The Magic of Make-Believe

Imagine you and your family are home one day and suddenly the power goes out. You tell the kids not to worry because it’ll be back on in a moment. But then that moment stretches and to them it feels like an eternity has passed and the lights are still out.

How do you pass the time?

In some cultures and families, you’d tell stories. If you don’t think your imagination is up to the task of coming up with a tale, I bet your kids could. And if they can’t, here are a few stories about dreams and imaginings that might spark your own creativity.

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Story Boat by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh (Tundra, 2020) highlights the wonders of a young refugee child’s imagination as they travel across the water to find somewhere to belong. Kheiriyeh’s drawings are captivating as Rashin turns ideas about what “here” means into cozy cups of tea and ceramic sailboats with apricot blanket sails that provide warmth and safety through a scary trek. If you have ever found yourself struggling to explain what a refugee is without delving deeply into the scary situations they face, this book is for you. For ages 4 to 7.

Do you regularly hear your child complain about bedtime and having to go to sleep? Then perhaps it’s time for your child to think about how the bed feels when it hears that night after night after night. Time for Bed’s Story by Monica Arnaldo (Kids Can Press, 2020) gives you just that. A story by the sticker-covered springboard about how kicking and the drooling makes it very hard for bed to sleep at night. And all Bed wants is for its child to think of Bed’s feelings when it’s bedtime. For ages 4 to 7.

Ray by Marianna Coppo (Tundra, 2020), is all about a lightbulb named Ray. His life in the closet is pretty boring, so boring that he often slips into dreamless sleeps. Until one day something magical happens and Ray’s life is forever changed. This story is a beautifully illustrated tale about the wonders of the outdoors and the magical powers of imagination. For ages 4 to 7.

Once your child’s imagination has been woken up, they might like some ideas about how to get their ideas out of their minds and into the world for others to enjoy. If that’s the case, then Studio: A Place for Art to Start by Emily Arrow and illustrated by Little Friends of Printmaking could be a good book for you. This brightly coloured tale follows some bunnies around as they learn about different kinds of art and the studios where they’re made as they try to find the perfect place for them to make their own art. For ages 4 to 7.

When Emily Was Small by Lauren Soloy (Tundra,2020) reminds children that even great painters like Emily Carr were once small. In this tale which is based off of Carr’s autobiography, Soloy goes into the time before Carr was a famous painter and focuses on a small part of her childhood when her vast imaginings sometimes made her feel out of place, but always opened her up to a magical world right outside her door. For ages 4 to 7.

While I hope it doesn’t take a power outage (or another wave of sickness) to get you and your family to sit down and enjoy a tale or two, I do hope that you are able to spend some time with your loved ones—maybe even curled up in a blanket fort that’s transformed into a fairy castle or a friendly dragon’s den—so you can all enjoy a good book or five.

Christina Van Starkenberg
Christina Van Starkenberg
Christina Van Starkenburg lives in Victoria with her husband, children, and cat. She is the author of One Tiny Turtle: A Story You Can Colour and many articles. To read more of her work and learn about her upcoming books, check out her website at