For some time I’ve been in the habit of telling our daughters stories before bed. These usually center around three sisters whose names are uncannily like those of our daughters, and whose adventures resemble things that happened to our daughters that day. But there is always a twist: if they hold a tea party in the back yard, a dragon comes to visit. If they lose a first tooth or start school or stay inside all day because of the rain, some dose of magic deepens the story and makes their day somehow enchanting. Some of these twists are, if I’m perfectly honest, pulled straight from the pages of whatever book we’re reading. But the girls don’t seem to mind, and my imagination isn’t exactly sharp by eight o’clock at night.

Twig, by Elizabeth Orton Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Stories like Twig capture that blend of the real and the imagined that appeals to my sleepy daughters. Something magical happens when an author taps into a child’s imagination and draws out a story so wondrous, so childlike, that reading it is uncannily like watching our children invent worlds in our living room. AA Milne had a knack for capturing this: the stories in Winnie-the-Pooh are written with all the clarity and ingenuity of an adult, yet they capture the element—whatever it is—that makes them so clearly the invention of a child.

Elizabeth Orton Jones (Caldecott award-winning illustrator of Prayer for a Childwrites of the adventures of a young girl named Twig in a way that captures that mix of ordinary life and the imagination. She tells of fairies and cockroaches, talking sparrows and chatty neighbors, in a way that kept my daughters wide-eyed and enthralled as we read. I don’t know if this book would appeal to most boys, honestly, but for my girls, meeting Twig was like meeting a kindred spirit in the pages of a beautifully illustrated book. They’re already hungry for sequels.

Elizabeth Orton Jones (1942)