When the 4-year-olds at B'nai David-Judea congregation got cholent on their knees while crawling under the kiddush table searching for buried treasure one Shabbat morning, there was no doubt who was to blame: David Steinberg, whose wild yarns have become a Shabbat morning staple since Steinberg got recruited for the storytelling job when he was transitioning the first of his three sons into a group about five years ago.
Now a wider audience can get a taste of Steinberg's rampant imagination in the recently released "Grasshopper Pie and Other Poems" (Grosset and Dunlap), Steinberg's first book of several to be published in the All Aboard Poetry Reader series.
Steinberg is already a minor celebrity among Los Angeles' 5-and-under (and over) crowd, who have heard his stories and shtick at the Jewish Community Library and The Grove.
"This age group pushes the line between fantasy and reality," said Steinberg, a self-described 5-year-old who never grew up.
Steinberg, who is actually 41, knows something about fantasy -- his day job is as a producer for Walt Disney Feature Animation, where he's worked on such films as "Hercules" and "Mulan," and the upcoming "Home on the Range."
Animation's anything-is-possible mindset comes through in this brightly illustrated 48-page paperback, with five story-length poems.
There's the tickle monster dad, who transforms from a napping lump into a relentless tickler and back again, and Billy Ray Brown, born upside down, who goes through life on his head. Any kid who has played with his food will see himself in the poem about the evil alien in a matzah ball spaceship who must be eaten before he takes over the bowl of soup, and then the galaxy.
With Steinberg's keen ear for unforced poetry, his quirky characters and just-the-other-side-of-reality storylines, kids will eat up "Grasshopper Pie," which will be followed this summer by "The Monster in the Mall and Other Spooky Poems" and a Thanksgiving book after that. Steinberg is working on holiday book where kids observing Chanukah, Christmas and Kwaanza join forces to fight off a giant fruitcake.
Steinberg will tell "Adventures of Super Matza" and read from "Grasshopper Pie" Thursday, April 8, 4 p.m., at Children's Book World, 10580 W. Pico Blvd; and Sunday, April 11, 2 p.m., at Storyopolis, 116 N. Robertson Blvd.