Story Prompts

Do you know Frederick? He has big ears, sleepy eyes, and a rather prominent tail.

Oh—maybe I forgot to mention—Frederick is a mouse. He’s the unlikely hero of a lovely little book by Leo Lionni called … you guessed it:


It’s a children’s book, but I really don’t like making such a rigid distinction because, hey, we’re all kids at heart, right? And this tiny gem speaks volumes to literature lovers, no matter what age.

Frederick, you see, is considered among his mischief (i.e. mouse tribe) to be a layabout loafer. In the eyes of his hardworking companions, he appears to shirk his pre-winter duties—stockpiling grain and the like—in favor of daydreaming.

“Frederick, why don’t you work?” they ask. “Are you dreaming?”


Image courtesy of Story Philosophy blog

But in fact, Frederick is working, in his own way. Instead of corn and nuts, he’s gathering words.

Words? How can words possibly be as important to winter survival as food?

That’s for Frederick, in all his marvelously mousy wisdom, to tell …

Winter may be upon us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start collecting sunbeams and colors and words right now. This season of togetherness is the perfect time to share the intangible treasures of poetry, songs, and stories. But if you don’t have a friendly Frederick around to gather goodies, the next best thing is a good story prompt. A prompt is a preliminary nugget of an idea that sparks the telling of a tale, and thanks to the Internet, prompts are easy to come by. Take a look at the sites below, collect some tidbits that tantalize the imagination, and jot them on separate scraps of paper. Then gather your loved ones (big and small) for an old-fashioned storytelling session that will brighten even the darkest of winter’s nights.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I remember these stories of Frederick when my children were little. Such fond memories of reading them with my girls.

  2. How very sweet MaryJane ! what a nice way to start a sunny but cold day, 2 days after christmas, when people tend to be feeling a bit down after all the excitement and build up of the holidays.
    I adore stories about mice and collect children’s books so I must add this one.

  3. Cindi Johnson says:

    I love books designed for the child in us; a love I discovered when a long-ago boyfriend introduced me to Tolkien in college. I’m reading one now, actually, and just bought another last week… under the guise of previewing them to determine which child to pass them on to, of course. My collection of kid’s books is larger now than it was before my kids all grew up! My grandchildren treat it as a check-out library. One recent discovery is a wonderful book/game called “And Then… Story Starters” ~ a collection of cards with story beginnings that introduce characters and background settings and leave it for the reader to complete the story. I do not have Frederick, but that problem will be remedied soon! It sounds like a wonderful story.

    • MaryJane says:

      And Then … sounds fabulous. As usual, thanks Cindi! I read Tolkien for the first time as an adult also and LIVED that world until I’d finished them all. I couldn’t put them down. It wasn’t just the story line, it was the writing. Fantastic.

  4. Patricia Miller says:

    So love this story. Thank you.

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