Stories to tickle their funny bones

Storytelling - December 2004


Naomi Leithold


Yak. I can safely assume reading that word didn’t cause you to chuckle. Yet this was not the case when my youngest child was a toddler. He would sit quietly on my lap, listening to his favorite alphabet book until we would get to “Y.” As soon as I would mention that three-letter word, he would burst into laughter. Even though I enjoyed his glee, I never understood what caused it.

Anyone who has been the recipient of a child-authored “knock-knock” joke understands the generation gap when it comes to humor. My 16-year-old reminds me of this daily as he groans at my “sure-to-make-you-roll-on-the-floor-in-laughter” comments. Here are my recommendations for recordings that are sensitively designed to tickle the funny bones of the intended audience and maybe even provide you with a laugh or two.

THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE: MORE COMPLETELY TRUE STORIES AND POEMS, by Bill Harley, piano music by Keith Munslow, Round River Records, 2004, $15 for CD, one hour; ages 10 and up.

If your family hasn’t heard Harley tell a story, you’re in for a real treat. He has a wonderful knack for taking a true story and stretching it just a wee bit, thus creating a highly entertaining and amusing tale. He looks at a situation through the eyes of a child and bases the stories on his impeccable observations. In the tale “The Teacher’s Lounge,” Harley (as a second-grader) shares a comical anecdote based on the secretive nature of the locked room which is labeled, “Teacher’s Lounge: Staff Only.”

I couldn’t stop laughing when he was attempting to figure out what this meant and what went on in that room. One possibility had to do with the chiefs of staff; maybe the teachers were dressed in combat uniforms and shouting out orders.

Harley’s laid-back, conversational style transports the listener to a front porch where a pal is telling the stories of his daily adventures. His fast-paced emotive telling is sure to draw listeners in and keep them wanting more. This recording is a great way to introduce older children to the tricky art of telling or writing an experience story that maintains attention without manufacturing unbelievable details.

“The Teacher’s Lounge: More Completely True Stories and Poems” can be purchased online at, which also includes an audio sample, or by calling (800) 682-9522.

AMELIA BEDELIA AUDIO COLLECTION, by Peggy Parish, read by Suzanne Toren, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, $10 for audiocassette, 70 minutes; ages 5-8.

This delightful collection includes Amelia Bedelia, Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower, Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia and Come Back, Amelia Bedelia. Children are sure to giggle at the antics of the world’s most literal-minded maid, such as when she is asked to prune the bushes and she puts a prune on the end of each limb. After awhile listeners will be able to predict how she will misinterpret the requests. Some children might benefit from listening with a parent, who can help explain the double meanings and words and phrases that are no longer commonly used, such as those in “Draw the drapes,” which were written in 1964. Even though the recording assumes that the youngsters are using a book to follow along (there are page turn signals), listening without a book will give children the opportunity to create their own images.

Toren’s cheery, inviting voice blends well with the upbeat musical background that sets the stage for Amelia’s good-natured escapades. The lively music is also used to accent action and highlight the quick pace of these charming stories. Once children have finished the tape they are bound to request a library trip to check out additional Amelia Bedelia books.

“Amelia Bedelia Audio Collection” can be bought at major book stores and through major online book sources.

FAMOUSLY FUNNY: A COLLECTION OF BELOVED STORIES & POEMS, as told by Jim Weiss, 2004, $14.95 for CD, 70 minutes; ages 7 and up.

Weiss has gathered some of the funniest stories and poems from some of the wittiest writers of all time, such as Hans Christian Andersen and Lewis Carroll. He also has included trickster tales from India, Africa and Turkey. Some of the pieces included are “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Jabberwocky.” Each selection is introduced with biographical information or an explanation of the story’s genre.

Weiss’ rich, commanding voice will ensure that listeners are drawn into these fun stories. He expertly infuses each story and poem with dramatic flair. I am always amazed at how his flexible voice can easily flow from one character voice to another. His flawless sense of timing, expressive emotive telling and uncanny characterizations make this family friendly CD a must-have for your audio collection.

“Famously Funny: A Collection of Beloved Stories & Poems” can be purchased at independent toy and bookstores, online at or by calling (800) 477-6234.

Naomi Leithod 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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