The best kids' stories for bedtime, travel-time, and fireside (even without the book)

Who am I?

I’m a New Englander by birth, a Canadian by circumstance, and a Nova Scotian by choice. For as long as I can remember, I’ve told stories, first to my little sister—a captive audience—then to my children, then at my book readings, and now on my podcast, Kate and Friends, which I’m lucky enough to record with two professional musicians. For me, the ultimate test of a story is whether it can be told without visual aids. While I love picture books, and the way an artist can deepen a child’s experience of a story, I gravitate to satisfying, stand-alone tales with a good twist. They’re difficult to write, easy to remember, and great fun to tell! 


I wrote...

What! Cried Granny: An Almost Bedtime Story

By Kate Lum, Adrian Johnson (illustrator),

Book cover of What! Cried Granny: An Almost Bedtime Story

What is my book about?

Patrick is having his first sleep-over at his granny’s house. It's bedtime, but there's a problem: Patrick doesn't have a bed! Intrepid Granny runs to her yard, chops down a tree, grabs her tools, and makes him a comfy one. Now he can go to sleep. Right? But, wait, he doesn't have a pillow! Granny dashes to the henhouse…If Patrick is lucky, this could go on all night! 

With funky pictures by Adrian Johnson, this tale of love, resourcefulness, and grandmotherly frustration is perfect for storytellers, with several repeating lines kids love to contribute, and a comic, surprise ending.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Something from Nothing

Kate Lum Why did I love this book?

A deft, charming re-telling of a Jewish folk tale, and winner of the Ruth Schwartz Award. In this gentle story, young Joseph grows up in a shtetl in a warm and loving home. His grandfather, a tailor, makes him a beautiful blanket at birth. As he grows, the blanket becomes worn, but Grandpa can always rejig the fabric into something new. At last, however, the sad day arrives when nothing is left of the blanket… until Joseph realizes that what’s left is a wonderful story. 

I nominate this book as a storyteller’s delight because of its comforting, cyclical nature, and surprise ending. While Gilman’s glowing pictures augment the story perfectly, with their warm, humorous depiction of family life, the story can easily be memorized, told, and enjoyed when no pictures are available.

By Phoebe Gilman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Something from Nothing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Phoebe Gilman's beloved classic celebrates its 20th anniversary!

Joseph's grandfather made him a beautiful blanket when he was a baby, but now it's frazzled and worn, and Joseph's mother says it is time to throw it out. Joseph doesn't want to part with his special blanket, and he's sure that his grandfather can fix it. Sure enough, Grandfather miraculously alters the blanket into useful items again and again. But when Joseph loses the final item, even Grandfather can't make something from nothing. But maybe Joseph can?

Based on the Yiddish folktale "Joseph's overcoat," Phoebe Gilman's gorgeous artwork charts the transformation…


Book cover of Farmer Joe's Hot Day: A Scholastic Canada Reader

Kate Lum Why did I love this book?

As a kids’ storyteller, I’ve often used this book, and it bears telling even without its gently comic pictures. When Farmer Joe complains of his daily toil, his clever wife tricks him into becoming so uncomfortable that, once returned to normal conditions, he will never complain again! The story carries a message about positive attitude, without being didactic. Best of all, kids can chuckle along with Farmer Joe’s wife, understanding her trick while hapless Joe does not. Kids, in my experience, love to be smarter than at least one grownup in a story, and this book delivers that in spades! 

By Nancy Wilcox Richards, Werner Zimmerman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Farmer Joe's Hot Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Farmer Joe returns in a colourful reader!

Farmer Joe has a problem: he works so hard that by the end of the day he is very hot and tired.

"What can I do?" he asks his wife.

You'll laugh at the clever way Farmer Joe's wife helps him keep his cool. Or does she?

Farmer Joe's Hot Day was both the author and illustrator's debut book, and the trilogy became a favourite with kids and teachers alike. Now the classic series returns in a bright levelled reader format for a new generation of book lovers!


Book cover of Peace at Last

Kate Lum Why did I love this book?

This was one of my son’s top favourites, excellent for bedtime or any time you need a story. Easily memorized and told, even without the book available, it’s the story of poor Father Bear, who spends the night moving from room to room in search of a good night’s sleep. In each case, a repetitive noise keeps him up. “Oh no, I can’t stand THIS!” he cries, and children love the repetition as well as the funny noises that keep him awake. The ending is predictable but fun, and Father Bear somehow keeps his good humour, which makes this a helpful story about a kind of frustration all too familiar to parents: the lack of sleep! 

By Jill Murphy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Peace at Last as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Jill Murphy's bestselling classic Peace at Last has delighted young children for almost forty years, and is equally beloved by tired parents who are all too familiar with the plight of poor Mr Bear.

With a snoring Mrs Bear, an excitable Baby Bear and a house full of tapping and dripping and ticking, peace is hard to come by - will Mr Bear ever get a decent night's sleep?

The familiar noises, repetition and beautiful illustrations make Jill Murphy's delightful Peace at Last an all-time favourite bedtime story with children and adults everywhere. This is a beautiful refreshed edition of…


Book cover of The King, the Mice and the Cheese

Kate Lum Why did I love this book?

An oldie but a goodie, this is the circular story of a king dealing with an infestation of cheery but messy mice. At the advice of his wise men, he brings in a mass of cats to chase the mice away. But the king is “most unhappy” when the mice take over his palace. What to do? The wise men recommend dogs! And so on and on, with one animal after another till the king is forced to learn how to live with the mice. My kids loved the sheer ridiculousness of the tale, the comic pictures, and the fun of knowing what would inevitably happen each time the king, with inexplicable optimism, brings in a new animal to deal with the last. A great story for telling, even when you don’t have the book, and fun for kids to illustrate themselves, as they listen. 

By Nancy Gurney, Eric Gurney (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The King, the Mice and the Cheese as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

THE KING, THE MICE AND THE CHEESE follows a folk tale pattern: the King brings in cats to get rid of too many mice. Packs of dogs are then brought in to get rid of the cats, and so the story goes, coming full circle to the mice again. A delightful story for beginners. 'I can read it all by myself' is the Beginner Books motto, and behind it is an understanding of how important it is for children to take pride and pleasure in their early reading. Beginner Books have been designed to appeal directly to children through the…


Book cover of Spider School

Kate Lum Why did I love this book?

One of my daughter’s perennial favourites, I read this so often I had it memorized, and found it great to tell even without the hilarious pictures. In this story, Kate is facing her first day of school. So miserable is she at the very idea, she gets out on the wrong side of the bed. So of course, everything goes wrong! Her school is a dungeon, her teacher is a gorilla, and the dinner lady serves spiders, snails, and snakes for lunch. Brave Kate fights back, runs home, and saves her own day when she gets up all over again, on the right side of the bed. This is, underneath, a story about attitude, and reassures kids about the reality of school by comically exaggerating one child’s fears. But it’s also great fun to tell, with silly voices, unexpected developments, and a fine arc of tension till Kate decides to have a good morning, after all.

By Francesca Simon, Peta Coplans (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spider School as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Every child's worst nightmare is brought to life by Fancesca Simon's enchanting and witty text and by Peta Coplans' bright, bold and quirky illustations. This funny, original book is full of charm and humour - and it has a happy ending!


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Book cover of Sweet Dreams, Boone

Susan Grant Author Of The Bottle House

New book alert!

Who am I?

I am a Bible college graduate whose faith has always been a practical matter. Because I learned to find the “so what” of the Bible, when I became a teacher of the Bible in the public schools of Rowan County, North Carolina, my elective courses had waiting lists for students to get in to. As I now teach in Maine, I found I could continue to share a practical Christian faith through my writing. The books I have listed here do the very thing that I seek in my own writing.

Susan's book list on authentically illustrating genuine Christian faith

What is my book about?

Boone is a sad and lonely little dog. He doesn’t like to be left alone when Mom goes to work.

To help him feel better, Mom buys him a special basket for his bed. When he sleeps, he dreams of a long-ago time and meets a man who is sad and lonely too, until he meets Jesus.

Sweet Dreams, Boone

By Susan Grant, Kelly Artieri (illustrator),

What is this book about?

Boone is a sad and lonely little dog. He doesn’t like to be left alone when Mom goes to work. To help him feel better, Mom buys him a special basket for his bed. When he sleeps, he dreams of a long-ago time and meets a man who is sad and lonely too, until he meets Jesus.


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