a list of…five stories sprinkled with a little pixie dust

Peter Pan told the Darling children that to fly, they needed just a little poof of pixie dust.   Each of these stories contains a pinch of pixie-dust magic, too, permitting our imaginations to soar…

The Yellow House, by Blake Morrison, illustrated by Helen Craig

The yellow house is a forlorn place.  Though it has a flower-strewn lawn, goldfish pond, greenhouse, and apple tree, it has no people, no children to play on the colorful, pebbly path.

To the little girl who walks past each day with Mom and baby sister, the slightly-dilapidated  house is a tad scary.  Even so, one day while Mom’s back is turned, the little girl climbs over the wooden gate and enters a wildly imaginative  world.  She is led by the garden gnome who has mysteriously changed into a small, friendly boy.  Together they discover just how exotic a place it is — tiger cubs wrestle in the long grass, dolphins cavort in the pond, a pelican is munching apples in the tree.

When the little girl attempts to reach the doorknob to enter the house, however, her imagination cannot quite make it happen.  And then Mom returns, with a bit of a stern word about disappearing from view without giving notice.  The yellow house, however, is always tinged with the memories of that imaginative explore, and hopes for another, similar visit.

This uncluttered story merges reality and fantasy seamlessly, just as they mesh in the minds of children. Helen Craig, whom you may know as the illustrator of the Angelina Ballerina stories, adds her muted, detailed, charm in the pictures. Botanical elegance, lovely animals, a perky chap in red wool hat, and the plucky, skimpy girl in pigtails and yellow pinafore, come to us via Craig’s lovely etchings.

Beware of the Storybook Wolves, written and illustrated by Lauren Child

Little does Herb’s mother realize what mayhem is about to break out when she inadvertently leaves the fairy tale book in Herb’s room one night after storytime…

…and before you can say bippety-boppety-boo, fairy tale characters are popping out of the pages, and Herb has got his hands quite full. First a large, wicked wolf, and a smaller, wicked wolf emerge,  intending to gobble him up.  Next, a bitter fairy teams up with the wolves.  It’s not until Cinderella’s  fairy godmother  tumbles into the room, that the tide begins to turn in Herb’s favor.

This is a hilarious account, a juicy fairy-tale spin, an out-of-control situation remedied by the resourceful Herb, with a little help from a cranky godmother.  Children who know their fairy tales will eat this up.  Lauren Child’s trademark mixed-media illustrations are, as always, vibrant with color, zing, and flare, setting just the right tone for all the crazyness!


The Full Belly Bowl, by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

There once was a very old man who lived a poor enough life in his humble house in the forest.  It happened that one day, while out picking strawberries, this old man rescued a teeny tiny man from the jaws of a fox!  And, in his turn, the tiny man left the very old man a gift on his doorstep.  It was a Full Belly Bowl, and it came with curious instructions, and a word of caution:  Use it wisely!

In no time, the very old man understands how the bowl works:  if he puts something in it, the bowl replicates it.  Soon, the Full Belly Bowl magically multiplies his meager portions of food so that for once, there is more than enough for both himself and his cat.  By and by, however, the man thinks up more uses for the bowl, and in a moment of greed, he disregards the bowl’s warning, forgets to follow the full set of instructions, and winds up with a bowl overflowing with unwelcome ingredients.  How will he set things right again?

This is a clever story, taking the standard “pasta pot that will not stop” element, and giving it a fresh twist.  Wendy Halperin is such a fantastic illustrator!  Her exquisite, detailed colored pencil artwork combines Old World fairy-tale settings,  intricate, fanciful borders, and a quaint, bearded man who has a tender spot for cats. Soft and lovely.

Shawnee Bill’s Enchanted Five-Ride Carrousel, by Cooper Edens, illustrated by Daniel Lane

Shawnee Bill is a Santa-Claus of a man, with his full white beard and comfortably-rounded stomach.  Every year, on the Fourth of July, he brings his Enchanted Five-Ride Carrousel to the North Valley Fair, where the children line up for a jolly ride on one of its magnificent animals.  There’s a swan, a tiger, a bear, a golden pony, and a rabbit.

But, when night has fallen and the carnival is closed, Shawnee Bill packs up his carrousel and heads off to spread a little magic a little further.  You see, Shawnee Bill remembers the toddlers, fast asleep in their cribs, who have had to miss out on the carnival because they were too little.  At a word from Shawnee Bill, the carrousel animals leave their posts to journey about the countryside, gently awaking the babies and giving them an enchanted ride in the starlight.

This is a perfect story for those younger siblings who have felt the pang of being left behind!  Daniel Lane’s colorful illustrations capture the vibrancy of the fairgrounds, the delight of a carrousel, and the enchantment of the babies’ marvelous, purple-night-sky adventures.  Nice choice for very young listeners.

The Magic Rabbit, written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate

Ray is a magician whose best companion is Bunny, the little white rabbit who bops in and out of Ray’s spiffy black top hat in response to a magic word or two and a swish of Ray’s golden star wand.

One day, however, an unfortunate collision occurs between Ray, Bunny, a juggler on a unicycle, and the juggler’s pug, resulting in a skedaddling Bunny, chased by the pug to a Very Distant Location. Separated as they are, Ray and Bunny are two sad buckaroos.  However will they find one another again?!

This is a simple, sweet story about two friends who love one another dearly and, happily, are reunited.  Cate’s pen-and-ink drawings are washed with almost completely monochromatic tones of gray, yielding a nice urban vibe, as well as portraying the utter lonesomeness of two lost people in the big city.  They are only almost monochromatic, because some magical golden stars from Ray’s wand shimmer along the way making, not quite a yellow brick road, but a cheery, golden-starred pathway for Bunny to follow.  Her style, along with her hand-lettered text, gives a fantastic, contemporary feel to this an old-fashioned story of friendship.

Here are Amazon links for all these magical stories:

The Yellow House

Beware of the Storybook Wolves

Full Belly Bowl 

Shawnee Bill’s Enchanted Five-Ride Carrousel

The Magic Rabbit