The best children’s stories with the magic of three

Who am I?

I teach writing for children and I’ve analyzed the elements that make a winning story. One of these elements is the magic of three. My idea for Finley Finds his Fortune, was sparked by a desire to write a folk tale with the magic of three and also by my visit to Whitechurch, the last working watermill in England. I was awed by the power and beauty of its water wheel so I wove a water mill into my story. To do this, I had to first study how a mill works. That’s what I love about writing children’s booksthat I can explore my own personal interests and passions.


I wrote...

Finley Finds His Fortune

By Maxine Rose Schur, Olga Alaimo (illustrator),

Book cover of Finley Finds His Fortune

What is my book about?

When the three sons of a poor widow go into the world to seek their fortune, the first two meet with misfortune. But when the third son, Finley, sets out, his intelligence, imagination, and hard work change his poor situation into a life of bounty for himself and his family.

In this original folk tale which incorporates the storytelling “magic of three,” Maxine Rose Schur weaves a lively story with themes of gratitude, ingenuity, and love. It’s a story to be enjoyed as much for its delightful storytelling as for its wise, heartwarming message.

The books I picked & why

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The Three Questions

By Jon J. Muth,

Book cover of The Three Questions

Why this book?

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book by an artist who loves Zen philosophy. I found the book’s message a powerful guide in my own life. Nikolai is a young boy with three important questions about how to be a good person: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? And What is the right thing to do? He gets confusing answers from his animal friends even the old turtle. But when he helps a mother panda in distress, his questions are answered by the wise turtle, and Nikolai realizes that his own thoughts and actions gave him the answers. This is a story with exquisite art and great wisdom about compassion, action, and living in the now. 

The Three Questions

By Jon J. Muth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Three Questions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. When young Nikolai seeks counsel from Leo, the wise old turtle who lives in the mountains, he is sure Leo will know the answers to his three questions. When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? But it is Nikolai's own response to a stranger's cry for help that leads him directly to the answers he is looking for. Jon J Muth combined his studies of Zen with his love of Tolstoy to create this profound yet simple book about…


The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

By Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith (illustrator),

Book cover of The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

Why this book?

As author John Scieszka himself says he’s sold “bazilions of books” so he sure doesn’t need my endorsement but this is such a funny book I couldn’t resist. Yes, it tells the familiar story of the three little pigs but it does so in a wildly unfamiliar wayfrom the wolf’s point of view. Alexander T. Wolf tells the reader what really happened and professes his innocence. Despite having a cold, he was baking a cake for his dear grandmother when he needed to borrow a cup of sugar from the neighboring pig. What happens next he declares was not his fault yet he’s gotten a bad rap ever since. This is an offbeat, fractured fairytale that completely reverses the message of the original tale to give a new one: there are always two sides to every story.

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

By Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The wolf gives his own outlandish version of what really happened when he tangled with the three little pigs.


The Three Golden Keys

By Peter Sis,

Book cover of The Three Golden Keys

Why this book?

Peter Sis is an acclaimed international writer, artist, and filmmaker. He’s created several award-winning children’s books. In The Three Golden Keys, Sis recaptures his lost childhood in Prague and takes the reader on a dark, mysterious adventure through Prague to find the three keys that will unlock the three rusty padlocks of his childhood home and of his own childhood memories.

I like his art more than his storytelling which is often so personal as to be cryptic. So why am I recommending this book? Because his illustrations of Prague are so beautifully detailed, surreal, and mysterious. It’s a work of art that’s personal, poignant, and poetic. It’s a gorgeous book but perhaps enjoyed by adults more than children.

The Three Golden Keys

By Peter Sis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Three Golden Keys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“The Three Golden Keys” is professional contortionist Samuel Palmer’s method of correcting and maintaining perfect body alignment, which enables him to continue to perform at top physical condition. It is a technique for reconfiguring the body’s neuromuscular patterns to enable one to achieve the greatest precision and efficiency in both posture and movement. These principles of alignment are based in geometry and are demonstrated mathematically to show the definition of correct alignment. This information serves as the ideal foundation for all forms of physical training, as well as basic health care.


Treasure Hunt

By Stephanie Wildman, Estefanía Razo (illustrator),

Book cover of Treasure Hunt

Why this book?

Often, the magic of three is not so obvious. In the newly-published picture book, Treasure Hunt by Stephanie Wildman, three children play a new game. Older brother Luis turns his two younger siblings away from video games by creating a scavenger hunt in which they must use riddles as clues to gather ordinary household objects. And yes, they get three clues and so three chances to gather all the objects, which then become the materials to create a puppet show using a discarded cardboard box the new stove came in as the stage. The use of three here, as in all stories, produces a feeling of a satisfying completion. This is a mystery story for children 3-8 with a surprise ending and guidance for kids on how to make simple puppets.

Treasure Hunt

By Stephanie Wildman, Estefanía Razo (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Treasure Hunt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this light-hearted story, twins Flor and Roberto scamper through their house, hunting for treasure hidden by big brother, Luis. Can these everyday objects really be treasures that offer more fun than video games or TV? Join Flor and Roberto on their search and discover why Luis saved a gigantic cardboard box. Bonus content provides direction for creating your own at-home fun!


The Three Wishes: An Old Story

By Margot Zemach,

Book cover of The Three Wishes: An Old Story

Why this book?

I’ve always loved the author/illustrator, Margot Zemach so when I met her, I just had to buy two of her prints. Here she takes a familiar story and tells it simply, letting her illustrations enhance character. It’s about a woodcutter who frees an imp and as thanks is given three wishes. When his wife learns this she imagines all the grand things they could have! But now the husband says, “I just wish for a pan of sausages.” Poof! The first wish is used up. In anger, the wife wishes the sausages grow on his nose and so they must use their final wish to have the sausages removed from his nose and back in the pan. As they eat the hot sausages, they express gratitude for all that they already have. Perfect. 

The Three Wishes: An Old Story

By Margot Zemach,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Three Wishes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Once again, Margot Zemach brings new life to a traditional story: the tale of the three wishes granted to those who are kind and compassionate. In Zemach's interpretation, a poor woodcutter and his wife are working in the forest when they hear a faint voice calling: "Help, someone help me!" They promptly rescue an imp whose tail is caught under a fallen tree, and in return he rewards them with three wishes. "Wish wisely, my friends," the imp says in parting. Prophetic words indeed.
It soon looks as if this windfall will be nothing but trouble for the woodcutter and…


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