The City Under The Back Steps: A Children’s Book About Ants

Are you interested in old books about ants? The City Under the Back Steps by Evelyn Sibley Lampman and illustrated by Honore Valintcourt is a children’s book about ants that was published in 1960. It is out of print, but you can buy a used copy (if you don’t mind paying quite a bit of money). The reason it is expensive is that it is actually a very good book.

The premise of the story is a boy and a girl are shrunken to the size of ants. Suddenly their back yard becomes a terrifying jungle full of dangers and wonders. They are taken underground into an ants’ nest where they meet the ants’ pet cricket, learn about the life cycles of ants and have a number of adventures. Think of the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids with a much more accurate representation of the life of the ants.

Thanks to my friend Robyn, I was able to listen to the book on CD. She had discovered that Chinaberry has set of CDs for $19.95. Edit:  Sorry, no longer available.

If you like stories that mix sweeping imagination with a great deal of detailed natural history, then you just might want to give it a try.

Have you ever seen this book?

Hardcover: 210 pages
Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (1960)
Language: English
ASIN: B0007E119S

Note: I have an affiliation with Amazon. If you click through this link and buy a book or CD, I will receive a small commission. I have no affiliation with Chinaberry.

25 Replies to “The City Under The Back Steps: A Children’s Book About Ants”

  1. Cool!

    I think the author did a great job incorporating fact into fiction in a really memorable way.

  2. I red this book in the late 1960s. I remember feeling disappointed when I finished because I felt that I had established a friendship with the characters. It was an exceptional book. I wish it was back in print as I would love to buy it for my grandson.

  3. I read this book as a child..I remember I checked it out from the library…that’s over 50 years ago but it made such an impression on me, obviously …I would love to find a copy of it.

  4. I’ve searched for this book for years. The beginning of my life long love of nature.

  5. I read this 50 years ago and just thought to add it to the list of ten influential books in my life. Though I have read many more sophisticated books, this book was instrumental in igniting my love of reading.

  6. Oh my gosh. Thanks to this little blog I finally have found the name of this book. I remembered the story, but not the title. I have been trying to find the title for many years as I wanted to share it with my children. Now all these years later, I can look for it to share with my grandchildren! I read it in a part of my 7th grade “enrichment” class in 1964. It has remained vivid to me for all this time.

  7. I read this book in 1961 and was forever changed in my love for the outdoors and small insects and animals. I’ve looked for it off and on, but couldn’t even remember the title. I was watching Antman tonight and it made me think of it again. Finally, I remembered it was the City under the ? And googled that and I found it! Wasn’t it just one of the best books?

  8. I was telling my young nephew the other day about how reading this book as a child changed my whole outlook on nature. I am now in my late 60s and the memory and the legacy remain to this day. What a pity it is out of print, wonderful book that I think would stand the test of time if it were to be reprinted.

  9. Linda, I agree. It would. I wonder how one finds out who owns the copyright…

  10. I, too, remember this book from my childhood! I remember being so angry at my brothers for their ill treatment of ants after reading it!! I sought the title and just discovered it yesterday, truly and exceptional book!

  11. I too loved and remembered this book when I read it over 60 years ago! My grandson was sharing his fascination of ants with me and I suddenly remembered it. How disappointing that it is no longer available unless you want to spend a lot of money. Love the power of stories!

  12. I am 66 and read this book before I was 10, in fact I think it was the summer I was stuck in the house first with the mumps and then with the measles back to back, yep it was 1963 and I was 9. This book was a gift from a neighbor and it allowed me to escape outside with my brother and the adventures were amazing! It is still the one book I have the most wonderful memories of and the one I wish I could have given to every niece, nephew and friend’s child but could never find it as an adult.

  13. I loved this book as a child. I checked it out from my grade school library. I’m so sorry to hear that it is out of print. Like others who have commented, I read it over 45 yrs ago and still remember it.

  14. I read this wonderful and imaginative book so many years ago as a young boy and though I had forgotten the title and author, I have never forgotten the impact the story and characters had on me. My fascination with ants continue to this day.

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