From the Bookshelf: Imagine, by Alison Lester

A couple of years ago, we went for a New Years Day walk with some family and stopped off at a little café nearby. It had a lovely area for the children with lots of books for them to read, and it was here that I came across this total gem! I was straight on Amazon ordering our own copy, because this isn’t the kind of book you can just read once! Two years on, Imagine is still one of our regular books for bedtime stories. We love it!

At it’s simplest, Imagine is a book about habitats. It’s written by Alison Lester, an Australian author and illustrator, and one-time Australian Children’s Laureate. It introduces the reader to a wide range of habitats, including the Jungle, Ocean and, of course, the Australian Bush.
The book alternates between pages of short rhyming verse followed by a beautifully illustrated double spread of each habitat. The rhyming verse encourages the reader to imagine themselves in a particular habitat and is accompanied by an illustration of a pair of children doing just that.
The illustrations of each habitat are so colourful and detailed, which are really engaging. We spot different things every time we read the book. Each habitat includes between twenty-four and forty-eight animals specific to that habitat, with their names written around the border of the page. This is wonderful, although I have to admit that we struggle to match even half the animals to their name! Well, could you identify the sugar glider from the feather-tail glider? Or the anatosaurus from polacanthus? No, me neither! Thankfully, Alison Lester thought of this, and at the back of the book is a small, annotated version of each illustration so that you can find out exactly which animal is which. We spend ages poring over the illustrations trying to learn the names of the animals. And they are great for playing ‘I Spy’!
What I love most about this book is that there is just so much learning to come from it. From the book itself, children learn firstly that the world is more varied that what is outside their own front door – that there are lots of different habitats. They begin to know the features of some of these habitats and which kind of animals can be found there. They learn the names and of some of these animals and begin to be able to identify them. The children are inspired to imagine themselves into these habitats and are given an example of this in action from the illustration of the pair of children.
As if that wasn’t enough, this book can be used as a starting point for so much more. A whole project could come out of just one page! You could choose a habitat and find out more using books from the library or internet research. Children could create their own habitats using art materials appropriate to their age. You could create a small world scene using animal toys and props. Children might like to make their own little books of a habitat – they could draw, write, cut out pictures from magazines. Older children might even like to make a video. There is SO much you could do with it.
I am very much of the opinion that T and A’s books should not only be books THEY love, but books WE love too! Why? There are two key reasons!
  1. I do not want to read dull stories. Especially if I have to read them again. And again. And again. And again. (And I do.)
  2. I want my kids to develop a love of reading, and I think a big part of teaching them to do this is to show them that we love reading too! It is difficult to be enthusiastic about books I don’t like. Frankly, I just want to get to the end as quickly as possible. But give me a story that I love, and you will not just get a story my friend; you will get a SHOW. I’m talking accents, actions, audience participation, comedy, the FULL. WORKS!
Imagine is one of these books that I love to read, and I am confident that you will too! So here: go buy it. You will not regret it!
Disclaimer: This post includes an affiliate link. If you choose to buy the book using this link, I will get a small commission.

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