Prancing, Dancing Lily

Illustrator: John Manders

Dial Books for Young Readers

The Story Behind the Story

lilycowsI grew up on a farm surrounded by cows and calves. My daughter, Amy, is a dancer. Is it any surprise I wrote a story about a dancing cow? I never saw a dancing cow in our pasture, but I often helped my father call the cows in for milking. He sounded a lot like Farmer Gibson calling Rose, Lily, and the rest of the herd. "Come on in Rose. Milking Time!"


Growing up around the farm, I learned quite a bit about cows and dairying. When I was a teen, I was selected as a Kansas Dairy Princess. I didn't realize knowing about cows could get you a crown, but it did.

My father, Eugene Willard Krehbiel, grew up in a family of Mennonite farmers. When he was a boy, his dream was to have a registered Ayrshire herd. Ayrshires are not a well-known breed, but Prince Charles of England thinks they are a tough and beautiful breed just as my father did. Prince Charles keeps a 180 cow herd on his Duchy Home Farm. Here's a photo of his beautiful Ayrshires; you can read more here.

If you'd like, you can read about my father's Ayrshire dream in his own words.

Lily fans may be surprised to learn that in the original story version, Lily did not end up as a Conga cow. I have such fun "drumming" with students at author visits; I can't imagine Lily as anything else now! 

Spunky, fun-loving Lily always brings out the creativity and joy in teachers, librarians, parents, and students. Here are a few ways Lily and I have been greeted at school visits:





This book is dedicated to my father, his Ayrshire dream, and all the cows at Highland Ayr dairy farm.

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From School Library Journal: "This witty picture book stars a dairy cow who will soon inherit the position of "Bell Cow"...Arnold's amusing characters and clever text come to life through Manders' comical cartoon illustrations. Peppered with playful humor, his pencil-sketch and paint technique gives the images a distinctive look. This great read-aloud provides a subtle message and a guaranteed good time.

From Kirkus Reviews: "twinkle-hooved Lily leaves her slower-mooooving fieldmates to travel the world in search of a Place. High-stepping fare..."

From Publisher's Weekly: "a spirited heifer who dreams of being a hoofer takes center stage in this light-on-its-hooves tale about following one's muse...Arnold's bovine fantasy with its silly tone and quick-step pacing will keep kids' attention and Manders' watercolor-and-pencil compositions possess an appropriately free-line, madcap edge."

From San Francisco Chronicle: "...a wildly imaginative story that celebrates the iconoclast who's looking for her niche. The art is a crack-up."

From Red Rock News' article, "'The Good, The Great and The Awful' books" (Lily was The Great, of course!) "My nomination for "great" is the rather wacky, heartwarming story of Prancing, Dancing Lily. This author imbues Lily with such a winning personality that I predict adults will enjoy it as much as the children. Unlike most children's books where the protagonist finds that there's no place like home and/or their destiny, Lily finally comes home and gets the entire herd of cows to dance and prance as she does. A triumph for oppositional-disordered people everywhere! Viva, Lily!"

From California Kids! Family Fun Guide: "a story sure to appeal to anyone who ever felt out of place. Cartoon-like art perfectly enhances this sweetly uplifting story."

From The Press Democrat: "This charming story from the award-winning Sebastopol children's author recounts the adventures of a spirited Wisconsin cow who would rather dance than graze all day."

  • IRA-CBC Children's Choices List 2005
  • Mississippi Mockingbird award nominee – 2006-2007
  • Master Reading List – Missouri 2005
  • 150 Best Kansas Books, selected for the 2011 Kansas Sesquicentennial by Kansas State Library

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