when we see it with the eye of curiosity. And I’m a firm believer that we have to start reframing the way we think about creativity at a  young age. After all, how we think is how we see and understand the world. And what better way than to start young in seeing the colorful beauties, complexity, and nuances life brings to us. Nothing is black and white, so it’s important to get comfortable understanding the grey areas. 

Some of the best children’s books are the ones that vulnerably show how to overcome challenges in grey areas and explore real themes like self-doubt, fear, and grief using creativity, courage, and curiosity. 

Many studies show that teaching creativity early can increase emotional intelligence and happiness in children, and it’s key that we expand the understanding of creativity to be beyond art at an early age so that everyone feels empowered to see how they are creative no matter how artistically creative they feel. Yes, everyone is an artist, and there are books we’d want to hold on to in order to treasure all of our diverse artistic voices in us. 

Here are some children’s books that I recommend on creativity, curiosity and courage that are frankly impactful for all ages so treat yourself to some yourself too!

Beautiful Oops!

Every mistake can be reframed into an opportunity
Author: Barney Saltzber
Reading Age: 3 – 8 years

This book is a pleasingly interactive experience as much as it is a great story with an essential lesson for adults and kids alike: mistakes are not only okay, but something to be embraced! All of us can struggle with perfectionism, and this book complete with pop-ups, tears, holes, and creative overlays is physical proof of the beauty in the imperfect.

“When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful!”

Have You Seen My Friends?

Empower readers of all ages to discover and build their creativity through a playful narrative
Author: Monica H. Kang (me!)
Reading Age: 5 – 8 years

I wrote this book because creative intelligence is important to get right—right from the start. And I think this important story comes at a timely moment as we face the continued pandemic and many are feeling stuck. 

My goal is for readers of all ages to become immersed in the humorous, lyrical adventure of a character in search of its dear friends, Courage, Curiosity, and Creativity. 

Throughout the story, the character learns how to find them and reflects on the important message of friendship, mindset, and creativity.

“For they are the nicest friends you could have. As people of all ages would say, being curious, courageous, and creative gives us more life to live each day.“

Children’s creativity and education related resources such as games, worksheets, and teacher’s guides are available at www.creativitywithmonica.com.

The Dot

We all have it in us to do what we want to achieve, sometimes it just takes one small push
Author: Peter H. Reynolds
Reading Age: 5 – 9 Years

This incredible story follows a young girl named Vashti on a journey to discover that she actually can draw, actually enabling her to encourage another self-doubting artist. I love how this simple story turned series reminds us that we all have a little creativity in us, sometimes it just takes a bit of encouragement to get us there.

“Just make a mark and see where it takes you."

What Do You Do With an Idea, Series

Embracing your wildest ideas and dreams
Author: Kobi Yamada
Reading Age: 5 – 8 Years

The idea that we should follow our dreams (even the most ambitious ones), isn’t new, but the beauty in Yamada’s storytelling is its delivery. 

The simple yet beautiful narrative and illustrations are incredibly captivating and inspiring for any reader, and it’s certainly one I pick up again when I need a reminder to believe in myself.

“But there was something magical about my idea. I had to admit, I felt better and happier when it was around.”

The Day the Crayons Quit, Series

A hilarious story that speaks to serious themes: reframing color and identity
Author: Drew Daywalt
Reading Age: 3 – 7 Years

This chuckle-inducing story will make you never look at a box of crayons the same way again. In the narrative, the crayons are sick of getting used one way. 

The white crayon pleads on not being in use other than on black paper. The brown crayon asks why I can’t be other things that are not the ground, brick. 

Every color makes their case asking why they can’t be other usages and it quickly makes you wonder yes, who says the red truck is the only way we color trucks or grass as green. It reminds us about how much we assume in life, and what can happen wewe flip the narrative. There is more than one way to express the “green grass” without the color green! 

“As for the story itself, it's very well written, a great idea supported fantastically by the illustrations. If you do unique voices for each colour be sure to remember which crayon has which voice next time you read it, otherwise you'll be constantly interrupted by cries of "This is green not brown!”

Book reviewer, Aunt Ree

Ocean Meets Sky

A magically-illustrated book about grief and imagination
Author: Terry Fan, Eric Fan
Reading Age: 4 – 8 Years

This magical story is all about Finn, a boy who lives by the sea, remembers the stories his grandfather told him about a faraway place “where ocean meets sky.” The humble reminder that when we let our mind wander and explore, impossible moments like the ocean meeting the sky becomes possible. 

This beautifully illustrated book by the Fan brothers brings us back to seek imagination and new ways of thinking in everything we do every day. The stories are incredibly captivating for all ages, and are all told through pieces or art so beautiful that I was tempted to rip the pages out and frame them!

"A stunning, dreamlike voyage into the heart of a child,”

Harold and the Purple Color

Just a kid and a crayon showing how far imagination can take you
Author: Crockett Johnson
Reading Age: 4 – 8 Years

The book premise is simple – a kid named Harold takes a walk and using only a purple crayon, is able to draw his own reality – a landscape full of excitement and wonder. 

The drawings are just as simple, but yet incredibly captivating and remind us all about the power of our own minds and creativity.

“More than anything, the story is about the power and joy of a life of the imagination. It's a book a child can hear over and over again that can become both a trusted friend and a comfortable entrance into the land of dreams,”

Book reviewer Geoffrey Geiger

Fantastic Mr. Fox

A fantastically creative and charismatic fox makes a master plan against the meanest farmers around, showcasing innovative ways problem solve in the classic Roald Dahl universe
Author: Roald Dahl
Reading Age: 8 – 12 Years

Really all of Roald Dahl’s book – Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, etc. are wonderful and cooky stories of bravery, courage, and creativity – but Fantastic Mr. Fox is perhaps the most obvious choice. The characters in the story are incredibly vibrant and the storyline has a lot of twists and turns and cliffhangers, which means it is for a much older audience but even younger audiences will surely fall in love with the playful yet high stakes storyline.

 

“Mrs. Fox: I know what it’s like to feel different.

Ash: I’m not different, am I? 

Mrs. Fox: We all are — him especially — but there’s something kind of fantastic about that, isn’t there?”

P.S. It’s also a very good movie, directed by Wed Anderson.

The Bailey School Kids Series

In each story, the Bailey School kids encounter a unique character who may or not be supernatural, it is up to the kids (and ultimately the reader) to decide if they truly are mythical or not
Authors: Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey
Reading Age: 7 – 10 Years

If your child likes Scooby-Doo, they will probably also like The Bailey School kids. The series is all about problem-solving, mystery, and a gang of mentally-diverse children going through it all. Their adventures show how important it is to have teams of different skills and personality traits, which can all be valued and do better at solving problems. And the readers are always challenged to decide whether the characters are mythical or not – a great first exercise in critical thinking. 

Plus, with titles like “Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots” and “Wizards Don’t Wear Graduation Gowns” – how can you not be intrigued?

Stellaluna

When young fruit bat Stellaluna is separated from her mother, she’s adopted by a family of birds with very different habits which she must adapt to.
Author: Janell Cannon
Reading Ages: Baby – 3 Years

Most kids’ stories have cuddly, cute animals as protagonists but the charm of Stellaluna, an adorable baby fruit bat suddenly growing up in a strange situation, is undeniable. The story not only showcases the role courage plays in recognizing your true self, but how one can embrace others who are different. There is also a lot of real, factual information about wildlife and fruit bats set amongst this fictional story.

Bonus! Children’s Books that Warm Your Heart to Hold Onto:

And of course, there are more books to go to! Here are some other books that I adore and have both gifted and collected for myself. There is a reason many of them have been shared and appreciated by millions of readers, but what will resonate with you the most is how these creative mindsets start young, and can be refueled even when you feel you have forgotten it. As I share in my book “Have You Seen My Friends?,” it’s never too late to share your creativity with your young ones, even if you feel you’ve lost touch with it lately. Creativity, curiosity, and courage is always with you. 

Let me know what other book suggestions you have! Also check out inclusive resources like the book project the Imagination Video Books are doing to make all children’s books accessible with sign language and illustration description included videos. Learn more how you can start rethinking early.

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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