return to the junkyard

Children's literature

Home | Allow it! | Rights of the Child. UN Convention. | How Did You Play? | Play and Children's Health | Play Ideas | Play Types | Science of Play | Children's Literature | Play Links | Quotes | About Us

The literature that appears in this section has a play theme. We offer some connections, just for the fun of it, with playtypes as devised by Bob Hughes, published in full in ‘A Playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types’  (PLAYLINK, second edition 2002).    

 UnderstoodB.jpegUnderstood Betsy

Author: Dorothy Canfield Fisher

After an urban early childhood, Betsy gets a new start in the country. She and her mother are wary of rural ways, and yet a more natural life involving walks outdoors, cooking and helping with household tasks in a country home make a new child of her. 

1917, Henry Holt and Company.

Locomotor, Mastery play*

(Note: Ms. Canfield brought Montessori methods to North America, having worked with Maria Montessori in Rome)

 prairiejpg.jpgLittle House on the Prairie

Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrator: Garth Williams

How do you play on the wild prairie? There are no toys—baby Carrie plays with bits of wood, though—and Laura’s sister Mary is awfully good. But still, they run through the tall grasses, watch gophers and dickie birds by the hour, travel unseen through grass tunnels, comfort the dog and pet the pony. And, most wonderful of all for those of us who are reading this detail-packed, swiftly-moving, emotionally satisfying tale, Laura engages us in her memories of mastery play, as Laura helps Pa build their log cabin with found materials and lost-to-us skills.

1935, Harper & Brothers.

Imaginary, Locomotor, Mastery play*



Saturdays.jpegThe Saturdays

Author and illustrator: Elizabeth Enright

Four youngsters living in wartime New York decide to pool their allowances each Saturday afternoon to provide each, in turn, with an independent adventure of their own devising. Mona, Rush, Randy and little Oliver achieve small triumphs and make big mistakes. If you had money in your pocket, the freedom of the city, and a Saturday afternoon all to yourself, what would you do?

Henry Holt and Company, 1941

All play types*





witchfamily.jpegThe Witch Family

Author: Eleanor Estes
Illustrator: Edward Ardizzone

Amy and her friend Clarissa amuse themselves by the hour drawing wicked witches. Amy makes the story, and Amy makes the rules, but even when ‘banquished’ to her glass hill, Old Witch remains a frightening force. The little girls tell the story, and sometimes even find themselves inside the story. They treat Old Witch with severity and kindness, at once controlling her and gifting her with a family to love, that she may become good.
But not too good! Oh, the hurley-burley!

Harcourt, Brace, 1960.

Creative Play, Imaginative Play, Fantasy Play* (see our page on play types for the differences among these types of play, from Bob Hughes’s Handbook ‘A Playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types’)

EdEstes, E. (1960). The witch family. New York: Harcourt, Brace.



whatevernext.jpegWhatever Next!
 by Jill Murphy 

Little Bear asks permission to go… to the moon. Objects found around the home become space helmet, boots and rocket, and off his imagination sends him into outer space, to be back by dinner.
*Object play, Imaginative Play, Fantasy Play 

Macmillan, 2007.






 Back in the Jug Agane

by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

Nigel Molesworth is the king of *Imaginary Play, and a brilliant example of a kid using what he learns in school and in life to feed his imagination and lead an independent child’s life. His spirit is high and his spelling is invented.

These books are outrageous, true at heart and fall-down funny, as any fule kno.

Penguin Pocket Classics, 1959. The complete collection includes Down With Skooll, How to be Topp, Back in the Jug Agane and Whizz for Atomms.


Swallows and Amazons
Author and Illustrator: Arthur Ransome

We meet the four children waiting for permission to live an independent play life of the most desirable sort: will they be allowed to camp on their own on Wild Cat Island and sail their little boat freely in the Lake District? The story is based on Ransome’s own experiences as a child around the turn of the last century, and is rich in play experiences of every sort, from creative to recapitulative, including an Australian mother who understands play cues and when to step back and let the children be children together.

1929. Red Fox, publishers

All play types*



The Otterbury Incident

Author: C.Day Lewis

Illustrator: Edward Ardizzone 

A group of children playing out their war in post-war bomb sites band together to help a pal in trouble. This wonderful novel of friendship, competition, honour and play was written by Britain's Poet Laureate and illustrated by one of the greatest pen-and-ink illustrators of the Twentieth Century. 

 Puffin Books, London. 1948.

*All play types. Junkyard play in its original British form




Author: Maud Hart Lovelace
Illustrator: Lois Lensky

The first in the Betsy-Tacy series. This is a story of two little girls and how they played together. Set in the American Mid-West in the late 19th Century, Lovelace brings her memories of rich play as a child to this tale, and you can find just about every play type mentioned and described in loving detail.

Harper-Trophy, 1940. 

 All play types*



The Boy From the Sun

Author: Duncan Weller

In a cold, gray concrete world three children sit, blank and sad,
until a boy with a yellow shining head floats down among them. He
leads them through the streets that fill with imagined colors and
beings, and as they run they leave behind the concrete world for the
green spaces outside. The boy from the sun leaves them a poem, and
then leaves them to play freely on the grass beneath the trees.

Simply Read Books, Canada, 2006,

Fantasy play, Imaginative play*

Le cochon dans la mare

Author's. Martin Waddell, Jill Barton

(English title: The Pig in the Pond) Trad. Elisabeth Duval

A pig is left on the farm when Vieux Bill rides into town. But it’s hot, and getting hotter—and the water looks so good. Still, everyone knows that pigs don’t swim. Ducks do, though, and they’re having fun. And even though everyone knows that pigs don’t swim, this pig decides to splash in anyway! And oh it’s lovely—until the ducks sound the alarm: “Le cochon est dans la mare! Le cochon est dans la mare!” All the animals run to stare, followed by Vieux Bill himself, who hooks his thumbs into his vest…and then off with hat, boots and coat, and soon everyone is in the pond together, keeping cool and happy.
Publisher: Kaleidescope 1992

The Strange and Wonderful Tale of Robert McDoodle (The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Dog)

By Steven Bauer

Illustrated by Brad Sneed

For his sixth birthday, Robert McDoodle doesn’t want anymore stuff. No—he wants the life of a dog. With First Grade looming, he has no desire to sit still at a desk, and so he runs away to the Jellicoe School for Dogs. But it’s hard for a boy to fit in, to wear a collar—and to go by the name of Spot. He works hard, though, doing his best to learn all the doggie skills—“Barking at Squirrels”, for example, and “Jumping (with Mud) on the Clean Skirts of Girls”—even when he finds out that dogs have to drink from the toilet. Oh, it’s a dog’s life all right and finally Robert starts to wonder whether he really wants to be, at age six, forty-two in dog years!
Simon & Schuster, New York 1999

* Imaginative Play

Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850–1894).
A Good Play

 We built a ship upon the stairs
 All made of the back-bedroom chairs,
 And filled it full of sofa pillows
 To go a-sailing on the billows.

 We took a saw and several nails,                
 And water in the nursery pails;
 And Tom said, "Let us also take
 An apple and a slice of cake;"—
 Which was enough for Tom and me
 To go a-sailing on, till tea.    

 We sailed along for days and days,
 And had the very best of plays;
 But Tom fell out and hurt his knee,
 So there was no one left but me.

 A Child's Garden of Verses
 Underwoods.  1913.
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Robert Louis Stevenson 
Happy hearts and happy faces
Happy play in grassy places
That was how, in ancient ages,
Children grew to kings and sages. 

The Run, Jump, Bump Book

By Robert Brooks

Illustrated by David M. McPhail

Theresa is a child in the city, and there’s the rub. She loves her home, but it’s four floors up and she’s not allowed out on the streets alone. Her mother can’t drop everything to take her daughter downstairs and outside whenever Theresa has the yen to run, jump or bump. So Theresa does her best indoors—but there’s not far to run in the hall, she can only jump on her parents’ bed when her dad’s not working at his desk, and when she bumps around her mother says, “Theresa. That’s an outdoor noise.” Low on privacy and space to be a kid, the highlight of her week is when her dad takes her down streets and over bridges to a great green space—where Theresa can run, jump, and bump until the stars come out above the lights of the city.
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, Boston. 1971
Locomotor play* 



When Giants Come to Play

Author: Andrea Beaty

Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes

An enchanting tale of Anna and her favorite playmates—the Giants. Anna and the Giants love their games—games in the back garden, games that we all know and remember. But when Giants play catch, you get to be the ball. When they play cars, they play with real cars. And of course when they play dolls with Anna’s big sister, she’s the doll. They are wonderful companions, the Giants, and as they say goodnight, Anna dreams of the day they’ll come to stay.

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006

Fantasy play
Rough and tumble play
Deep Play*

The Salamander Room

Author: Anne Mazer

Illustrator: Steve Johnson

Brian brings home a salamander to live in his room and to sleep by his bed, but his mother asks how it will live in an environment not its own.

Brian envisions his room as it transforms into a biome totally suited to a salamander—rocks and leaves carpet the floor, a stream runs through and finally the roof lifts away to allow the birds to visit and rain to fall.

Beautiful, lyrical prose—this is a love letter from a boy to a salamander.

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991
Imaginative play*


You’ve Got Dragons

Author  - Kathryn Cave 

Illustrator -  Nick Maland

A child imagines dragons all around him, scary and enormous and always hanging about.. he imagines dragons so successfully that he even has to try to pretend they’re not there!

Publishers - Hodder Great Britain
                Peachtree Atlanta 2003


Imaginative Play*


The Daddy Mountain

by Jules Feiffer (Author and Illustrator)

A daring young girl climbs the most perilous mountain of all—the Daddy mountain. Begin at the ankles, hang on and struggle to the top. You can feel the sweat, the strain, the terror of the heights—and the triumph of our young mountaineer.
Publisher - Hyperion Books for Children, 2004
Deep & Locomotor Play*


by Alice Mclerran (Author), Barbara Cooney (Illustrator)

A group of children play in a town they've created in the desert near
their school, scratching out streets and lots for houses, riding
horses as fast as the wind, but driving cars at respectable speeds.
"Roxaboxen" celebrates social, communicative and ancient play, where
children make the rules and the magic of imagination provides infinite
fun. When children are involved in freely chosen, self directed and intrinsically motivated play,
they are more likely to respect and include each other, and give each other
space where needed. We see the fun and the involvement in this tale of
happy kids playing freely and undirected by adults.
Publisher - HarperCollins, 1990
Social Play, Recapitulative Play* 

Powered by