Get Surreal! Celebrating the Imagination of Salvador Dalí

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The paintings of Salvador Dalí grant viewers glimpses into fantastic, surreal locations bound only by the imagination. To celebrate the birthday of the famous surrealist, check out this collection of picture books all about the power of imagination and the potential for even the youngest artists to shape their very own fantastic worlds—and maybe even influence the real one while they’re at it!


Campoy, Isabel F. & Theresa Howell
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood
Illustrated by Rafael López. 2016. 32pp. $16.99 hc. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9780544357693. Grades K-2

Looking around her neighborhood, young Mira sees a dull urban setting devoid of color. Beginning with small paintings, she attempts to brighten the gloomy landscape with little success. A chance encounter with a muralist and his magical paintbrush empowers Mira and her neighbors to create a beautiful community pulsating with colorful murals, rhythmic poems, and vibrant songs. Inspired by the work of Rafael and Candice López on the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, this joyful ode to the power of community engagement encourages budding artists to use their talent to make a difference in their world. The dazzling illustrations invite readers to explore Mira’s multicultural community and discover the transformative nature of art. Pair this with Patricia Markun’s The Little Painter of Sabana Grande, George Ancona’s Murals: Walls That Sing, and Peter Reynolds’ Sky Color for further explorations into creative Latino muralists and street artists. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Associate Professor, University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies, Tuscaloosa, Alabama [Editor’s Note: Available in e-book format.]
Highly Recommended

Myers, Christopher
My Pen
2015. 32pp. $16.99 hc. Disney-Hyperion. 9781423103714. Grades PreK-5

On the book’s first double-page spread, a young man sits staring forlornly at the ground. In the shadow of famous people who have so much, the boy feels very small. “But then I remember I have my pen” and Myers’ book becomes a celebration of imagination and self-expression. Through the magic of his pen and Myers’ pen-and-ink illustrations, our young artist walks upside-down beneath clouds, rides on a dinosaur, finds elephants hiding in his tea cup, and sails a newspaper boat. With pen and black ink as his expressive tool, this young man worries about wars and tells stories. Not everything is perfect; art is sometimes messy. The message is to let the worlds held within all the pens out. Myers’ cross-hatch shadings bring wonderful value to the illustrations. The boy’s pen, often personified, seems a friend, though at a capricious moment an uncooperative one. Rich Parker, Media Specialist, Fox Chapel Elementary School, Germantown, Maryland
Highly Recommended


Becker, Aaron
2013. 40pp. $15.99 hc. Candlewick Press. 9780763660536. Grades K-5

This is a wordless picture book that will be transcendent for readers and appeal to a wide variety of children. Becker, a talented illustrator, is no stranger to storytelling. In his debut book, the glorious detailed scenery alone is a clue that this newcomer is doing what he was born to do. A city girl, bored and lonely, draws a doorway to somewhere magical, and a boat to get her around. In a series of mini-journeys, the biggest journey of all leads back home and a surprise ending that will have children cheering. The selective use of red and purple throughout the story will provide visual cues for readers. Young readers will like to make up their own words, and older readers could write them down in story form. This is a beautiful tale that will visually delight for years to come. Jennifer Coleman, Librarian, Murchison Elementary, Pflugerville, Texas
Highly Recommended


Verde, Susan
The Museum
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 2013. 32pp. $16.95 hc. Abrams Books for Young Readers. 9781419705946. Grades K-2

A young girl goes to a museum and as she is looking at the art, she describes her feelings. One of the final pieces of art she sees is a blank canvas for her to be inspired and decide what she should create. This is a wonderful story by a debut author about inspiration with lovely illustrations. Art teachers can use the book to introduce famous artists to students or as a beginning of the year read-aloud. This book could be used as a mentor text to teach students about descriptive writing. It would be a perfect addition to any library or classroom. Valerie Byrd Fort, Teacher Librarian, New Providence Elementary School, Lexington, South Carolina
Highly Recommended


Lee, Hyeon-Ju
Mina’s White Canvas
2015. 38pp. $17.99 hc. Peter Pauper Press. 9781441318268. Grades K-2

This book follows Mina as she draws her way out of a gloomy day. As Mina’s day begins the gloom outside makes her sad, so she takes her crayon and adds snow to the window. The snow covers the fields and Mina travels out of her home to explore. Each exploration requires her to draw something to help her new animal friends. As her crayon ends, so does her exploration, with fond memories of a great day. The illustrations are very well done and make the reader feel like a part of the story. This would be a good book to spark drawing imagination in children. Lourdes Cervantes, Media Specialist, Hemphill Elementary School, Kyle, Texas

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