When Grandpa Kissed His Elbow

by Cynthia C. DeFelice
pictures by Karl Swanson
© 1992

The Story

Grandpa introduces Maggie to the magic of the natural world during her visit to the country, during which she witnesses hailstones in the summer, dancing mayflies, and a wren’s nest lined with her own hair.

A Note from the Author

Both of my grandfathers died before I was born, and I used to wonder what it would have been like to know them. In this book, I got the chance to create the grandfather I wished I’d had.

I heard an old superstition that said if a person kissed his elbow he would change from a boy into a girl, or a girl into a boy! Of course, I tried it. I didn’t want to change into a boy, but I figured if it worked, I could kiss my elbow again and change back. Well, I couldn’t quite reach it…bet you can’t, either! However, it gave me the idea of a story that begins with a girl named Maggie visiting her grandfather for the summer. Grampa is always telling stories, and they all begin like this: “Back when I was a little girl….” He says that he used to be a girl, until he kissed his elbow and turned into a boy.

When Maggie can’t kiss her own elbow, she decides that all the magic is gone from the world, that magic only happened back when her grandfather was a little girl. But when she spends time with Grampa, she learns that the world is still full of magic, if you know how to find it.


“A gifted storyteller presents a familiar theme–a happy relationship between grandparent and child–with unusual insight and sensitivity. Swanson’s misty color-pencil illustrations nicely reflect the story’s quiet mood and Maggie’s sense of wonder at the “magical” occurrences she and Grandpa share.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A nostalgic story, gently told and softly illustrated.” – Horn Book

Sorry, this book is out of print.