Layered Stories: a Pathway to Critical Thinking

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written by Abbe Rolnick

As a fiction author, I write in layers. I pick my words with care, and I infer ideas often in visual descriptions leaving the reader to discover. The best books are the ones that say more with few words. My novels are listed in the literary category as they require the reader to go just a little slower, taking time to read between the lines.

With my children’s book, I marry illustrations with big concepts. This allows for inference and discussion. I’m a true believer in many versions of what is before us.

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Bubbie’s Magical Hair is a metaphor of legacy, memory, love, magic, and renewal. All that within 34 pages. As Bubbie ages, and her grandchildren grow older, Bubbie’s hair reflects these changes. The lyrical prose tells the story and the clues are within the illustrations—revealing many layers of thought and questions.

used with permission

Let the children be the investigators, finding clues that make them wonder. Challenge them, can you be observant and find—musical notes, bubbles, cookies, dandelion dust, dust bunnies, wind, seasons of time, magic, love, adventure, animals, weather, etc.?

The trick is to find these things as the book is read and re-read and eventually the concepts reveal themselves.

used with permission


Wind rustles—look at the movement of hair, leaves, floating bubbles, words on the page.

Hair—how does change?  Color—dark to lighter to color filled.

Silly thoughts—bunnies under the bed. Sayings that make no sense.

Tales—foreign places, stories, seeing other cultures.

Name and nicknames—why do Bubbie’s have different names?

Time—flowing of the seasons, the change in clothes, shoes like those of Bubbie.

Laughter and love—into a willow tree, whistling, musical notes, sparkles, hearts.

Smells—gray swirls around the hair that flows, and the floating cookies create a happy memory.

Tears—some sad, some happy.  They taste salty, could they flow through to a river then to the salty ocean?

Puffed with purpose—imagining the future.

Renewal—look at the animals, birds, and nature throughout the book.

Mirror—what do the kids see? How can Bubbie be reflected?

Clues begin the process of thinking. A child makes comparisons with the familiar and wonders at the differences. Reflection isn’t only mirrors, but in the child’s explanations of their world.

When I would cry, my grandmother would listen and then ask me to catch the tears on my tongue, a distraction but also a moment of discovery.  This caused me to think of water cycles, food, sand, geology, a reason to read and learn.

There is no end to any book. The thought and joys linger and pique curiosity. For some, it is the meanings of the words, others focus on the art.   Each person reacts and expresses themselves in many ways.

I encourage the readers to draw their own magical adventures with their Bubbie / grandmother or favorite person, or to write in a few sentences about the fun they have had.

I would love you to send these to me at  I will post them in my monthly newsletter or on my website. You can collect them over time and make your own magic.

About Abbe Rolnick

Abbe Rolnick grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore and moved with her family to Miami Beach. After attending Boston University, she lived in Puerto Rico, where she owned a bookstore. Her novels and writings reflect her international adventures as well as the unique perspective of an elder who has achieved the honor of being called Bubbie.

Her books include the Generations of Secrets Series (River of Angels, Color of Lies, Founding Stones), Tattle Tales: Essays and Stories Along the Way, Cocoon of Cancer: An Invitation to Love Deeply, and her children’s book, Bubbie’s Magical Hair. Learn more about Abbe and her writings at, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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