The Playgrounds of Babel

The Playgrounds of Babel

Written by: Lawson, JonArno
Illustrated by: Grobler, Piet
ages 4 to 8 / grades K to 3

From the international best-selling author of Sidewalk Flowers and a world-renowned illustrator, this picture book is about the power of song, inspired by the story of the Tower of Babel.

This unusual, thought-provoking story begins with an old woman telling a tale to a group of children in a playground. One of the boys can’t understand what she is saying, so another offers to translate. The old woman’s tale is inspired by the Tower of Babel story: In the days when everyone spoke the same language, the people built a tower to reach God. But God was annoyed and sent a dragon to destroy the tower, then created new languages for everyone so that they couldn’t understand each other. Fortunately, two little girls find a way to communicate through song.

Told entirely through dialogue, moving back and forth between the old woman’s tale and the exchange between the two boys, this original, sometimes funny story raises questions about what divides us and what brings us together, in spite of all our differences — it is the power of song in this case, which ultimately brings hope.

Piet Grobler brings a masterful visual interpretation to this layered story, rendering the old woman and children in the playground in monochromatic tones and the characters in the old woman’s tale in a naïve style with vibrant color, complete with incomprehensible languages in hand-drawn speech balloons. An author’s note explains JonArno Lawson’s inspiration for the story.

Key Text Features
author’s note

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.6
Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.9
Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.

From the international best-selling author of Sidewalk Flowers and a world-renowned illustrator, this picture book is about the power of song, inspired by the story of the Tower of Babel.

This unusual, thought-provoking story begins with an old woman telling a tale to a group of children in a playground. One of the boys can’t understand what she is saying, so another offers to translate. The old woman’s tale is inspired by the Tower of Babel story: In the days when everyone spoke the same language, the people built a tower to reach God. But God was annoyed and sent a dragon to destroy the tower, then created new languages for everyone so that they couldn’t understand each other. Fortunately, two little girls find a way to communicate through song.

Told entirely through dialogue, moving back and forth between the old woman’s tale and the exchange between the two boys, this original, sometimes funny story raises questions about what divides us and what brings us together, in spite of all our differences — it is the power of song in this case, which ultimately brings hope.

Piet Grobler brings a masterful visual interpretation to this layered story, rendering the old woman and children in the playground in monochromatic tones and the characters in the old woman’s tale in a naïve style with vibrant color, complete with incomprehensible languages in hand-drawn speech balloons. An author’s note explains JonArno Lawson’s inspiration for the story.

Key Text Features
author’s note

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.6
Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.9
Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.

Published By Groundwood Books Ltd — Aug 1, 2019
Specifications 32 pages | 8.5 in x 10 in
Written By

JONARNO LAWSON’S internationally acclaimed picture book Sidewalk Flowers won the Governor General’s Literary Award and was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, among many other accolades. He is a four-time winner of the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Children’s Poetry and the author of numerous books for children and adults. JonArno lives in Toronto with his wife and three children.

Illustrated by Piet Grobler is South Africa's most celebrated illustrator for children. His work has been published around the world.
Audience ages 4 to 8 / grades K to 3
Reading Levels Lexile 540L
Guided Reading O
Fountas & Pinnel Text Level O
Key Text Features author's note
Common Core CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.6
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.9

Praise for The Playgrounds of Babel:

“A conversation starter.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[A] simple, heartening tale about myth, ingenuity, and the human need to connect.” — Quill & Quire


Uncle Holland by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Natalie Nelson

“Sophisticated yet playful, this is an unusual, original work …” School Library Journal

“Austere and quirky, with lots of room for conversations.” Kirkus


Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith

“A quiet, graceful book about the perspective-changing wonder of humble, everyday pleasures.” Booklist, starred review

“An emotionally moving, visually delightful ode to the simple powers of observation and empathy… . A book to savor slowly and then revisit again and again.” School Library Journal, starred review


Colors! ¡Colores! by Jorge Luján, illustrated by Piet Grobler

“The imagery in both words and pictures is often richly original. … A lovely book to share, reflect upon and linger over.” Kirkus

“Grobler, a South African artist, interprets the verse through watercolor paintings that are as spare and fanciful as the writing.” Booklist“Grobler’s watercolour illustrations combine small whimsically detailed figures with loose wide bleeds of colour, each one managing to reflect the mood of the text perfectly. This is a lush and beautiful book … Highly Recommended.” CM Magazine, starred review

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