By Naomi Leithold
Has the Big Bad wolf run out of air from trying to blow the house down? Is Goldilocks tired of running all the way home? Does your preschooler's story repertoire need a little spark? Here are some suggestions that are sure to add a bit of pizzazz to the list of old favorites.
GOOD NIGHT, by Jim Weiss, 1989, $9.95 for audiocassette, $13.45 for CD, 1 hour; ages 4-8. When the bedtime stories have succeeded in putting you to sleep but your child is still wide awake, this recording will definitely finish the job. The six vignettes, mellow musical interludes and Weiss' gentle voice are guaranteed to send your child off into dreamland. Through vivid descriptions, Weiss successfully transports children to a tropical island, a treehouse in the forest, a mountain cabin, a farm, a mermaids' lagoon and to visit a unicorn. Weiss makes each location come to life when he describes the sounds and sites and gives listeners a role by asking them to wish on a shooting star or listen to a seashell on the tropical island. Every story eventually leads youngsters to look for a safe and comfortable place to sleep and ends with the suggestion of a soothing, repetitive noise from the story-fish jumping or waves on a beach.
Not only will these vivid stories induce children into slumber, they also will provide great fuel for their imaginations. With these stories as a starting point, children can create their own visualizations based on the day's events or a past experience. After falling asleep to these peaceful images, youngsters are sure to have sweet dreams. “Good Night” can be purchased at specialty toy and bookstores, by calling (800) 477-6234 or online at www.greathall.com.
THE ANIMAL BOOGIE, illustrated by Debbie Harter, sung by Fred Penner, Barefoot Books, 2000, $9.99 for paperback book and CD, 8 minutes; ages 2-5. Even the youngest children will immediately be drawn into this adorable, interactive story and song. This fast-paced, sing-a-long, move-a-long tale introduces listeners to jungle animals and their movements through a riddle format. (The first page describes how the animal moves and the second page names the animal.) Little ones will be enthralled with the lushly colored, whimsical drawings that include clues to the riddles. On the page where the question is posed, there is a partial picture of the creature in question and a child moving like the animal and wearing clothes that reflects its color or markings. Parents will appreciate that the children represent a wide variety of ethnic groups and even include a girl in a wheelchair.
This story with a melody is sure to get children out of their chairs and doing a boogie. Its repetitive nature and detailed illustrations will have toddlers “reading” and repeating the story before too long. This adorable CD and book is bound to become a favorite with the younger set. Animal Boogie can be purchased at major bookstores, by calling (866) 417-2369 or online at www.barefootbooks.com. (Make sure you are buying the audio version; there is also a book-only option.)
THE JAMIE LEE CURTIS AUDIO COLLECTION, written and performed by Jamie Lee Curtis, music by David Nichtern, Harper Collins Publishers, 2002, $12 for audiocassette, 40 minutes; ages 4-7. Children and parents will love this collection of stories dealing with early childhood issues in a sensitive and humorous manner. All five of her books are included: When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth; Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born; Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day; Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery and I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem. Curtis begins each story with a short personal introduction that makes children feel as if she is talking to them. To introduce Today I Feel Silly, she asks what makes them happy, has them smile with her and shares what brings her joy. The questions and comments help pique interest in these sincere tales.
These kid-friendly tales include numerous situations young children can relate to, such as feeling confused about the possibility of a new brother, wondering where a balloon goes, and even liking yourself when you make a mistake. Feelings of love and safety are echoed throughout the five stories. I especially liked Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, a sensitive, loving story about adoption.
Curtis' reading of these stories sounds more like storytelling than narration. Her emotive, humorous style and distinct, energetic voice will make children feel like she is telling the story just for them. Nichtern's peaceful music helps to establish this recording's feel-good quality. These stories will definitely foster feelings of safety, self-esteem and curiosity.
The collection is available at major bookstores and online at www.Harperaudio.com.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, www. simplystorytelling.com, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.