Stories to make children think about bigger issues By Jennifer Mangan


Before the leaves even fell, toy catalogues were filling my mailbox and my children were putting together Hanukkah wish lists-one gift for each of the holiday's eight days. Fulfilling all of their wishes would require a bank loan, so I started to search for low-budget gifts that could be mixed in to equal our traditional eight. Finding inexpensive quality items can be a challenge. Here are my suggestions for satisfying the needs of three different age groups, all for under $15.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, by Joy Frost, 2000, $9.99 for audiocassette, $14 for CD, 15 minutes; ages 4-7.

When your children have listened to their last bedtime story and sipped their last drink of water but still aren't ready for sleep, this tape could be the answer. It begins with a story about a mother sea turtle who lays her eggs on the beach. After the last baby pecks his way out of the shell, he starts to make the trek to the sea. He is frightened by the seagulls circling overhead in search of a meal. His "inner voice" tells him to believe in himself. The thought stays with him while he makes his way to the water's edge. At the conclusion of the story, Frost guides listeners in reflecting on their day. She encourages them to be happy with who they are and to believe in themselves.

All the ingredients combine to promise a sweet slumber. Children will relax as they listen to Frost's clear, matter-of-fact narration underlined by soothing piano music. Descriptions such as "the dim orange light of the rising sun" and "warm bubbly waves" will fuel youngsters' dreams and help them feel safe as they float off into slumber.

"Believe In Yourself" can be purchased online at (scroll down to "categories" and click "Kids and family").

SOL MATES, stories and songs adapted by Sadarri Saskill, Global Communication, 2002, $10 for audiocassette, $15 for CD, 1 hour; ages 6-10.

This mix of dialogue, songs and Latin American folktales in a studio-replicated school environment is bound to grab and keep children's attention. A full cast of children and adults is featured in this Spanish and English tape. Hearing "Eeney, Meeney, Miney, Moe" recited in Spanish as well as English is fun, but it's important to note that this is not always a word-for-word translation. Some pieces are a sprinkling of both languages; others are all in one language and then translated; still others can be figured out through context. Saskill's goal is to teach children that learning a second language can be fun. After listening to this energetic recording, they are bound to agree.

Conversations between students and teachers set the scene for each story, song or rhyme, making the selection even more meaningful. For example, the Mexican story of "How Opossum Became Famous" is introduced by a science lesson about opossum.

This multi-textured tape is a delight to hear. Each piece is brought to life with a variety of voices, sound effects and an array of musical instruments. Saskill, a Kenosha, Wis., resident and a frequent performer at schools around the Chicago area, has a vibrant, expressive storytelling style. Her exaggerated characterizations and humorous references-the crow in the Argentine story, "Toad and Crow at the Party in the Sky," uses "birdie mouthwash and birdie deodorant"-will tickle a few funny bones.

"Sol Mates" can be purchased by sending a check or money order (include $2.50 for shipping and handling) to: Global Communication, 7929 26th Ave., Kenosha, Wis., 53143, or online at

THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, by Heather Forest, Yellow Moon Press, 1991, $9.95 for audiocassette, 1 hour, 20 minutes; ages 10 and up.

Forest's minstrel style of storytelling breathes new life into classic stories carrying the important message that looks can be deceiving. The stories are a blend of prose, poetry and song. The tales include Forest's version of "Beauty and The Beast" (without the dancing teapots,) an ancient Chinese folktale, an Arthurian legend, a King Solomon story and a musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Nightingale." These stories are a great way to introduce discussions on how issues should be examined from different perspectives.

Forest tells a story with great emotion and sensitivity. She cleverly weaves original guitar-accompanied ballads into the tales. This recording will stimulate children to think and question how they view others and the world around them.

"The Eye of the Beholder" can be purchased by calling (800) 497-4385 or online at


Naomi Leithold is an award-winning storyteller and early childhood educator. She lives in Skokie and has two boys, ages 12 and 15. Her Web site,, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.


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