Previously by Allen Ahlberg

My daughter just loves when I mix up stories and change parts when reading to her.   Sometimes I add a few nonsense words or sounds instead of the written text.  It just sends her into giggle fits.  Previously is a great book for sending somebody into giggle fits.  My favorite part of the story is when Jack and Jill are arguing over the free gift in the cornflakes box.  I laughed so hard because my brothers and I would argue over the toy in the box when we were younger.  It was a big deal if you ended up the toy.  Rules were made up because of the free gift and our Mom usually settled the argument.

Review of the book:

Previously before reading this book I was looking at the Eric Carle book list from the’s page.  The list title is called: Strange Bedfellows: Picture Books of Distinction in 2007.  Previously is a wild roller-coaster ride backwards through several traditional childhood stories.  Each character relates to one another starting with Goldilocks and ending with, “once upon a time. . .”  The text is easy to visually read and the pictures are simple childlike paintings.  Previously is geared toward younger children; however, older students could use this book as an example of how to rewrite childhood fairy tales and nursery rhymes.  I would recommend this book for teachers studying storylines and the word “previously”.

Summary of the book:

Previously is a book that starts at the end and finishes at the beginning.  Several characters are seen.  The first illustration shows Goldilocks eating dinner with her parents and the Three Bears are peeking inside their window.  The story starts with Goldilocks arriving home and then the previously starts.   Ahlberg uses plot elements from several different children’s stories (Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and the Bean Stalk, The Frog Prince, Cinderella, The Gingerbread Man) and a nursery rhyme (Jack and Jill); along the way he connects them together.  At the beginning of each “story” the name of the character is larger and bolder than the rest of the text.

Possible activities to accompany Previously

Stories or Nursery Rhymes to read before reading this book

  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Jack and the Bean Stalk
  • Jack and Jill
  • The Frog Prince
  • Cinderella
  • Gingerbread Man

Vocabulary Study:

Previously: to occur before something else in time

Visual Arts:

Draw or paint your favorite storybook character going backwards.

Writing Prompts:

Write a new previously for a fairy tale character not in the book.

Have students write about themselves starting with previously and then fill in their details backwards.

Links to other places related to this amazing book.

Author’s Information: Allan Ahlberg

Click here for a link for an interview with Allan Ahlberg.  Kristy Young interviews Allan Ahlberg about his childhood and his writing.  There are also several songs during the interview.  The interview is around 43 minutes.  This is an interview where you get to know Allan and where his ideas came from and his inspirations.

Here is a short (1 minute 12 second) video of Allan Ahlberg explaining his process of putting a book together. This is Youtube video was uploaded by corblimeynorthern.

Illustrator’s Homepage: Bruce Ingman

Click here to visit Bruce Ingman’s homepage.   His homepage lists his books and show cover images and an image from the inside.

Bibliography Information:

Ahlberg, A. (2007). Previously. Candlewick Press. Cambridge, MA.

-Enjoy this little gem!



Mrs. Berry


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