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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Storytime Suggestions: Fortunately by Remy Charlip

Herein lies the third installment of my Storytime Suggestions series.  We covered Toddlers.  We covered Preschoolers.  Now a little something for the older tykes.  I’m talking the K-2 crowd.  Maybe my favorite age to read books to, truth be told.  These are the kids I feel more comfortable experimenting on with new picture books.

It was difficult to choose where to begin.  There are so many titles out there that I adore!  But my surefire winner, hands down, has to be Fortunately by Remy Charlip.  As you can see, it has a truly magnificent arc.

Name: Fortunately
Author: Remy Charlip
In Print?: Yes! In paperback, but we’ll take what we can get.
ISBN: 978-0-375-85937-3
Best For: The K-2 crowd
Random Fact: Well, the book was originally published in 1964. And according to a commenter on Amazon (clearly I go to only the most reputable sources for my information), in 1969 the title was changed to What Good Luck! What Bad Luck! The reasoning? Who knows. In any case, it was changed back, though you can still find paperback editions of What Good Luck… floating around for sale online. If you’re a dedicated Charlip collector, of course.

Folks may know Charlip for his impressive picture books, popular for decades.  Most recently he was immortalized in Brian Selznick’s Caldecott Award winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  A fan of Charlip’s for years, Selznick realized that the man was the spitting image of George Melies, old timey filmmaker.  See?

Later, when Selznick gave his acceptance speech, Charlip was present and received a standing ovation.

Storytime Suggestions:

It’s all in the intonation.  The four syllables of the word “for-tu-nate-ly” resonate so well sometimes.  It helps to look really regretful every time things do not work out for little Ned.  His pain is your pain.  His joys, your joys.  Of course, around the time the motor explodes, they’ll be riveted, no matter how you read it.  The book is just that good.

I’ll admit to you that I enjoy the first half of the this book more than the second half.  The high point, for me anyway, is when he missed the pitchfork.  The story does well with the sharks and the tigers, but by the time Ned (how awesome is it that the main character’s name is Ned, by the way?) starts digging I feel like it’s not quite as strong.  That said, to the book’s credit I’ve never had a kid question the logic behind the fact that Ned somehow manages to dig himself from an island into a ballroom in Florida.

What kids really love about this book is that there are several moments there where it seems pretty certain that we’re going to turn the page onto the eviscerated and very bloody corpse of poor little Ned.  The pitchfork, for one, looks like a pretty done deal.  Children can be bloodthirsty little souls, but you know they’re secretly pleased each and every time Ned gets out of a near death experience.  And that is the charm of the book, isn’t it?  Ned is escaping actual honest-to-god DEATH with every page turn.  Not minor inconveniences.  The end of his life as he knows it!!!  Riveting stuff.

Preschool Storytime Suggestions made in the comments of the last post included:

Fortunately by Remy Charlip – Suggested by Eric
The Doghouse by Jan Thomas – Suggested by Mary (Mary, I’ve adopted your method of singing “Dun Dun Dun” every time I read it . . . it’s a hit).
Chicken Butt by Erica Perl – Suggested by Erica
Beware of Frog by William Bee – Suggested by Jim

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Cecilia says:

    It’s also a great book to inspire kids to write. Each year, I have lots of third graders who write whole series of ‘Fortunately/Unfortunately’ stories!

  2. Mpls librarian says:

    Love it! I would be interested to see what you do with a more serious book. Have you seen the fingerplays at HCL: ?

  3. Barbara says:

    I love to share this book with my k-2 crowd at school. We don’t use it as a writing prompt, but like to go around the room continuing Ned’s ups and downs.
    Another book that remind me of this is Margery Cuyler’s That’s Good, That’s Bad, where the hero’s fortunes go up and down, and are never what you think.

  4. Jenlibrarian says:

    Oh, it would be fun to pair it with TERRIFIC by Jon Agee — thanks for sharing this!

  5. I’ve used this in family storytelling programs and it goes over big. You can be as dramatic and goofy as you want, always a good thing. It’s also a great writing prompt for older kids.

  6. I’ve never tried this one, but Cuyler’s That’s Good That’s Bad is a HUGE favorite (the sequels – meh. Especially the Washington D. C. one) I recently got through inter-library loan an old Joan Lexau and Aliki book of the same title and general structure, which was also amazingly popular. Wish they’d reprint it. It’s a much simpler story – a little boy is telling a tiger why he’s so exhausted – but it has a very clever ending.

  7. Maureen M. says:

    Thanks for the dramatic reading! My K-1s also love “Fortunately” along with Agee’s “Terrific” as well as Sean Taylor’s livelier “Boing!” for the good/bad writing prompt hat trick.

  8. I have read Fortunately aloud to a first grade class for many years. My library “fortunately” has a hardcover copy. What a great choice. The students love it, and I love it every time I read it again. Thanks for recommending it.

  9. My kids loved this book,and it’s good to know it’s still in print.

  10. Gregory Kibitz says:

    My Brother & I had Good Luck, Bad Luck as a kids. I was born 2/65 and he 11/63. As that version came out in 69, I must have been at least 4-5 when we got it. I read it for years. Always my favorite, even over my Seuss (CITH), Sendak, (WTWTA) or my Milne (WtP).

    FYI: I think I know why they changed the title and the text in the book. Fortunately is too big a word for such young kids. Luck is far more easy for kids to understand than Fortune. I’m an Aspie, National Scholar and honors grad from both HS & College, who taught himself to read pre-K and yet it was not until I was a young adult that I fully got that Fortune was the same as Luck (Aspie’s are not so great with synonyms sometimes). And I am darn sure that I never would have as much loved nor as well remembered reading a book that kept saying Fortunately, Unfortunately instead of Good Luck, Bad Luck. That was the BEST PART! Kids know Good Luck and Bad Luck like the back of their hand as that is the truly volatile, vacillating, capricious & mercurial nature of childhood, and seriously, when was the last time you heard a little kid say “fortunately…” Sheet, most adults don’t even use the term (anymore)! Ipso facto!

    • Gregory Kibitz says:

      To me, the fortunately version is like watching a Martin Scorsese Movie, but on Network or Basic Cable TV, where all the “correct” dialog has been replaced. Just not the same movie.

      As to:

      “It’s all in the intonation. The four syllables of the word “for-tu-nate-ly” resonate so well sometimes. It helps to look really regretful every time things do not work out for little Ned. His pain is your pain. His joys, your joys. Of course, around the time the motor explodes, they’ll be riveted, no matter how you read it. The book is just that good.”

      Yes, agreed, mostly. But when you say the much simpler 2 syllables of Good Luck or Bad Luck with positive and negative intonation (as we did in our heads as we read it, no one ever read it TO US) then the effect is even greater (good luck), However, no matter how you change the intonation of FOR… and UN-FOR… they very much sound the same (bad luck). IMO, kids most assuredly get good vs. bad way better than word vs. un-word. Un-fortunately, the intonation really only changes on the UN- part. Try it. Fortunately, I just did, many times. Also the reason to not go with Luckily and Un-luckily or the like.

      One plus of Fortunately? Kids learn a new big word AND (maybe) that it is just a fancy synonym for Luckily AND how the prefix un- changes a word’s meaning to its opposite. But does it dazzle and suck them in as much as Good Luck, Bad Luck? I think not! };-)

      • Elizabeth Bird says:

        In my own readings I place the emphasis on the “Un” part of the word. That does a jolly good job of separating the book from the mere fortunate parts. So when I do a reading I am able to give a happy sunshine-and-sweet-bunnies reading to Fortunately and then comes the dreaded “UN-fortunately”. Haven’t seen Good Luck, Bad Luck so I can’t say how it rates. I can say that one advantage to Unfortunately is the threat of almost certain death that permeates each unfortunate encounter.