New stories for the new year

Storytelling -January 2005


Naomi Leithold


My children have two favorite phrases: “There’s nothing to do!” and “I’m bored!” Those are phrases I do not enjoy hearing, especially when their Hanukkah gifts have barely had time to find a place on the shelf. Here are three new recordings that will come in handy when your offspring have tired of their “I must have” holiday gifts.

SING ALONG WITH IZA AND FRIENDS: ROW ROW ROW YOUR BOAT, adapted and illustrated by Iza Trapani, read by Valerie Stephens, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2004, $9.95 for paperback book with CD, six minutes; ages 3-7.

A relaxing boat ride turns into a real adventure for a bear family in Iza Trapani’s clever rendition of this traditional children’s song. As the bears row idyllically down the river they are confronted with many obstacles, such as beavers building a dam and a thunderstorm, but nothing dampens their family outing.

Young children are sure to be entertained by this multisensory audiobook that takes them on a singing, viewing, listening journey. They are bound to break out in song as they listen to Trapani and a chorus of children sing the original ditty and its additional verses. Valerie Stephen’s expressive reading (which serves as an excellent role model for beginning readers), along with the realistic sound effects of birds chirping and oars dipping in and out of the water, will make youngsters feel as if they are in the bears’ boat.

Trapani’s well-integrated audiobook, is bound to be repeatedly requested. It definitely adds new meaning to a simple song.

“Row Row Row Your Boat” can be purchased in major bookstores, by calling (800) 225-3214 or online at

THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN: RAIDERS OF THE SKIES, by Joe Loesch, illustrated by Brian T. Cox, character voices by Booker D. Wilson, JerWayne Gunn, Connor Stone, Cody Waggoner and Joe Loesch, Toy Box Productions, 2004, $13.50 for book with CD, 72 minutes; ages 8 and up.

This audiobook, written as a script, is part of The Time Traveler Adventures series that takes listeners back in time by following “Buffalo Biff and Farley’s Raiders” on their time machine journeys. After the play is read in its entirety, it is repeated three times, each time leaving one of the main character’s lines blank for the listener to read.

One of the Raiders introduces his uncle who flew with the Tuskegee Airman, prompting a trip to find out more about the African-American fighter pilots of World War II. Joe Loesch does a wonderful job integrating all of the facts about these men into a trip back to Dec. 7, 1941.

The time machine adventure is brought to life by authentic sound effects and illustrations. The use of children to read the parts of the Raiders sets the scene for your child’s youthful voice to become one of the characters. Unfortunately all of the parts are male, but girls can be reminded that a good actor can be anything she wants to be.

“The Tuskegee Airmen: Raiders of the Skies” can be purchased by calling (800) 750-1511 or by printing off a fax form from (A sound clip is available at the site.)

TROUBADOUR’S TALES: A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES ABOUT KINDNESS, by the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education, narrated by Linda M. Sacha, voices and additional narration by Roy Cavanaugh, Ira Sakolsky, Monica Gaudio Sakolsky and a host of children, music composition and arrangement by Ira Sakolsky, National Association for Humane and Environmental Education, 2004, $18 for soft cover book with CD, 63 minutes; ages 7-10.

The mission of the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education is to instill good character in children, with a strong emphasis on the humane treatment of animals and respect for natural habitats. The 20 short stories (none is longer than two and a half minutes) on this sensitive, thought-provoking recording will help children empathize with animals and people. This message is delivered in a gentle way that children will relate to, such as in “Alien Adventure.” A child who is locked up in a box by an alien goes home after being freed to return his captive creature to her natural surroundings. After hearing this story, children will think twice before putting a fire fly in a jar.

The multitextured stories based on timely, child-friendly topics (such as a bird caught in plastic soda rings and a child embarrassed by his accent), musical augmentation, multiple readers and emotive narration will pull children right into the stories. These short vignettes portray children as problem-solvers and can be used to motivate discussions. This recording would be perfect for a quiet respite with your child or for classrooms, scout troops and after-school programs.    “Troubadour’s Tales: A Collection of Short Stories About Kindness” can be purchased by calling (860) 434-8666 or online at

Naomi Leithold is an award-winning storyteller and early childhood educator. She lives in Skokie and has two boys, ages 13 and 16. Her Web site,, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.

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