Let these stories take you on a world tour By Naomi Leithold

The temperature is rising and spring fever is likely to conjure visions of travels to far-off lands. Unfortunately, barren pocketbooks and busy schedules often don’t allow these daydreams to become reality. Yet, with a little ingenuity, anyone can explore the world without leaving home. The following recordings will transport you to locations far and wide through a delightful assortment of world folktales.

MULTICULTURAL TALES TO TELL, by Pleasant DeSpain, August House Publishers, 1994, $18 for two audiocassettes, one hour, 45 minutes; ages 5 and up.

DeSpain’s polished professional public speaking voice will quickly draw listeners into these entertaining world folktales. The fast-paced, concise stories (none is longer than six minutes) will keep children’s interests as they try to guess what will happen next in these intriguing tales. The stories from the United States, Africa, Germany, China, Fiji, Mexico, Tibet, Holland, Sweden, Japan, Korea, Denmark and Guatemala are highlighted by background music that is indigenous to the country of the story’s origin, adding a touch of authenticity to the productions.

The vast variety of stories means there is a story here that will appeal to just about everyone. Many of the stories teach valuable lessons in a gentle manner, such as the American story “Old Joe and the Carpenter,” with its peaceful resolution, and “Natural Habits From Africa,” with its message that we need to accept other people’s differences. Other stories are pure fun, such as the tale based on misunderstanding, “The Mirror From North Korea.” Before long, everyone is sure to have their favorite story to share with family and friends.

What really makes this recording a must-have for your family’s audio library is DeSpain’s ability to bring a story to life through his voice and his use of detailed descriptions. With his choice of words such as “swayed lightly in the air” it would be impossible not to be able to see the images he describes. As I listened to these gentle tales, I was enthralled with DeSpain’s ability to control his voice as he smoothly changed into different characters, emphasized action and provided pacing that made the stories delightful to listen to. This recording would definitely make a long car drive more enjoyable.

Multicultural Tales to Tell can be purchased by calling (800) 284-8784 or online at www.august

TALES OF WISDOM & WONDER, retold and narrated by Hugh Lupton, Barefoot Child, 2000, $15.99 for enhanced CD (requires a PC with Quicktime 4), $18.95 for hard-cover book, 55 minutes; ages 8 and up.

This unabridged audio book contains thought-provoking stories from the Haitian, Cree, English, French, West African, Russian and Irish traditions. The collection of interesting, engaging stories teaches life’s lessons without being heavy handed. Children are sure to smile as they listen to the clever Haitian story, “Monkey and Papa God,” that teaches compassion through a monkey who misunderstands something he overhears and proceeds to embark on a journey to find misery. Listening to this recording with your child is sure to lead to some interesting discussions.

Lupton adds a spark to the stories through his use of pacing and intonation. He infuses life into each word by carefully modulating his voice to match the meaning of the word and the underlying action of the story. Lupton’s narration can easily be used by teachers as an example of a way to bring story characters off of the page through oral reading.

Tales of Wisdom & Wonder can be purchased at independent bookstores and toy stores or ordered at

NORFOLKTALES, by Bobby Norfolk, August House Publishers, 2002, $14.95 for CD, 52 minutes; ages 10 and up.

Listening to Norfolk tell stories is always enjoyable and never fails to elicit numerous smiles and chuckles. His energy level is phenomenal. He often doesn’t come up for a breath. At times, it seems as though he is making two vocalizations (a word and a voiced sound effect) at the same time. Even though I have listened to many of his recordings, I never tire of his endless array of sound effects, character voices and clever use of pacing to achieve comedic effect and enhance meaning. Through the skilled use of his voice and his fast-paced style, the stories jump right out of the CD player. This recording is not a good choice for bedtime material, but will certainly add a spark to your child’s daily routine.

This collection of world folktales includes stories from the African and Appalachian traditions. My favorite was the jump story (a story that makes you jump out of your seat) “Wiley and the Hairyman.” Norfolk’s version of this boogeyman-type tale will appeal to older children. Even though there are a few jumps in this story, the scare factor is mild due to Norfolk’s portrayal of Wiley as a youngster who is given great support and advice by his parents and is very much in control of the situation. This entertaining story with its humorous ending is sure to become one of your youngster’s favorites.

NorfolkTales can be purchased by calling (800) 284-8784 or online at



Naomi Leithold is an award-winning storyteller and early childhood educator who lives in Skokie with her two boys, 11 and 14. Her Web site,, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.



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