Picture Book Snob
Laughing our cares and fears away
Imagine! by Patricia Forde and Elīna Braslina, Little Island Books
What's it about?
A little girl shares her fears with her grandmother and learns how to overcome them, thanks to a trick that Grandma teaches her. Grandma shows the girl how to use her imagination to rethink and transform whatever is frightening her.
What can we learn?
There are no limits to what we can imagine. Although the mind is capable of conjuring unpleasant things, it can also transform terrors so that they become nonthreatening and even comical.
What makes this stand out? Imagine! addresses a variety of fears to which all children can easily relate, and eliminates them with humour and affection. A very real concern, that one day Grandma will not be around, is handled wonderfully. I remember being kept awake myself when I was younger by the awareness that the people I loved would not always be there.
Grandma reassures the girl that she will never leave her because all the girl has to do is imagine Grandma "here, right in her heart." I found these lines quite moving and thoroughly enjoyed the amusing surprise on the next page. I won't spoil the ending, but it certainly makes this story even more unique and unforgettable!
The scenarios that Grandma suggests are hilarious. These include a roller-skating dog with a sponge cake on its head and bonnet-wearing vampires. The fabulous illustrations make the various fantasies even funnier.
About those illustrations...
Even when portraying nightmarish creatures, the images are extremely light-hearted and child friendly. They are incredibly vibrant and lively, with a striking palette and engaging patterns. Every page is so colourful and full of warmth, and celebrates the special bond shared by Grandma and her grandchild.
The images are packed with interesting and attractive details. I love how the girl and her grandmother become fully immersed in each make-believe moment. In one part, Grandma even cuddles a baby vampire while her granddaughter sprouts fangs. All the girl's former fears return at the end and are visibly emotional as Grandma and granddaughter share a tender moment. This helps to reinforce how harmless they really are. Grandma's garden is beautiful and I'm particularly fond of all the cats in her house - there are even framed phots of felines on the walls! Grandma drinks tea in many of the scenes, which reminds me of my own maternal grandmother, who always had a cup of tea in her hand.
Why we love it...
Imagine! empowers children by equipping them with tools they can use to conquer their own fears. It's brilliant how Grandma never dismisses any of her granddaughter's anxieties as absurd, but shows the girl how to make her monsters seem ridiculous herself. The phrase "So I closed my eyes and imagined as hard as ever I could, I'm not afraid of ... now," appears throughout the text. This is fantastic for little readers as they love repetition, and it helps their brains develop too.
My kids and I laugh all the way through Imagine! and I love how entertaining this story is, despite exploring a serious subject. It has received the "read-it-again" seal of approval, with my 3.5-year-old always insisting on an encore as soon as we finish it.
Why you need it...
Imagine! is perfect for gently helping children to discuss and overcome what might be scaring them. It's a remarkably reassuring, comforting and uplifting read, as well as lots of fun, with gorgeous illustrations.
About the author:
Patricia Forde is a former primary school teacher who has also worked as artistic director of the Galway International Arts Festival. Patricia has written plays and television dramas as well as a variety of books for children of all ages. Patricia has won two White Ravens awards and been shortlisted for Children's Books Ireland Children's Book of the Year.
About the illustrator:
Elīna Braslina has illustrated over 20 children's books and was the production designer for the 2019 animated film, Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs. Elína has received the Zelta Ābele Award for Book Design four times and the Jānis Baltvilks Baltic Sea Region Award. Her work has been exhibited internationally as well as in her home country of Latvia.
I was delighted to receive a gift of this beautiful book from the lovely people in Little Island Books. All opinions expressed are my own.
Imagine! was published by Little Island Books in February 2021 - see this book on the publisher's website