Here are eight gloriously imaginative stories for eight satisfying sessions of bedtime reading. There’s a flying apple pie, a cat that’s bigger than an elephant, a house that lays an egg, storybook animals that leap out of their books at night, and a wealth of other wonderful characters and ideas, all with the colorful, dreamlike quality of the very best fairy tales. Joan Aiken’s delicious prose is a joy to read aloud to very young listeners yet simple enough for the independent reader to savor on his or her own. Kevin Hawkes’s illustrations–nearly 60 of them–capture with great flair and fun the magical adventures and the triumph of the good over the bad.
An Excerpt fromA Necklace of Raindrops
A man called Mr. Jones and his wife lived near the sea. 0ne stormy night Mr. Jones was in the garden when he saw the holly tree by his gate begin to toss and shake.
A voice cried, Help me! I'm stuck in the tree! Help me, or the storm will go on all night."
Very surprised, Mr. Jones walked down to the tree. in the middle of it was a tall man with a long gray cloak, and a long gray beard, and the brightest eyes you ever saw.
"Who are you?" Mr. Jones said. "What are you doing in my holly tree?"
"I got stuck in it, can't you see? Help me out, or the storm will go on all night. I am the North Wind, and it is my job to blow the storm away."
So Mr. Jones helped the North Wind out of the holly tree. The North Wind's hands were as cold as ice.
"Thank you," said the North Wind. "My cloak is torn, but never mind. You have helped me, so now I will do something for you."
"I don't need anything," Mr. Jones said. "My wife and I have a baby girl, just born, and we are as happy as any two people in the world."
"In that case, said the North Wind, I will be the baby's godfather. My birthday present to her will be this necklace of raindrops."
From under his gray cloak he pulled out a fine silver chain.
On the chain were three bright, shining drops.
"You must put it around the baby's neck," he said. "The rain
drops will not wet her, and they will not come off. Every year,
on her birthday, I will bring her another drop. When she has four drops she will stay dry, even if she goes out in the hardest rainstorm. And when she has five drops no thunder or lightning can harm her. And when she has six drops she will not be blown
away, even by the strongest wind. And when she has seven drops she will be able to swim the deepest river. And whe has eight raindrops she will be able to swim the widest sea. when she has nine raindrops she will be able to make the stop raining if she claps her hands. And when she has ten drops she will be' able to make it start raining if she blow nose.
"Stop, stop!" cried Mr. Jones. "That is quite enough fo little girl!"
"I was going to stop anyway," said the North Wind. she must never take the chain off, or it might bring bad lu must be off now, to blow away the storm. I shall be back o next birthday, with the fourth raindrop."
And he flew away up into the sky, pushing the clouds b him so that the moon and stars could shine out.
Mr. Jones went into his house and put the chain with the raindrops round the neck of the baby, who was called Laura.
A year soon went by, and when the North Wind came back the little house by the sea, Laura was able to crawl about, a play with her three bright, shining raindrops. But she never the chain off.
When the North Wind had given Laura her fourth rain she could not get wet, even if she was out in the hardest Her mother would put her out in the garden in her carriage people passing on the road would say, "Look at that poor baby, left out in all this rain. She will catch cold!"
But little Laura was quite dry, and quite happy, playing the raindrops and waving to her godfather the North Wind flew over.