Great Joy

Great Joy

by Kate DiCamillo

illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2007

28 pp.

Age: 4+

Interests: Christmas, Christmas pageant

Also by this author: Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, Mercy Watson early chapter book series



Top 5: Poetry for Preschoolers

Last week’s list was Poetry for the Very Young, the baby-to-2 crowd, and now we move up to 3 and beyond.

1. When We Were Very Young / Now We Are Six, by A.A. Milne – age: 3+

Published in 1924 and 1927, these two collections successfully walk the tightrope between sentimentality and humour. The danger in nostalgic poetry about childhood for children is that it ends up appealing more to grownups with their own fond memories of a simpler time. The Milne poems are charming for grownups, but the playful energy will still hook children, every very young ones. You can pick and choose as you go (some poems are very long); I was reading these with my daughter when she was three and she had favourites she’d ask for again and again. Now that she’s five I may pull these books out once more… (Available combined into one volume, at

2. Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy, by Michael Rosen, ill. by Quentin Blake – age: 4+

This is a combination of two earlier books, Don’t Put Mustard in the Custard, and You Can’t Catch Me,  which came out in 1985 and 1981 respectively. Rosen’s work is less structured and more conversational, made up of tidbits of children’s speech and a smattering of nonsense. His introduction to this edition is written for children aged 7 or 8, and encourages them to perform the poems out loud and take a stab at writing poems themselves. Rosen has written many books of poetry for children and was appointed the British Children’s Laureate in 2007. (This title available at

3. Alligator Pie, by Dennis Lee – age: 4+

Even more raucous fun. This Canadian classic from 1974 sets the bar high for sheer audacity and infectious nonsense. The title poem must (yes, I say must) be taught to your child and memorized so that the both of you can recite it together at the top of your lungs.

4. Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein – age: 5+

Another much-loved collection, this was also published in 1974 (a banner year for children’s poetry!). This one is perfect for slightly older children, with poems like “I’m being eaten by a boa constrictor” and others with less than cheery endings. Still, it retains a light touch and is pretty hilarious. (This one is my 5-yr-old’s current favourite.)

(This title available at

5. The New Kid on the Block, by Jack Prelutsky – age: 6+

There are many collections by this prolific poet, this one came out in 1984. Slightly sharper-edged humour, more sarcasm, more complex jokes, and a more advanced vocabulary. Of the “Homework! Oh homework! I hate you! You stink!” school of playground humour, this collection is both tougher (“Suzanna Socked Me Sunday”) and grosser (“Jellyfish Stew”) than the others on this list. Still, quite funny and enjoyable.

(This title available at

I had originally intended to include in this list the classic A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson (1885), which is very important historically as a first serious attempt to write poetry from a child’s point of view and in a child’s voice, but it proved to be fairly unreadable cover-to-cover, child-wise. A little too sentimental and nostalgic. And it doesn’t have enough humour to really grab the imagination of a modern reader. It’s possible that a child with more literary tastes might enjoy it – or perhaps RLS’s poems are better encountered individually within anthologies.

City Lights (1931)

City Lights

Black & white, Silent

Released: 1931

Rated: G

Length: 87 min.

Age:  6+  sez:  8

Scary factor:  Guns are brandished, especially during burglary, but more for comedic effect – no harm is done.

Violence:  General slapstick knock-about humour. The Tramp is (cleanly) knocked unconscious in the boxing ring.

Questionable behaviour: drinking and drunken behaviour (including reckless driving) for humour; smoking cigars; wealthy drunk friend is suicidal in several instances

Interests: silent movies, history, city life, love story, money and class

Next: The Gold Rush, Modern Times, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Junior


Holiday Movie List link

Here’s a link to’s list of holiday films, ranked by age.

I haven’t seen all of them, but it looks like a pretty good list…

Top 5: Books about Snow

Dang. I know I promised the Part 2 Poetry List: 3 and up this week (Poetry for the under-3s here), but I’m still reading and picking books for that one. However, I was inspired by the little bit of snow we had this week to create a list of books celebrating the cold white stuff, all sides of it – from recreation to fantasy to science. (I’ve written on each of these books more fully – click on the title to read the full review.)

1. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats – age 2+

A small boy explores a snowy world. (Available at

2. The Story of the Snow Children, by Sibylle von Olfers – age 2+

High fantasy – a girl goes to visit the Snow Queen in her ice castle. (Available at

3. White Snow Bright Snow, by Alvin Tresselt/Roger Duvoisin – age 3+

Snow comes to town and everyone reacts to it in their own way… some shovel, some play. (Available at

4. The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader – age 3+

Animals and birds adopt many strategies to survive the winter. (Available at

5. Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin – age 5+

True story about the man who invented a way to photograph snowflakes. (Available at

The Snowy Day


The Snowy Day

by Ezra Jack Keats

New York: Viking Press, 1962

28 pp.

Ages: 2 +

Interests: snow, winter,

Also by this author: Whistle for Willie, Peter’s Chair, Goggles!


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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.