Grasshopper On the Road

Grasshopper on the Road

by Arnold Lobel

New York: Harper & Row, 1978

57 pp. – 6 stories

Age: 5+

Interests: insects, differing viewpoints, philosophy

Also by this author: Frog and Toad books, Fables


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz  (aka The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)

by L. Frank Baum

original illustrator W. W. Denslow

first published 1900

158 pp.  (in New York: Sterling, 1999) –  24 chapters

Age: 5 +

Interests: magic, witches, adventure, travel, tornadoes

Also by this author: 14 Oz sequels, of varying quality


A Tree is Nice


A Tree is Nice

Janice May Udry, author

Marc Simont, illustrator

New York: HarperCollins, 1956

30 pp.

Age: 2+

Interests: trees, nature, ecology


The Funny Little Woman


The Funny Little Woman

Arlene Mosel, author

Blair Lent, illustrator

New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972

36 pp.

Age: 3+

Interests: folktales, Japan, cooking, magic, caves


Fairy Tale Controversy, Part 3: Modern Times

[Previously:  Fairy Tale Controversy, Part 1 ; Fairy Tale Controversy, Part 2: Coming to America]

Fairy tales are no less controversial today than they ever were in the past. The arguments against them echo some of the concerns of the past, and add new ones. Sexual content or innuendo in tales for children is still prohibited. We are less concerned about maintaining class distinctions, but we definitely have a lower tolerance for grisly violence than audiences of the past. And we have added the relatively recent concerns of racism and sexism to the mix. As well, parents today seem inordinately bothered by death scenes in children’s literature. In past times, the death of a parent, of a mother in childbirth, of babies and young children was much more common than today, and therefore found a place in the literature. Today we seem uneasy with the very subject, a modern preoccupation.


Canadian Children’s Book Centre Award Finalists – 2011

Here’s the link for this year’s list of finalists.

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is a national, not-for-profit organization and registered charity founded in 1976 to promote, support and encourage the reading, writing and illustrating of Canadian books for children and teens.

Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper


Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper

translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown

New York: Macmillan, 1954

30 pp.

Age: 3 +

Interests: fairy tales, princesses, magic


Finders Keepers


Finders Keepers

by Will (William Lipkind)

illustrated by Nicolas (Nicolas Mordvinoff)

New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1951

30 pp.

Age: 2 +

Interests: dogs, farms


Top 5: Ballet Stories for Preschoolers

A great way to introduce a child to ballet is to start with the stories. There are many storybooks based on famous ballets, I’ll include a few specific editions that we’ve read. (All are probably suitable for about age 3 and up.)





1. The Nutcracker – This most perfect first ballet for children is a Christmas story with many familiar tunes, adventure and drama, a battle with the mouse king, fairies, magic, and toys come to life. There are many picture book versions out there, one I liked is by Maurice Sendak, who also designed a production of the ballet which I found on video at our library.

Nutcracker, by E.T.A. Hoffman, ill. Maurice Sendak

2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – It’s a Shakespearian play! It’s an opera! It’s a ballet! It’s a terrific old movie! Another story with lots of magic and comedy, crazy mixups, fairies and a guy with a donkey head. The ballet was based on the incidental music that Felix Mendelssohn wrote for the Shakespeare play.

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, retold by Bruce Coville, ill. Dennis Nolan

3. Sleeping Beauty – Of course, of course, everyone knows this story. The ballet music was written by Tchaikovsky and is wonderful – many of his musical themes can be heard in the Disney film Sleeping Beauty.

Sleeping Beauty: The Ballet Story, by Marian Horosko, ill. Todd Doney

4. The Firebird -A Russian folktale turned into a ballet by Igor Stravinsky. A prince saves captive maidens from a demon with the help of a magic bird.

The Firebird, by Jane Yolen, ill. Vladimir Vagin

5. Swan Lake – Dreamy beautiful ballet by Tchaikovsky – you know the main tune. Absolutely gorgeous illustrations in the edition below, which I also like because Zwerger tells the story with the happy ending Tchaikovsky originally had to his ballet, rather than the later, better known version with the lovers drowning in the lake.

Swan Lake, retold and ill. by Lisbeth Zwerger

Ballet companies are always eager to win over the next generation of audience members, so they do a lot of outreach work. I found ballet stories and a ‘Ballet ABC’ at the NYC Ballet website, and I’m sure there are many other similar offerings to be found online.

The next step after picture books may be finding ballet clips online, watching ballet DVDs or videos (like the Sendak Nutcracker I found at our public library), and finally going to a Christmas-time Nutcracker performance. One other possibility for the very young is to go to a ballet school year-end concert: less formal, less expensive, but still very exciting for a first-time experience!

The Magic Finger

The Magic Finger

by Roald Dahl

illustrator Quentin Blake

London: Puffin, 1964

63 pp.

Age: 4 +

Interests: animal welfare, birds, magic

Also by this author: James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, Charley and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and many, many more


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.