Cold weather boredom busters By Naomi LeitholdA phrase that I hadn't heard all summer, "I'm bored," began to creep back into my sons' vocabulary as soon as the weather turned cooler. Limited to indoor entertainment options, the "What should I do now?" moments began to reappear. Here are a few engaging audio recordings that are bound to chase boredom away.
ANIMAL TAILS: TRADITIONAL STORIES AND SONGS, by Lee-Ellen, instrumental accompaniment by Mark Lemaire, Yellow Moon Press, 1989, $9.95 for audiocassette, 1 hour; ages 4-8.
This highly entertaining combination of traditional folk songs (with original verses added by Lee-Ellen) and folktales is sure to capture your child's attention. Lee-Ellen masterfully pulls listeners in with voiced sound effects, vivid descriptions, emotive narration and humorous character voices. In "Why the Bear Has a Short Tail," youngsters are sure to chuckle at her portrayal of the bear as a bumbling fellow. This characterization along with her colorful descriptions such as, "His tail was frozen in the ice, the same way a Popsicle stick is frozen in a Popsicle," will help children "see" the story unfold.
The delightful songs and stories on this tape are augmented by interactive elements. Even wiggly listeners will become engaged as they solve riddles, sing songs and make sound effects. Lee-Ellen adds a spark to many of the stories by cleverly weaving spoken word in with songs. Children are sure to enjoy her rendition of "Froggie Went A-Courtin'." She and Lemaire combine efforts to turn this humorous, traditional song into a multi-textured story with choral telling, interesting sound effects and instrumental support. This well-produced recording definitely deserves a place in your family's audio library.
"Animal Tails" can be purchased online at www.yellowmoon.com.
GREGORY'S SHADOW, by Don Freeman, read by Jim Weiss, Live Oak Media, 2003, $16.95 for paperback book with audiocassette, $25.95 for hardcover book with audiocassette, 12 minutes; ages 3-7.
This gentle, no-frills story follows Gregory Groundhog as he searches for his misplaced shadow. When they are reunited, he vows that he never wants to be alone again. This poses a problem when Groundhog Day rolls around and he wants to please the farmers who are hoping not to see his shadow. Gregory comes up with a thoughtful solution that satisfies everyone.
I've listened to many recordings by Weiss, but I had to check the cover to make sure that he was the narrator. This storyteller of many voices takes on a completely different one in order to create the appropriate mood for this tale. His stodgy narration contrasts well with the mild character voices, thus making it easier for children to follow the plot. The realistic sound effects, including the sound of a page turning used as a page turn signal, lend a three-dimensional quality to this sensitive story. Weiss' emotive telling, along with the background music used to accent feelings and action, add a spark to the muted watercolor illustrations.
Gregory's Shadow can be purchased by calling (800) 788-1121 or online at www. liveoakmedia.com (click on Picture Book Readalongs and then search in Complete List).
SNUG IN A RUG STORIES, by Denise Berry-Hanna, music and effects by Ed Tossing, berryhanna productions, 2001, $15.99 for CD, 1 hour; ages 5-9.
Berry-Hanna designed these five original stories to get children "wigglin', jigglin' and telling stories along with the recording." That they will. Each story has a simple, rhythmic musical chant that youngsters will be able to easily duplicate. Berry-Hanna's expressive, energetic and enthusiastic manner, along with her creatively voiced sound effects, will draw youngsters into these enjoyable tales. Young children will easily identify with the child-friendly stories that infuse imagination into everyday truths.
Many children will find comfort in "William's Blankie," a story about a boy, who appropriately incorporates his beloved blankie into his life as he matures. Youngsters with similar attachments will listen attentively as he tells the woman he intends to marry about his blanket. They will be surprised and relieved to find out that she has one, too. This sweet story ends with the couple dragging their blankets down the aisle and tying them together as a symbol of their love. This tale will help both parents and children to see the transitional object in a new light. "William's Blankie" is just an example of Berry-Hanna's knack to spin insightful tales.
It can be purchased at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark in Chicago, and Magic Tree, 141 N. Oak Park Ave. in Oak Park, or online at www.Amazon.com.
.Naomi Leithold is an award-winning storyteller and early childhood educator who lives in Skokie with her two boys, 12 and 15. Her Web site, www.simplystorytelling.com, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.