“A Possible Solution”
by Natalie Babbitt, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

One second is not a lot of time, but it was all that was needed. A new voice, the high shriek of a crone, came out of nowhere: “Run! Run, you ugly Leonardo Dubenski with your thieves and beasts! That baby you see there is a wonder baby, and his plan is to turn you all into daffodils!”

Of Crones and MisFortunes! Annotated List of Suggested Read Alouds and Independent Reads
Activities for the Classroom
For Parents, Teachers, Librarians — Talk Art!
Discussion Questions

Of Crones and MisFortunes! Annotated List of Suggested Read Alouds and Independent Reads

by Janice Del Negro, PhD; Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University

Read Alouds

Babbitt, Natalie, reteller, illustrated by Fred Marcellino. Ouch! A Tale from Grimm. 32p. Gr. K-4.
A fortuneteller predicts that a lowborn baby boy will grow up to marry a princess, and so he does–but that is only the beginning of his adventures! Fluid language and rich, gem-toned illustrations make this a winning piece of storytelling.

Hastings, Selina, reteller, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard. Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady. 32p. Gr. 3-7.
Gallant knight Gawain agrees to marry a loathsome but wise old crone after her answer to a deadly riddle saves King Arthur’s life. This well-told tale is illuminated by Wijngaard’s richly detailed, stained glass-like paintings.

McKissack, Patricia, and Onawumi Jean Moss, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker. Precious and the Boo Hag. 32p. Gr. K-3. Precious doesn’t believe her brother when he tells her about the wicked Boo Hag (“who tries to make you disobey yo’ mama!”) at least not until the Boo Hag shows up the front door. Never fear, Precious is too smart to be fooled by the old crone, even when she shows up in disguise. Lively mixed-media art and snappy dialogue make this a crowd-pleasing read-aloud.

Independent Reads

Morris, Gerald. The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight. 320p. Gr. 5-9.
Morris writes Arthurian lore with a derring-do that appeals to contemporary readers.  Thirteen-year-old Sarah seeks justice for the deaths of her loved ones, but is sidetracked by the quest to rescue the kidnapped Queen Guinevere.

Spinelli, Jerry. Eggs. 220p. Gr. 4-7.
Nine-year-old David’s mother died in an accident; thirteen-year-old Primrose’s mother is so absorbed in the world of psychic phenomena that she barely notices her daughter. Boy and girl form an unlikely but devoted friendship as both children seek the family they need in one another.

Wynne-Jones, Diana. Howl’s Moving Castle. 448p. Gr. 5-9.
Sophie Hatter, the eldest of three girls, sees herself as the failed third daughter of a traditional fairy tale–or she does until the Witch of the Waste turns Sophie into an old crone.  Sophie uses her new identity to spy on wicked (but handsome) wizard Howl, even while she searches for a way to break the spell that holds her.

© 2010 Janice Del Negro, PhD

Activities for the Classroom

by Kimberly Gow


While reading a literary work, it is important for the reader to interpret what each character is like and understand the choices they make. Characterization is the method used by a writer to develop a character. In The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, this method includes showing the character’s appearance, displaying the character’s actions, letting the character speak, and revealing the character’s thoughts. Through characterization, we learn about many unique characters along the adventure of Nancy and Joe as they attempt to find the Exquisite Corpse. Episode 8 of The Exquisite Corpse Adventure introduces the reader to a new character, Sybil Hunch, the misfortune-teller.

To demonstrate an interpretation of the characters developed throughout the episodes of The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, one can create a “Character Quilt.” Use the template below to develop a square about any chosen character. Complete multiple squares and attach to make a quilt representing each character of The Exquisite Corpse Adventure. After reading Episode 8, the reader has been introduced to the following characters:

  • Nancy Sloppy
  • Joe Sloppy
  • Boppo (the clown)
  • Genius Kelly (the pig)
  • Albert Einstein (the hologram)
  • Baby Max
  • Leonardo Dubenski
  • Sybil Hunch (the misfortune-teller)

This extensive list of character traits may be helpful for this activity.

Download a PDF file of the Character Quilt Template.


The Character Quilt was adapted from the Folktale Quilt located under the English Language Arts Classroom Assessments that are aligned to the Illinois Learning Standards.

© 2010 Kimberly Gow

For Parents, Teachers, Librarians—Talk Art!

"A Possible Solution" © 2009 Timothy Basil Ering
“A Possible Solution” © 2009 Timothy Basil Ering

Painting Party Inspired by Abstract Expressionist Painters

by Mary Brigid Barrett, NCBLA

Painting isn’t just the visual thing that reaches your retina, it’s what’s behind it. I’m not interested in ‘abstracting’ or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and color. I paint this way because I can keep putting more and more things in — drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes it again becomes an emotion or an idea. It doesn’t matter if it’s different from mine as long as it comes from the painting which has its own integrity and intensity.”
—  Willem de Kooning, American painter.

Timothy Basil Ering’s illustration for “A Possible Solution,” Episode 8 of The Exquisite Corpse Adventure by Natalie Babbitt, is highly expressionistic; his loose charcoal and paint strokes creating a mood both evocative and eerie. His composition is circular in nature, leading our eye around and around the picture space in spiral-like motion, moving out and in, and out and in. He has literally captured our attention. His characters’ expressions also capture our attention, each expression revealing a range of emotions from anxiousness, to wonder, to anger, to surprise.

Looking at this illustration, you sense that Mr. Ering loves his work. The illustration, for all its “eeriness” has a tremendous vitality. When I first saw this illustration it brought to mind the paintings of Willem de Kooning, an American Abstract Expressionist and “action” painter, whose work, like Mr. Ering’s, is vivid and vital, mixing the figurative with the expressive strokes of line and paint. De Kooning was born in 1904 in Rotterdam, Netherlands and died in 1997 in Long Island in the United States.

Samples of the Work of Timothy Basil Ering

The attitude that nature is chaotic and that the artist puts order into it is a very absurd point of view, I think. All that we can hope for is to put some order into ourselves.
— Willem de Kooning

Samples of the Work of Willem de Kooning

Replacing Kid Art Anxiety with Joy!

Like many families, we have been taking our kids to art museums since they were babies nestled in our arms. One of my favorite memories is of our daughters, four and two years old at the time, coming upon a large Morris Louis painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The painting was bright and intense, with flowing washes of color gliding across an expanse of bright whiteness. Without speaking to each other, our girls began an impromptu dance, twirling and whirling from one end of the canvas to the other, creating their own joy-filled ballet. Young children often have visceral reactions to contemporary art. They seem to have more fun with it, unencumbered by adult preconceptions and philosophical worries about what art is or is not. Unfortunately as kids grow older, many lose that joy and spontaneity, drawing and painting in group situations in school settings, judging their work against others in the class, worrying that it does not look real, or “good.”

Painting Party Activity for Adults and Young People Alike

Abstract Expressionists painted on very large canvasses; they painted not only with their hands and eyes, but with their arms, their whole bodies. That physical interaction with paint and canvass invigorates their work. It is freeing, and fun, to paint that way and most kids and adults, trapped behind desks inside classrooms and offices never have that experience. Why not try it??!! At home or in school—Have a painting party!

Here’s how—

  1. First, gather the following supplies:
    • Tarps, plastic sheeting, or old fabric sheets to protect floors and walls.
    • Large sheets or rolls of thicker paper, huge pieces of cardboard, or old cotton sheets: rolls of brown mailing paper; sides from large cardboard refrigerator boxes; thick solid colored rolls of wrapping paper; large roll of white paper available through craft supply stores—any large, cheap flat solid colored surface—perhaps a wall!!!
    • Big and/or long paintbrushes with a variety of tip styles—flat, rounded, pointy, etc.
    • Old brooms and mops, car brushes, cleaning brushes, sponges, different thickness of rope for experimental painting.
    • Plastic plates, spoons, bowls, or painting trays and buckets for mixing and dripping paints.
    • Old or new latex house paint in primary colors plus black and white.
    • Buckets of water to clean paint and brushes.
    • Paper towels and rags for clean up.
    • Clothes line and clothes pins to hang paintings up on to dry.
    • Pizza, cookies, soda, juice, great fruits, and snacks!!
    • Your favorite music.
  1. Find a big, open indoor or outdoor space.
  2. Dress in really old clothes or in the summer wear an old bathing suit—so you don’t worry about getting covered in paint.
  3. Decide if you want to paint on the floor or ground, or on a wall or fence, and cover the surrounding designated area with tarps, plastic sheeting, or old sheets.
  4. Lay painting surface on protective cover on ground or wall. Make sure the paper, canvas, fabric, or cardboard is as big a piece as you can find—you may want to tape the surfaces together on the back to create a huge painting surface.
  5. Mix the colors you want to use in plastic cups, bowls, and paint trays – mix a lot of the colors you would like to use! Experiment with paint thicknesses, adding water to make the paint thinner and more transparent.
  6. Paint with your hand, arms, and whole body—don’t overthink—just paint. Paint in large, sweeping movements, drip paint, dribble paint, layer color upon color—let layers dry sometimes, other times mix the paint on the surface while wet. Use a variety of painting utensils. Try painting with an old broom or sponge mop; try dipping a piece of rope in the paint and pressing or dragging the rope across your painting surface. Paint using your bare hands!
  7. Have fun!!!
  8. When you think your painting is finished—hang it up to dry—or if you don’t want drips–pull it somewhere others will not step on it while it dries on the floor.
  9. Get out your favorite music and the pizza and snacks and have a great time while the paint dries!!

If you, or your kids, need some visual inspiration, take a look at the work of Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, and Jackson Pollock—at any of the Absract Expressionists and Action painters—and you will find enough inspiration for a football field’s worth of paintings!

To find out more about Willem de Kooning, his life and his work, look for these books at your local library: 

  • Willem de Kooning: Paintings 1960-1980 by Ralph Ubl, Klaus Kertess, Bernhard Mendes Burgi, and Willem de Kooning.
  • Willem de Kooning: Paintings by David Sylvester, Richard Shiff, and Martha Prather.

Online Resources

© 2009 Mary Brigid Barrett; The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance

Discussion Questions

by Geri Zabela Eddins, NCBLA

Episode 7 ends as a cliffhanger with Nancy, Joe, Baby Max, and Genius Kelly being lowered into the beast pit. Were you worried about the foursome? Could you imagine a way they could escape?

Episode 8 introduces a new character, Sybil Hunch, who uses the power of words to thwart Dubenski and his gang. What do you think about this rescue by Sybil Hunch? Were you surprised that she was able to chase off the villains using only words?

Do you think words can be powerful enough to prevent difficult and dangerous situations? Why or why not? Have you ever faced a bully? Were you able to diffuse the situation using words?

Sybil Hunch calls herself the local misfortune-teller and explains that she is “a reporter of possible things to come.” What do you think about her job? How might the job of misfortune-teller differ from that of fortune-teller? Do you think Sybil assists all people she encounters in the woods—both good and bad? Do you think Sybil would read her crystal ball for Leonardo Dubenski or Boppo if they asked? Why or why not?

Tell or write a short story about another day in the woods in which Sybil assists a villain. You could choose to write about Dubenski or Boppo or another villain you would like to introduce to the story. What is the villain’s trouble? How does Sybil help—through words or actions or both? Does she enjoy helping the villain, or does she do it because it is part of her job description? Can you think of jobs people perform that require them to assist all people, whether they like them or not? Would you enjoy such a job?

© 2010 Geri Zabela Eddins; The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance