Gentle tales to entertain and teach your kids



Naomi Leithold


Reality-based fiction with central themes of divorce, bullying and loss of a loved one has its place. Action-packed thrillers definitely have an audience. But for younger kids ages 6 to 9, a steady diet of gentle tales that entertain or teach without a heavy hand is preferable. Here are my recommendations for recordings that are a perfect match for this age group. 

THE STORY TREE, retold and narrated by Hugh Lupton, The Barefoot Child, 2001, $15.99 for CD, 45 minutes; ages 6-9.  This delightful CD contains folktales from around the world, including Germany, India, Russia and Norway. This recording consists of Lupton’s versions of classic stories such as “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” and “The Little Red Hen”—fables that focus on familiar themes of friendship, being rewarded for good deeds and using problem solving to escape a potentially dangerous situation. There is also an East Indian version of the childhood favorite “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina. The simple story lines, multiple repetitions and predictable endings render these tales perfect for retelling to family and friends. 

Lupton pulls his audience in with his detailed descriptions, such as when he describes the troll in “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” as being “as old and as cold as a boulder of stone.” Lupton also has impeccable pacing and an upbeat delivery. This collection of stories, which all have positive resolutions, is an ideal choice for bedtime.

“The Story Tree” can be purchased by calling (866) 417-2369 or visiting (click on the Storyteller’s Caravan link). 

CASEY AT THE BAT, by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, narrated by Yadu, music composed and conducted by Stephen Simon, performed by London Philharmonic Orchestra, Simon & Simon, 2004, $16.98 for CD, 35 minutes; ages 6-9. This “learn to listen” CD is the second recording in the Stories in Music Series, which pairs classic literature with original music written for an orchestra. Besides the reading of the poem, there are additional educational tracks that stimulate participation and encourage active listening skills.

Simon does a wonderful job of transporting his audience to the ballpark where Casey is playing on a summer day. This classic American poem is brought to life with upbeat music, realistic loudspeaker announcements, vendors hawking their wares, the sound of a ball being hit by a bat and spectators’ comments and applause. Yadu’s emotive narration is mirrored by the expressive music.

This energetic rendition is followed by Simon’s cleverly illustrated explanation of how music can tell a story. Step by step, he takes his young audience through the process of transforming the poem “Casey at the Bat” into a theater piece for orchestra and narrator. After this clear, developmentally appropriate explanation, he instructs youngsters to listen to the poem again with “educated” ears. Children then have an opportunity to “feel” the music as they dance, clap and tap along to the original theme that has been transformed into an upbeat, jazzy composition. This interactive, instructional CD does a wonderful job of helping children be active listeners and exposing them to the magic of composing.

“Casey at the Bat” can be purchased by visiting or calling (866) 432-7624.

MOONGOBBLE AND ME: THE DRAGON OF DOOM, by Bruce Coville, narrated by Ryan Sparkes and the Full Cast Family, music by Todd Hobin, Full Cast Audio, 2004, $8.95 for audiocassette, one hour; ages 6-9. The title of this unabridged audio book led me to believe that it wasn’t appropriate for a young audience, but as I listened I was pleasantly surprised by this gentle story—the Dragon of Doom turns out to be only 4 inches tall. Children will be fully engaged and entertained by this mildly humorous adventure mystery. Youngsters are certain to chuckle at the eccentric characters, especially the kind, but bumbling magician, Moongobble, whose magical spells result in turning people, animals and objects into stinky cheese.

Edward, who is bored in his small town, finds excitement when Moongobble and his toad, Urk, move into a little cottage on a hill. He becomes the magician’s assistant and accompanies him on a quest to find the golden acorns of Alcuna, which are guarded by the Dragon of Doom. Listeners will be intrigued by the action-packed adventure and its many twists, turns and surprises. The book ends before the mystery is completely solved. The plot continues in the next book in the series, “Moongobble and Me: The Weeping Werewolf.”

The fun-filled story is brought to life by a full cast. The multiple readers do an excellent job of providing unique voices for each character. The background music adds texture to the story by accenting the action and heightening the suspense. After being a part of Edward and Moongobble’s exciting escapades, youngsters are bound to want to find out what happens next by listening to the rest of the series.

“Moongobble and Me: The Dragon of Doom” can be purchased by calling (800) 871-6809 or visiting  

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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