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June 25, 2020

“Read books to your kids” they say.

“Every night you should make time to read books” we hear.

It’s a generally accepted “best practice” for parenting- but if your house is anything like our house, these past few months have left us longing for new book discoveries. If we have to read the Gruffalo one more time… 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise we at Great Pretenders are huge supporters of Pretend Play.  From dress-up & role play to interactive gaming & DIY adventures, now in this turbulent time, pretend play is more important than ever! The question we want to ask is how can we incorporate our love of pretend play to our love of books!?

If the metric is to model the behavior we want to see our kids develop, then the books we read are a great opportunity to showcase imagination – and model / reinforce new & positive behaviours. A great way to encourage your child to dress-up, is to read books about dressing up & adventure. The benefits to dress-up and pretend play (not to mention the benefits of reading) are countless – so buckle up for a new adventure, and enjoy some of our favorite finds. 

We have gathered a list of our top 10 books featuring pretend play, dressing up & creative problem solving that have inspired new finds at the library (and bookshop)! If you are shopping for new presents and books- we also encourage you to reach out to your local toyshop. Many of them sell books and it’s always great to support the independents! If you child loves pretend play & dress up as much as we do, we know they will love these books!


  1. Hamilton’s Hats – Julia Donaldson

Many parents are familiar with Julia Donaldson’s “The Gruffalo” but this lesser known book (also featuring the art from Alex Scheffer) is a fan favorite for a reason. Which hat is your child’s favorite?

Hamilton the pig is very fond of hats. He loves hats so much his mum starts to worry that he's a very vain little pig. Little does she know that Hamilton's favourite hats will teach him some very important lessons!


  1. Paper Bag Princess - Robert Munsch

This book has sparked a lot of discussion in our house- Is a princess a princess without a princess dress? Why does the Paper Bag Princess leave Prince Ronald? Would you wear a paperbag if your princess dresses were burned up by a dragon?


The Princess Elizabeth is slated to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps Ronald. In resourceful and humorous fashion, Elizabeth finds the dragon, outsmarts him, and rescues Ronald--who is less than pleased at her un-princess-like appearance. One of the best princess stories ever told, Elizabeth turns the princess stereotype on its head, empowering young girls to be true to themselves.


  1. What To Do With a Box - Jane Yolen

If you give a child a box, who can tell what will happen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expedition. The most wonderful thing is its seemingly endless capacity for magical adventure, a feature imaginatively captured in cardboardesque art by Chris Sheban and rhythmically celebrated in this poetic tribute by renowned children's author Jane Yolen.

  1. The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jigs - Phoebe Gilman

Many of us grew up with Jillian Jigs – but this lesser known book features an enterprising & accessorizing little girl. Offers a lot of opportunities to discuss what your child can make!J

After discovering that buttons look just like pigs' noses, Jillian Jiggs embarks on an extravagant pig-making enterprise. She makes pirate pigs, princess pigs, striped pigs, and plaid pigs and sells them for ten cents each.

  1. Birdie’s Big Girl Dress – Suhean Rim

Any parent out there has likely felt the pain of growing out of a favorite article of clothing. Whether it’s a princess dress or a favourite set of PJs, this book puts a great spin on discovering the power of play in unusual places…

In this follow-up to Birdie's Big-Girl Shoes, our favorite pint-sized fashionista is looking forward to a very BIG day--her birthday. But when Birdie tries on her favorite party dress, she realizes that - oh no! - it's too small. Mommy takes her to the boutique, where she tries on dress after dress, but Birdie realizes that none of these gowns will allow her to run and jump, make messes, and eat cake. Only when she takes a trip up to her favorite thinking place, the attic, does she realize that all it takes to find the perfect "Birdie dress" is a little imagination.



  1. Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma - Jacky Davis

Bedtime can be fun, especially for Ladybug Girl and Bingo. From bath-time bubble beards, to pajamas with wings, to special good-nights for all of her stuffed animals, Ladybug Girl puts her own unique and cozy twist on the nightly ritual.

  1. What Riley Wore - Elana K. Arnold

Gender-creative Riley knows just what to wear for every occasion during a busy week with family and friends in this sweet and timely picture book from Elana K. Arnold and Linda Davick. Riley wears whatever clothes feel right each day. On Monday, Riley feels shy and wears a bunny costume to school.

  1. Fancy Nancy Series - Jane O’Connor

Meet Nancy, who believes that more is ALWAYS better when it comes to being fancy. From the top of her tiara down to her sparkly studded shoes, Nancy is determined to teach her family a thing or two about being fancy and using fancy words. How Nancy transforms her parents and little sister for one enchanted evening makes for a story that is funny and warm -- with or without frills.

  1. When I was a Dinosaur - Tatsuhide Matsuoka

When a little boy gets a dinosaur costume for his birthday, it opens up a world of imagination. An amazing, prehistoric world, full of friendly Iguana-dons and dangerous Tyrannosauruses, but most of all--adventure. Welcome to Dinosaur Land...

  1. Pretend - Jennifer Plecas  

What could have been a quiet afternoon at home turns into an adventure for Jimmy and his dad. Their couch turns into a boat! The staircase becomes a mountain! And blankets become a cozy hut, just right to cuddle inside. The one thing they don't have to pretend is how much they love one another.

We hope you enjoy these books as much as we do and that they spark a creative play time in your household. Remember with a little imagination, the possibilities are endless.  We would love to hear what your favourite childhood books were too! Leave us a comment below.

Want to include pretend play in your story time? Shop our related products below

Link: Dinosaur capes, pink tutu or dresses, tiaras, sparkly jewelry,

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