Do you remember the Fifth Dimension singing, “Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon?” I always thought this uplifting—pun intended—song was about setting goals and dreaming of a better future. The lyrics inspired my imagination. How did you interpret the lyrics?

How important is imagination? Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I don’t think he was saying knowledge was unimportant but rather that it was limited to what we currently know and understand. Imagination is unlimited and allows us to explore new ideas and discover more knowledge.
Thus, it’s not surprising that child development experts stress the importance of encouraging the imagination of kids. Jean Piaget, probably the most famous child psychologist, thought imaginative play was necessary for a child’s emotional and intellectual development. For example, children using stones, leaves, and dirt found in the garden as they pretend to cook like Mom is an example of imagination and problem-solving in children.

Books can encourage imagination and problem-solving skills in children. In essence, a good children’s book should resemble the song lyrics— “Up, up, and away in my beautiful balloon.” It should spark a child’s imagination and encourage a child to think about goals.
A book can’t meet its goal if it’s not fun. That means successful books for two-to-eight-year-old kids must:

• be colorful,
• have an engaging plot with some humor,
• have pretty or exciting illustrations and
• Perhaps it contains several repeatable phrases. Think of lines from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. “And then something went BUMP! How that bump made us jump!”

Children get an added benefit from books. Adults must read the book to children under five at least the first couple of times.

Books are perfect gifts for the kids in your life. The holidays—Halloween, Christmas, Hannukah—are coming. Books are perfect gifts. Books don’t need to be assembled like complex mechanical toys. They won’t let kids destroy teeth like candy. They don’t make obnoxious noises that drive adults crazy. They don’t break or stop functioning before the holiday is over. Books are easy to wrap and ship. Books are the perfect gift for the kids in your life.

Writers of novels get an added benefit when they buy a book for a child. They’re building a potential future audience.

Come Fly with Elf is a new picture book for children. In this book, Elf is a tiny, energetic dog with big ears who dreams of flying in a hot air balloon. The protagonist of Come Fly with Elf is based on my naughty, five-pound Papillon named Elf.

Why does Elf have this dream? Elf and I live near Albuquerque, and every year, the city sponsors a Balloon Fiesta. In 2023, it was from October 7 to October 15. Some dogs are afraid of hot air balloons when they sail overhead. The real Elf watches them without barking.

Children will identify with Elf. He pouts when he doesn’t get what he wants and complains, “I’m on a shelf – all by myself.” Elf is sassy and manipulates his mom by barking, as shown in the illustration. Eventually, in the book, Elf gets to ride in a hot air balloon. During the process, he and the child reading the book learn about hot air balloons. They also learn an important life lesson. Elf says hear the end, “I want to be free. I want to be me. But I want Mom to be happy.”

The illustrations were done by someone who loves dogs and hot air balloons. She gave Elf different expressions to match his moods. The real dog can move his ears to match his feelings. The illustrations not only show Elf but also various aspects of ballooning. The illustrator and I also tried to introduce humor in the book with Elf’s sassy comments.

I think you’ll find Come Fly with Elf appeals to kids-at-heart (whether three or eighty years old) who have impossible dreams and love dogs.

COME FLY WITH ELF is available at

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