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Setting Sail on an Imagination Playcation

The Hot Off the Press Spotlight segment showcases new books from our current Hot Off the Press list to further assist parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and other book enthusiasts in finding engaging books for all types of readers.

Books have many kinds of superpowers: they act as mirrors so we can see our own experiences reflected, they act as windows so we can peek into someone else’s life, they act as portals to new worlds, and they can teach us in a way that we don’t even realize we’re learning. But perhaps most importantly, books can take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. Books show us how to suspend reality and exercise our imaginations; they show us how to play. And kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from this license to play—adults are encouraged to step out of their grownup shoes, put on their paper pirate hats, and set sail for adventure without ever leaving their living rooms. Best of all? When caregivers tap into their own ability to make-believe, they strengthen bonds with the children in their lives. This selection of titles from our April Hot Off the Press list celebrates the transformation of the mundane into the magical, turning storytime into a first class ticket to an “Imagination Playcation.”

Ahoy!, written & illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Random House Children’s Books / Anne Schwartz Books) — Fiction, Picture Book, Imagination / Play, Action / Adventure, Family / Community, ages 4-6.

Join a child captain and parent first mate as they embark on a wild high seas adventure…all without leaving the living room! This imaginative romp of a picture book is filled with glorious illustrations from a beloved Caldecott Medalist and New York Times bestselling creator.

Raise the mainsail!
Batten the hatches!
It’s time to set sail…on the couch!

There’s a storm coming, and a child is ready to captain the ship. “Make haste and climb aboard,” they call out to their parent, “before you’re swept out to sea!”

Sea? What sea? The parent is only trying to vacuum the rug. But the child is adamant. It’s not a rug–it’s the ocean. And that broom? It’s the ship’s mast. Soon enough, child and parent are both off on an imaginary nautical adventure!

Here is a thoroughly engaging, hilarious picture book that celebrates the joys of playing make-believe–and hanging out with a parent!

A Big Juicy Earthworm, written & illustrated by Katarína Macurová (Albatros Media) — Fiction, Picture book, Humor, Friendships, Imagination / Play, ages 4-6.

Embark on a heartwarming journey of friendship and adventure in this delightful picture book, where three inseparable friends learn the joys of trying something new.

Join Pipo, Bud, and Kenny, three inseparable little chicken buddies, in an enchanting world where joy knows no bounds. All is happy yet predictable in their world until one day when Pipo’s quest for something different leads to an epic battle to unearth a resistant earthworm. Amid the struggle, they discover the beauty of embracing change and diversity in friendship and the magic of trying something new and different.

The Endfixer, written & illustrated by Noemi Vola; translated by Rosa Churcher Clarke (Berbay Books) — Fiction, Picture book, Imagination / Play, Action / Adventure, Humor, ages 4-6.

Fans of Lane Smith and David Ezra Stein will delight in this story about stories and making sure they end in the best possible way.

Sometimes, when a story is reaching what should be the absolute best part, the whole thing just falls apart. The ending can be too complicated, too sad, or too catastrophic. That’s why our narrator has a plan to change the way things end. And make sure they finish at just the right time, in just the right way. But even the best plans can go awry.

Floof, written & illustrated by Heidi McKinnon (Hachette / Algonquin Young Readers) — Fiction, Picture Book, Animals, Humor, Imagination / Play, ages 4-6.

In this darling picture book, the cutest, floofiest cat has a very busy, very mischievous day!

Floof is floofy.
Floof has many hobbies.
Floof has very important work to do and Floof also has a lot of friends.
Floof is about to have a very busy day…

An irresistible new picture book for cat-lovers, cute-lovers, and anyone who has ever been a little bit mischievous!

Kids (and grownups!) will delight in noticing that when the text says one thing, the pictures say something very different. Floof also gently (and humorously) teaches readers the importance of self-love, self-care, and self-belief. This floofy cat is sure to make every reader smile!

How to Put a Dinosaur to Bed, written & illustrated by Alycia Pace (Familius) — Fiction, Board Book, Family / Community, Imagination / Play, Mental / Physical Health, ages 0-3.

Having a dinosaur is SO much fun,
but taking care of them can sure make you TIRED.
Especially if your dinosaur keeps you up ALLLLLL night long.
So how do you get a dinosaur to go to bed and STAY in bed?

Along with a cute triceratops, two siblings learn the value of sleep as they attempt to put their dino to bed. Every parent knows the bedtime power struggle can be a waking nightmare, but with a solid routine and gentle reminders, children can learn the tools they need to stay in bed. This hilarious board book places children in the teaching role and allows them to learn the skills for themselves in a fun, easy way.

The Invisible Story, by Jaime Gamboa; illus. by Wen Hsu Chen (Lantana Publishing) — Fiction, Picture Book, Disabilities, Imagination / Play, Concepts, ages 4-6.

A beautifully inclusive tale about sight-loss in which we learn that not all stories are meant to be read with the eyes.

The world is full of stories. Some are as long as lizards, others so short that they never even make it to The End. But the invisible story is unlike any other story because no one has ever read it! It lives hidden in the darkest corner of the library, far from where the famous tales, written in gold letters, shine. One day, a blind reader approaches the story’s trembling pages. This reader is unlike any reader the invisible story has ever encountered. And when she runs her fingertips over the book’s white pages, it is astonished by what she finds.

Puppy Dog, Puppy Dog, Do You Want to Play?, by Bill Martin Jr & Michael Sampson; illus. by Marilyn Janovitz (Brown Books / Brown Books Kids) — Fiction, Poetry / Stories in Verse, Animals, Family / Community, Imagination / Play, ages 4-6.

In this newest addition to the beloved collection of Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson, a puppy dog and his dad decide to tackle the day head on with their various favorite activities.

From hide and seek to dancing to tag, the duo decides to spend the day in each other’s company and make the very most of it. In doing so, they might just realize that the best parts of any day are the moments they get to spend with one another.

The Quickest Bedtime Story Ever!, by Louise Fitzgerald; illus. by Kate Hindley (Nosy Crow) — Fiction, Picture Book, Animals, Humor, Imagination / Play, ages 4-6.

Welcome to the quickest bedtime story ever! Your little one will be asleep in seconds.

But wait! There are a couple of things you must do first:

Have you warmed up your reading voice?

And plumped the pillows?

What about the teddy bears? Have you organized them yet?

Getting ready for a story is serious business, I’ll have you know . . .

This hilarious and engaging bedtime story will help to settle down even the most restless readers.

SKRUM, written & illustrated by Bernard Gümz (The Little Press) — Fiction, Picture Book, Action / Adventure, Humor, Imagination / Play, ages 4-6.

From the animator of MTV’s In Your Head, and kid’s gaming channel SPACECAT, comes SKRUM, the debut children’s book by the creative brain of Bernard Gümz.

Somewhere in the desert, a busted up old geezer named Barnabus is running for his life. Hot on his trail is a monstrous purple furball called a SKRUM. But, what is a SKRUM? And what does it want with poor old Barnabus? Find out in this action packed globe-trotting adventure with BIG surprises and lots of silliness!

A rhyming, humorous, 80-page picture book that encourages kids of all ages to face their problems head on.

Stewart the Goodheart, by Judith Henderson; illus. by Binny Talib (Benchmark Education / Reycraft Books) — Fiction, Picture Book, Kindness / Generosity, Friendships, Imagination / Play, ages 4-6.

Stewart is not your average protagonist; he’s an everyday hero. Don’t believe us? His doctor confirmed it! And how does a hero spend their days, you might wonder? Well, it’s quite simple – by doing good deeds, of course. But as you’ll soon discover, not all good deeds are a walk in the park.

Join Stewart on a heartwarming journey as he faces friends and foes, navigates treacherous dangers, and conquers countless perils, all in the name of his mission: to save the world through simple acts of kindness.

A Sundae with Everything on It, by Kyle Scheele; illus. by Andy J. Pizza (Chronicle Books) — Fiction, Picture Book, Humor, Family / Community, Imagination / Play, ages 4-6.

Calling all fans of Andy J. Pizza’s Creative Pep Talk podcast and Kyle Scheele’s TikTok! The laugh-out-loud creators of A Pizza with Everything on It have stirred up yet another deliciously hilarious picture book adventure that will melt your heart!

Embark on a quest for dessert that is truly out-of-this-world in this deliciously funny family adventure tale. Sure, it’s hard to find a bowl big enough for an asteroid-size scoop of ice cream, but when your mom is a quantum physicist who also happens to be the inventor of a space-time travel device, the sweet taste of success is all but guaranteed. Get ready for a joyride around the Spooniverse as this mom and son duo embark on an inter-dimensional quest for the perfect dessert!

This Is A Window, written & illustrated by Lauren Paige Conrad (Astra Books for Young Readers / Minerva) — Fiction, Picture Book, Imagination / Play, Friendships, Action / Adventure, ages 4-6.

The power of children’s imaginations takes center stage in this gorgeous, playful rhyming picture book about a group of kids who build a make-believe world in their homes.

Just look at what you can build out of ordinary stuff when you follow your imagination! Children and their caretakers will love this beguiling child-led tour of a make-believe world constructed from everyday household and backyard objects. Words and pictures work together cleverly to spark eureka moments: that “ship” is really a table, that “dark cave” is really a laundry basket, and more, as a day full of building, playing, and pretending turns into bedtime. Children will use their own imaginations and storytelling skills as they figure out what the book’s busy characters are up to in the gorgeous collage-style art. With perfect rhymes that make it an irresistible read-aloud, this delightful book is a classic in the making perfect for a wide audience of parents and childcare professionals, especially anyone seeking a book that celebrates creative play.

You Can Throw a Party!, by Jan Gniffke; illus. by Rebeca J. Pintos (Brown Book / Brown Books Kids) — Fiction, Picture Book, Imagination / Play, Holidays / Seasons / Celebrations, How-to / Activity, ages 4-6.

This charming and vibrant book, You Can Throw a Party!, conveys the importance of believing there is value in who you are and encourages celebrating YOU each and every day. From dressing up with your cat to having a party pretending it’s on Mars, Jan Gniffke inspires children everywhere to use their imagination and creativity to celebrate with others—whether they are people from your neighborhood, teachers at your school, or people in the community you might not know yet. Love yourself and share with others that they, too, are worth celebrating just the way they are! A perfect book for social and emotional learning activities, You Can Throw a Party! includes self-esteem-building questions that encourage creativity, inclusivity, and exploring what makes each of us special.

For more great book suggestions, be sure to check out the full April Hot Off the Press list!

List compiled by CBC’s resident book connoisseur, Brooke Pisarsky. Check out other Hot Off the Press Spotlight book lists on our blog.

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