Book Talk Makes You Laugh and Think


Tired of reading the same story over and over with your little one? Together with your child, use your imaginations and help the character make a different choice. See where that change takes the story.

Spirited conversation about children’s books is both stimulating and entertaining. Getting together with someone else to think up new endings for familiar stories is fun, requires critical thinking and provides opportunity for meaningful dialog.

Reading together with children invites them to consider how the choices characters make affect story outcomes.

Topher Payne, a playwright, hosts a weekly on-line children’s story time as part of the Atlanta Artists Relief Fund project. He encourages parents and children to talk about the choices characters make and imagine what would happen if they made other choices.

“I started goofing around with picture books by looking at them through a contemporary lens,” says Payne. “My silly little parodies are inspiring some not so silly conversation and I think that is swell.”

He started with The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. “Even as a child,” Payne says, “I felt that the boy was up to no good.”  In his parody the title has been tweaked to The Tree that Set Healthy Boundaries. In Silverstein’s story a boy and a tree have a special bond. As Boy grows up the tree is always there to provide for him until the tree is reduced to a stump. In Payne’s revised ending the tree suggests that they develop a healthier relationship.  After some serious self-improvement Tree and Boy go into business together selling apple pies.

Writing new endings is thought provoking and leads to great conversations for adults as well as children.

I was surprised by differing views and very spirited conversation when I shared Payne’s revision of Robert Munscsh’s I Love You Forever with three friends.

“It’s a beautiful story,” Payne says. “When the mother’s actions are taken metaphorically, it expresses a parent’s boundless love for their child, and the desire to nurture and offer affection at all stages of the child’s life. But when taken literally, it is a bit iffy, to say the least — especially because of the implication that the son will repeat his mom’s slightly creepy behavior.”

In Payne’s version, I Love You Forever and I’ll Call Before I Come Over the grown son draws the line when his mother sneaks into his bedroom while he sleeps. He bars the windows and shuts mom out. Later he realizes that they both are hurt by this enforced isolation and engages mom into an honest conversation about each of their needs and limits.  In the revised ending the son says, “I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I’m living my mommy you’ll be.”

Payne’s stories are available free for download at


Rorie Measure

President Emeritus

September 2020