New stories about special animals

Storytelling - June 2005


Naomi Leithold

When I was 8 years old, I had a weekly date with my hero, Lassie. At 6 p.m. Sunday, no matter what I was doing, I stopped and plopped myself in front of the television set to watch this heroic collie save the day. Her rescues weren’t as spectacular as Superman’s, but in my young eyes she was just as valiant. Lassie is no longer a Sunday night regular, but there are many other animals that can take a special place in a youngster’s heart. Here are my suggestions for a few featured on recently released recordings.

DUNCAN: A BRAVE RESCUE, by Liam O’Donnell, narrated by Jeff Jacoby, illustrated by Robert Hynes, Trudy Corp., 2004, $4.95 for paperback book with CD, seven minutes; ages 4-8.

This story is part of Soundprints’ and the American Veterinary Medical Association’s "Pet Tales" series. These fictitious stories are inspired by real animals. The character Duncan is based on Sparkler, a Dalmatian in Vancouver, who teaches fire safety.

Young listeners will be engaged as they follow Duncan’s journey. After he unintentionally becomes a stowaway on a fire truck, he finds himself at a burning building where he rescues three puppies and reunites them with their mother. The endearing story is brought to life through realistic sound effects such as barking, fire engine sirens and the fire scene commotion.

Jacoby’s straightforward narration, Hynes’ detailed illustrations and page turners (on track two) make it simple for children to use this book and CD set independently. Thus, it is a perfect companion for a car trip. Tips for pet health and safety are a nice addition to the story and are sure to stimulate discussions on how to provide for your family pet in the case of an emergency.

"Duncan: A Brave Rescue" can be purchased at major bookstores or by calling (800) 228-7839.

SAMANTHA AND STARLIGHT, by Joy Frost, Joy Stories, 2003, $20 for CD with horse finger puppet, 15 minutes; ages 4-9.

This story, written in the style of a low-key inspirational speech, is part of the "Joy Stories" series. These bedtime stories are designed to raise self-esteem through positive characters who solve their own problems. Mellow piano music underlies this gentle tale about a young girl who is determined to train a foal to ride in a horse show. Through patience and perseverance, she accomplishes her goal. Frost’s slow, deliberate narration and inclusion of motivational phrases such as "You can do anything you want to do," "do your best" and "I can do it," highlight Samantha’s determination.

Vivid descriptions, such as "Violet, purple clover and green grass made a lovely background for this handsome, chocolate brown horse," will help children visualize this feel-good tale and provide fuel for pleasant dreams.

This CD can be especially beneficial in offering a confidence boost at a time when your child is feeling frustrated in her pursuit of mastering a new skill.

"Samantha and Starlight" can be purchased at specialty toy and gift stores and online at

POOH AND FRIENDS EXERCISE PACK, based on the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne, narrated by Doug Thomas, music composed and arranged by Arthur Steuer with Christina Ford, Studio Mouse LLC, 2004, $12.99 for a six-board book boxed series with CD; ages 2-4.

Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit and Roo might not be the kind of animals you expected when you started reading this column, but if you examine the rooms, closets and toy boxes of many children, it’s evident these adorable creatures have made their way into children’s hearts. Toddlers will be immediately drawn to the delightful, brightly colored Disney illustrations of the Hundred Acre Woods gang in motion.

Each book concentrates on a different exercise, including stretching, marching, running, hopping, skipping and dancing. The simple text is a perfect fit for the typical toddler’s attention span. Every page suggests a different way to move within the given topic and emphasizes health benefits.

The CD nicely complements the active pictures and is guaranteed to have your little one moving around. The individual books are connected by an upbeat song. The narrator is a little stiff, but does modulate his voice to fit with the action. I would recommend a two-stage process for using this set. Start with it as a lap book with you as a narrator. Then, when your active child jumps off your lap, you can watch your child move along with Pooh. This engaging set would also work well in preschool settings.

"Pooh and Friends Exercise Pack" can be purchased in major bookstores ar by calling (800) 228-7839.

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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