Tale Endings

Like dessert, the ending of a story stays with us. Here are some endings (without spoilers!) to picture books for children: the simple (but total!) surprise; the minor twist; the totally predictable (and utterly charming); and the sweet and satisfying.

Wolf’s Coming! by Joe Kulka

wolf's coming big

There’s a delicious kind of fear when we’re reading a scary story—not too scary, but scary enough to make us quiver with excitement.

Just ask the kindergartners.

“Are you sure you want me to turn the page?” I ask them. “You’re not too scared?” No, they aren’t, but I certainly have their attention right up to the denouement on the last page.

Rated for kindergarten to grade two, this story even has nine-year-old Tina mystified at first. I think it’s the marriage of text and illustrations that does us all in. Kulka’s bright, almost garish portrayals of the night sky, drooling wolf, and alarmed prey animals set everyone from kindergartners to sophisticated grade threes to the story lady herself up for the ending.

And it’s a good one.

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton.

Three would-be mighty hunters have a plan, the mini-might has bread, and Albert Einstein has a quote.

The text is sparse and effective, and the illustrations are most dramatic—humans and scenery in shades of black and blue, prey in bright colors. The ending is cute—and leaves us without a speck of worry about the fate of the hunted. Although I like the story, I’d have liked it even better if the hunters had learned something. However, your color-loving correspondent would also recommend Haughton’s book for the artwork alone.

Where Is That Cat? by Carol Greene

where cat larger

Who doesn’t know that none of the would-be pet owners is going to find the elusive feline? The only mystery is where he’s going to hide next. But, like those who watch “The Sound of Music” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas” every year, children take great pleasure in knowing what’s going to happen next–and perhaps they will also enjoy your “surprise” at their confidence.

Chaucer’s First Winter by Stephen Krensky

Chaucer winter

This happy little bear proved very popular with the kindergartners. When Chaucer’s older friends, Nugget the Fox and Kit the Squirrel, tell the cub he’ll be sleeping the winter away, he’s understandably disappointed—and curious.

So, certain that his parents are asleep in the den, Chaucer sneaks outside for a fun-filled winter. His friends are apt teachers, and Chaucer loves sliding, snowball fights, icicles . . . and he even builds a snug snow house for them all before a storm hits.

But where are his parents? Snoozing peacefully? Look around the corner, behind the tree, and even in the snowstorm, and you’ll see that Chaucer’s watchful parents are never far away.

When his beloved snow melts into puddles, Chaucer heads back to the cave to tell his parents all about his adventures. And then . . . the sweet ending.

So there you have it–the mystery dessert, the apple pie with a new spice, Grandma’s traditional Christmas cake, and a piece of fudge. Enjoy the stories with your little ones, and savor the flavor long after the children have gone to sleep.

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An Intensely Valuable–and Ongoing–Experience

Margaret chooses and shares children’s literature which always engages our young listeners. We believe Margaret’s reading sessions have enhanced literary appreciation of our children and increased their desire to read and understanding of the process. (Karen, Director, Glory Garden Out of School Care)

Martin the Cobbler

Why did I start?

* I love reading stories to children.
* I felt a need to develop an ear for children’s stories, and reading aloud is more “real” to me when I have an audience.
* I wanted to see where the children’s attention peaked and flagged.
* I wanted to see where I found the text boring or tedious.
* I wanted to try out my own stories on a group of children.

Reading to the kindergarten children has provided feedback in all the above ways, and there was another one as well. I have different children pick three stories from the four I bring each week–and it’s illuminating to watch them judge the books by their covers. Here are some of my findings:

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover? Seriously?
Cover Stories–and What’s Inside

However, judging from Karen’s kind comment, it isn’t just a one way street.

There was an unexpected benefit at Christmas. Tommy and I acted out a much abridged and highly edited version of Leo Tolstoy’s Martin the Cobbler for the older children. I played Martin, and Tommy played the other roles: a little boy without shoes, a big brother who wrapped his baby sister in his own coat because she had no blanket, and an old man hungry for a crust of bread.

Props like Tina’s doll, a blanket, and a loaf of whole grain bread added to the drama.

The children clearly got the message, as demonstrated by the discussion that followed. The young child care worker drew out not only the meaning of the story, but how the children could apply it to their lives.

To learn about other stories that have been a hit with the children, please check out Margaret’s Top Picks on my website, where my nine-year-old granddaughter also weighs in on what makes a really good story.

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How to Lose $550,000 before Lunchtime

As the happy owner of a Facebook Book Page, I had a fascinating adventure this morning–and it may prove helpful to you if you are both new to social media and a naturally optimistic person . . . .

Danyille Marie had been chatting me up in a general way over the last several days, but today she had some big news–I’d won $550,000.00 from FB!

Who doesn’t like to hear that kind of news? And what are the odds—especially when you don’t buy lottery tickets and don’t gamble?

adv surprised

Danyille assured me that I had been chosen at random by the computer, and sent me pix of previous lucky winners as well as jpgs of my cheque and other “documentation.”

adv happy group

I even got texts from “FedEx” assuring delivery of my cheque.

I decided to play along until she asked for money or bank info, thinking that it would be bank info. She surprised me, instead asking for $240.

Too cute—almost right after I got the texts from “FedEx,” a friend and his nephew came to the door. I told Danyille two men had come to the door and asked if I should pay them, but she said to send the cheque for $240 to the address she had provided.

The guys missed out!

adv sad men

I asked Danyille to take the $240 off my winnings and send me a cheque for the rest, but I guess that’s not how it’s done. (I’m new to the world of high finance.)

Isn’t there a saying to the effect that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is?

YouTube has several helpful videos about this scam.

By the way, when I recounted this adventure to my son he warned me against opening jpgs, as malicious code can be embedded. He suggested scanning the picture by right-clicking and “Scan with [your antivirus software]”, then delete it by selecting it, then pressing Shift+Delete (“Shift” makes it bypass the recycle bin).


Guess it’s time to do some real work . . . .

woman working

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Cooked Carrots and Hair in a Shopping Cart: Should the Good Guys Always Win?

I didn’t like cooked carrots when I was a child. REALLY didn’t like them. But Phyllis, my mother’s friend, told me carrots would make my hair curly, and I ate them because it would be worth it.

I’m still waiting, Phyllis.

straight hair

Now Jeanette reports that her 3 1/2-year-old niece wants to grow her hair long like Tina’s in Scissortown so she can carry it in a basket.

When I read or tell the story to very young children and ask them if their daddies pull up trees like this, the answer is always yes.

31 Pull Up Trees

Ditto when I ask very little boys if they take a ruler to the barbershop.

In light of the fact that, in the minds of little ones, Goldilocks really did eat Baby Bear’s porridge AND break his chair . . .

as writers of children’s books, should we always make sure that the winner comes out on top by making good choices?

kindness rabbit

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On-Color Stories

My mother and I were very close when I was a child, but there was one thing that always baffled me.


Yellow was her favorite color. I puzzled over this mystery–why couldn’t she see that red was prettier?

Now, as an adult, I also prefer yellow, but I think we can learn something here about children’s book covers.

There was the award-winning book I took to the day care but did not read because the children didn’t choose it. Why? I think because the cover, although attractive to an adult, was a little on the dark side.

This cover has some dark blue, but I think its intensity, along with the judicious use of light and the mood the contrast evokes (not to mention the subject matter), are what put it at the top.

wolf's coming big

Then there was the book with the pretty pastel cover–it didn’t get chosen till I put it between two stories the children had already heard.

However, this one was picked the first time:

Best Sheepdog

On the basis of this and other storytimes, I conclude that color is highly significant,

Doctor Hippo

but that cute trumps color. Size matters, too–large books seem more attractive, and the artists may be able to get away with lighter colors.

This book, large in real life, was a popular choice.

Edge Forest

Coralie and I went back and forth about the color of Tina’s dress. I’m no longer into fire engine red and thought pink might be cliché, but I do like the pink/red family. We finally settled on this shade, with my granddaughter Tina choosing Katie Kat’s colors.

29 Tina Hugs KK 300 ppi

On the sage advice of a toddler, we went with purple for the dress under construction. Coralie came up with the gold for Tommy’s shirt.

My next book, Marie and Mr. Drone, stars a little girl who lives in a cabin in the woods and plays with her forest friends. The story takes place in the fall–the artist’s favorite season for obvious reasons. Coralie plans to create a couple of outfits for Marie, and my granddaughter Tina will choose the one she likes the best. Whatever she chooses, I’m sure Coralie will have colored it to complement fall’s beauty.

We trust it will also appeal to the eyes of a child.

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Cliffhangers, Adrenaline and Empathy


Baby Bird’s First Nest–does the title run shivers up your spine? Is the author/illustrator the next Tom Clancy or James Patterson perhaps?

And therein lies the beauty of reading to a live audience. I chose Baby Bird’s First Nest because it was a sweet story with bright pictures, little realizing that it was so suspenseful.

After Baby Bird’s fall from the nest, “Darkness loomed all around her. Even the moon looked cold and scary.” Frank Asch’s text is just right for little listeners.

Baby Bird’s new friend, Frog, helps her build her very first nest. All is well until he hears . . . paws!

Many writers have their characters hear footsteps, but “paws” is particularly effective here, as is the close-up of the hungry predator’s face. And– Baby Bird can’t fly yet!

So why do we like to be scared, but not too scared? Psychologists say we like the adrenaline rush.

wolf's coming big

But there’s more than suspense in this tale of Baby Bird–there’s a powerful story of friendship as Frog lends a hand.

Baby Bird book

There’s a lesson here: see a need, give help.

In her excellent article, Teaching empathy: Evidence-based tips for fostering empathy in children, Gwen Dewar, Ph.D. notes:

Stories—from books or television—are opportunities for kids to practice perspective-taking skills. What do the characters think, believe, want, or feel? And how do we know it?

When families discuss these questions, kids may learn a lot about the way other people’s minds work (Dunn et al 2001). In one experimental study, 110 school kids (aged 7 years) were enrolled in a program of reading. Some students were randomly assigned to engage in conversations about the emotional content of the stories they read. Others were asked only to produce drawings about the stories. After two months, the kids in the conversation group showed greater advances in emotion comprehension, theory of mind, and empathy, and the positive outcomes “remained stable for 6 months” (Ornaghi et al 2014).

According to Dr. Dewar, experiments suggest that kids are more likely to feel empathy for individuals who are familiar and/or similar to them. Baby Bird and Frog are clearly very different, but that does not seem to matter. They are drawn together by the one’s need and the other’s kindness. Is there another lesson for us here?

Enjoy the adrenaline rush, take advantage of the mounting excitement to help children predict outcomes, immerse yourself and your young listeners in Baby Bird’s predicaments, admire Frog’s kindness and initiative–and enjoy the story!

And perhaps join me in a challenge. Can we, too, write stories that are so full of life lessons and so engaging to our listeners?

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I’d Have Loved This! (Second Edition)

snowman drawing

When I was in grade two, our teacher used to post our best pictures on the wall. My pink and blue snowman made the cut, and, if memory serves, that was the last of my art posted that year.

Thinking I had the formula, I made pink and blue snowmen summer and winter, but to no avail. Perhaps that was the year I discovered I couldn’t do art.

And perhaps a similar discovery (which can be made despite the best efforts of teachers) explains nine-year-old Marie.

While creating our very first entry for the Stories by Children website page, Marie was right into the storytelling–composing, pondering and editing, as all good storytellers do.

However, when she was faced with the prospect of creating a picture for her Zero to Hero dino story, the project almost collapsed. Almost, that is, until Marie and her scribe Googled “draw T-Rex step by step.”


So here we have the amended version of the call, now extended to writers and illustrators.

No doubt there are many who, like Marie and me, find that working with a differently talented partner is the way to go. Page--stories_by_children3_blog (1)

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I’d Have Loved This When I Was a Kid!

Next week the after school care staff is to give this flyer out to the grade two to fours. We’ve acted out two stories together, in the hopes of getting their creative juices flowing. I’m excited to see the results!

Please note that this is not a competition. I will publish all the stories–fiction and non-fiction–that meet the criteria as long as space permits.



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The King of Little Things

King Little Things    “What a cute story! I actually thought the ending was very funny.” (Tommy, 8)

Ah, those best laid plans again. My website’s not quite ready (the designer is in the midst of a move), so I can’t ask the children to send me their stories yet. I decide to present, with help from the grade two to fours, Bill Lepp’s The King of Little Things.

“Everyone knows Continue reading

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Princess to the Rescue


The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry (Robbie Burns)

Driving into town, I consider my plan. I’m going to read the grade two to fours a funny story, then complain that there’s something missing from my new website–their stories. I’ll tell them I’ll be back next week with another story, and will give them flyers telling them how to submit their stories for my site.

Hmm. The book isn’t where I thought it was. Oh yes, now I know. It’s at home waiting by my office door.

With no time to go back, I decide to present The Lady or the Tiger?, with abject apologies to Frank Stockton.

“A long time ago in a land far, far away, there lived a king and queen [I choose two royal volunteers to stand sedately] and their beautiful daughter, Continue reading

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