Is imagination an incurable condition?
It’s true that the fun aspect of our imagination is the first casualty of grown-up life. We lose sight of the positive things and begin focusing on the harsh realities, such as bills.
The car’s next service, kids’ education, broken washing machine, and the rent which is due. The weight of it all bears down on us. It becomes a quest for survival, when it should be a quest to save the princess from a fire-breathing dragon.
It wasn’t until I got my hands on a copy of The Incurable Imagination, that I realised, for the millionth time, what an incredible impact we have on a child’s imagination. As parents, we all know we should seek to stimulate young minds and keep their imagination active, but this gets increasingly difficult when we are trapped in our grown-up world.
The Incurable Imagination is a new children’s picture book, which was a collaborative effort by Paul Russell, who provided the text, and Aska, who did the illustrations. It tells the story of little Audrey. From birth, we understand that Audrey is different from other children.
She draws interesting pictures, makes up her own songs while other children sing familiar kiddies rhymes, and she has friends which are invisible to grown-ups. When she finally goes to school, she is ‘diagnosed as having a serious condition called imagination.’
Before long, Audrey begins to infect the other children with the same ‘illness.’ Even the teachers begin showing symptoms of imagination, which brings about some hilarity in the classrooms. As is to be expected, the parents try to bring conventional schooling back, but imagination quickly spreads beyond the confines of the school.
This book is such an enjoyable read. The subtle use of colour and brilliant illustration work by Aska, does not come across as being loud or overbearingly playful. Instead it seems to have such a gentle approach to storytelling, conveying the message while showcasing an imaginative flair.
Though the story might not seem like rocket science, it is the story we do not appreciate enough as adults, and completely forget about as parents. Imagination is the one element that we often lose sight of. Paul Russell seems to caution parents about being too critical or too serious.
Russell and Aska have succeeded in capturing the problem of imagination in its purest form. I say problem, because it is quite clear that imagination can be misconstrued as a hindrance to the perceived norm. Audrey’s story reminds us that there is no origin of imagination, no real inception point or source from which it pours into being. Children are naturally creative.
In our haste and our all-consuming stresses of day-to-day life, we make no provision for silliness or fun, and our children’s creativity suffer because of it. We rob them of the power of imagination by not entertaining role-playing games or elaborate storytelling.
We are the ones who need to take heed of the true story of The Incurable Imagination. We need to share it with our children in such a way, that they can find comfort in expressing themselves. Sometimes it’s okay to play some goofy games at home, to slay imaginary dragons in the kitchen, fight off ninjas on the way to the bathroom or to brush the mane of the unicorn living in your backyard. The Incurable Imagination encourages us to see life through the eyes of our children and to meet them there, in that world where imagination rules over the pressures of our adult world.
Paul Russell is a father, author, teacher and playwright. He is passionate about children’s literature and in building an appetite within children for the written word. Aska is an award-winning illustrator, artist and scientist. Through her illustrations, she loves to create energetic characters with a curious streak.
James Fouche is an author, travel writer, entrepreneur and silly daddy of three. He also writes about parenting and wine, whenever his kids allow him to.