Paul Russell (text), and Aśka (illustrator), The incurable imagination, EK Books, April 2019, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925335972
Paul Russell is a primary teacher who is passionate about the value of imaginative play in children’s development. This ties in neatly with research published recently confirming the value of traditional play in developing the skills children need, such as resilience and problem-solving.
In this picture book we meet Audrey, who has always had a vivid imagination. Once she starts school, things become ‘worse’ with invisible friends and adventures. Her teacher diagnoses her with a disease called imagination – and it is contagious. First it spreads to her peers, then the teachers and then the parents. And everyone’s lives are vastly improved as a result.
The information sheet which came with the book actually states that “Audrey has the worst case of ‘imagnitis’ her teachers have ever seen” and it is a shame that the same word is not used in the book at all. Everyone has imagination to some degree, but not everyone has imaginitis – and the ‘-itis’ ending has medical connotations consistent with a disease.
The exuberant illustrations bring the real and imaginary worlds to life, but whether the story tells the reader anything new is a debatable point. Most teachers, parents and early childhood experts are well aware of the value of imaginative play. However, it is a fun plot with some humorous scenarios (such as the head of the parent body being taken on a broomstick ride) which could be valuable in unleashing a riot of imaginative activities.
Reviewed by Lynne Babbage