Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day.” But the rain doesn’t go away—at least not for long. And it comes back with remarkable persistence. This is the familiar weather pattern of April, which is not welcomed by children and parents who are eager to enjoy outdoor activities. The abundance of precipitation in this early spring month can’t be changed, but you can temporarily transport your youngster into the outdoors through stories. The following recordings are sure to bring a little sunshine into an otherwise dreary day.
ONCE UP ON A LILYPAD, told and adopted by Elizabeth Falconer, koto accompaniment by Elizabeth Falconer, Koto World, 2003, $13 for CD (free shipping on all domestic orders), one hour; ages 5-9.
Falconer’s new release, which won the Parent’s Choice Silver Honor Award, contains six delightful Japanese folktales. All of the stories are accompanied by koto music. (The koto is a 13-string wooden instrument that came to Japan from China more than 1,000 years ago.) The authenticity of the tales is reinforced by a sprinkling of Japanese words. Some of the words are translated by Falconer; others can be decoded by using contextual clues, such as when the frog says, “kero, kero” (“croak, croak”), and others are defined in a glossary on the back of the CD cover.
Youngsters will enjoy the gentle stories that take them on adventures that include thought-provoking twists and turns, such as the how-and-why story, “The Cricket’s Chirp.” In this story, a cricket, who admires the snake’s voice and gets frustrated when he can’t reproduce it, is told that each person has his own voice and with practice he will find the one that fits him. This results in the cricket developing the chirping song that we hear on a warm summer’s eve.
Falconer’s keen ability to blend her voice and music together produces multi-textured tales that are guaranteed to engage young listeners. The koto music provides background and sound effects as well as highlights Falconer’s emotive, expressive storytelling. She also uses the music to create unique pacing opportunities, such as when she alternates spoken word with upbeat musical interludes. The result is a collection of well-integrated stories that are a joy to listen to.
“Once Up on a Lily Pad” can be purchased by calling (877) 430-1972 or online at www.kotoworld.com.
THE EVERGREENS: GENTLE TALES OF NATURE, musical stories performed by Odds Bodkin, Rivertree Productions Inc., 1996, $9.95 for audiocassette, $14.95 for CD, 40 minutes; ages 5 and up.
These gentle tales of nature include folktales from Denmark and Africa, an Iroquois myth, a fable from Bhutan and an Aesop’s fable. The sensitive stories have underlying themes of empathy, cooperation and that gentle persuasion wins over might. Bodkin takes children on a storytelling journey where they meet a pine tree that provides shelter for a bird with a broken wing, animals working together to find food and water during a draught, and the wind and the sun attempting to resolve an argument over who is the strongest.
Bodkin’s energetic, commanding style will immediately grab children’s attention. His versatile, emotive voice along with his musical talent (he plays 12-string guitar and harp) infuse life into the five stories. Bodkin expertly merges exaggerated characterizations of animals and inanimate objects with voiced sound effects and intense background music to create tales that are sure to entertain even children who would much rather climb, run and dig than sit still to listen to stories.
“The Evergreens” can be purchased online at www.oddsbodkin.com (the stories “The Evergreen” and “The Name of the Tree” can be heard here) or by calling (800) 554-1333.
FROG AND TOAD AUDIO COLLECTION, written and performed by Arnold Lobel, Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 1992, $12 for audiocassette, $17.95 for CD, 90 minutes; ages 3-8.
This charming collection features the complete series of the Frog and Toad books: Frog and Toad Are Friends, Frog and Toad All Year, Frog and Toad Together, and Days with Frog and Toad. These mildly humorous stories highlight the relationship of two very special friends. Listeners are sure to chuckle when Frog fails to find spring around the corner after his father tells him that it’s there. Youngsters will be able to relate to these stories of close friends who help each other solve problems, share enjoyable activities and have tremendous empathy for each other.
Lobel’s energetic performance, character voices and realistic sound effects lend Frog and Toad a three-dimensional quality. The soothing background music changes tempo to match the action and augments Lobel’s emotive telling. Children are sure to enjoy hearing these beloved characters come to life.
“Frog and Toad Audio Collection” can be bought at major stores and online at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.
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, www.simplystorytelling.com, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.