The Amazing Bone by William Steig

The Amazing Bone by William Steig


Publishing: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York, 1976

Awards: Caldecott Honor

Description: Pearl the pig goes to hang out in the woods on a nice day and finds a magical bone that can talk and imitate any noise. Pearl takes it with her and it scares off some robbers, but it does not scare off the fox who finds her. Instead, the fox takes her and the talking bone back to his house, where he plans to make a meal of Pearl. Right at the last minute, the bone remembers from magic from the witch he knew before, and he shrinks the fox into the size of a mouse. Pearl and the bone go home and are best friends from there on out.

Programming: I wasn’t sure what to do with this book, but Scholastic has some great suggestions about magic and imagination, friendship, and spring weather.


Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco

Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco


Publishing: Simon and Schuster, New York, 1990

Description: Natasha is an impatient little girl who constantly asks her Babushka to do things for her. One day Natasha notices a beautiful doll sitting on a high shelf. Natasha’s babushka says she only played with the doll once as a child, but tells the girl she can play with it while the babushka goes to the market. As soon as her babushka leaves, the doll comes to life and Natasha must cater to her every whim. When the babushka comes back and finds Natasha crying, she tells her she must have had a bad dream and that she can play with the doll anytime she wants. Natasha tells her that once is enough. 

Programming: This would be very cool if lumped together in a series about toys or dolls. The class could talk about different toys, or specifically types of dolls, found in different countries and time periods. You could even order your own blank white dolls and allow students to decorate their own with markers or puff paint, as seen here:

Boys might be more interested in this if they can decorate them as monsters as the picture shows. Other tie-ins would be the russian word “Babushka” and Natasha’s lesson in patience. Team building activities might reinforce students’ own patience. 

My Ol’ Man by Patricia Polacco

My Ol’ Man by Patricia Polacco

Publishing: Philomel, New York, 1995

Description: Polacco tells readers about her father or Da, and his knack for storytelling and dreaming. One day her father comes home and tells her and her brother about a magical rock he found while traveling as a salesman. He takes them to see the rock, and when he later loses his job, they visit it again in the hopes that some of its magic will help them. Eventually, it does, and their father gets a new job at the nearby radio station by writing in a story about the rock. When the family goes to pay homage, however, the rock has disappeared. They realize that all along the magic was in the three of them, and not the rock.

Programming: Because of the social themes, I might recommend this book for a guidance counselor who is doing a lesson with a class. The family is very poor but still manage to love and care for each other, with the grandmother sacrificing her collection of crepe paper birds to buy Patricia the paints she promised. The end also has a great moral about believing in yourself and your abilities.

Once a Mouse… by Marcia Brown

Once a Mouse… by Marcia Brown


Publishing: Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1961

Awards: Caldecott Medal Winner

Description: This book tells the fable of a mouse who is transformed through the protection of a hermit from a mouse, to a cat, to a dog, and finally to a grand tiger. However, when the tiger’s pride is too much, the hermit changes him back to humble him.

Programming: Since this story deals with Indian culture, students might find India on the map and discuss characteristics of the culture of India. Discussion should also revolve around why the hermit changed the tiger back to a mouse.