Stories that bring the beach to you

Storytelling - July 2005


Naomi Leithold


The sun is shining. The temperature is rising. What a perfect day for a family outing to the beach. You begin to daydream about walking along the water’s edge, maybe catching a ray or two while your kids are building the perfect castle. Suddenly, you are brought back to reality by a loud clap of thunder. As you look out your window, visions of a day at the beach are washed away by a summer rainstorm.        

A storytelling tape won’t put sand in your child’s shoes and consequently all over your house (one of its advantages), but it can brighten your child’s day with stories about animals who live in or near the water. So if the weather is keeping your family from the beach, here are several recordings that will bring at least a little part of it to you.

NEMO’S BIRTHDAY, by Ben Nussbaum, music by Arthur Steuer with Christina Ford, narrated by Marty Moran, Studio Mouse, 2004, $14.99 for board book with CD, 8 minutes; ages 1-3.

Toddlers will be drawn to the colorful, bug-eyed underwater creatures that are on their way to Nemo’s birthday party. This counting book and CD set is part of Studio Mouse’s Early Learning series that reinforces the basic building blocks of learning by having children sing and read along with Disney characters.

Youngsters will be engaged immediately by the adorable, upbeat song at the beginning of the recording. Even the youngest children are bound to clap and move to this catchy tune. Moran’s energetic narration will continue to keep listeners’ attention as they count the birthday guests who are arriving. This delightful, interactive audio book is bound to be a favorite with the younger set.

You can buy “Nemo’s Birthday” at Borders or by calling (800) 228-7839.

LITTLE PINK FISH, by Elizabeth Falconer, Koto World, 2005, $13 for CD, 1 hour; ages 4-8.

Unlike Elizabeth Falconer’s previous recordings, which consisted only of Japanese folktales accompanied by koto music, this one includes an original story, “Little Pink Fish,” and an Okinawan tale, “Atabichi, the Hoppo-sitional Frog,” with sanshin accompaniment. The sanshin is a traditional Okinawan instrument that symbolizes the unique tropical island mix of Okinawan music and culture.

These tales of determination, sharing, friendship and cooperation are presented as multifaceted performance pieces. Each story has musical accompaniment, voice and instrumental sound effects, a song, humorous touches and unique character voices. This results in fun stories that provide the audience with interactive opportunities, such as singing along or replicating a sound effect.

Youngsters will also enjoy Falconer’s playful side. They are sure to chuckle when Little Pink Fish is told he can go to the “tidebrary” to find information on airplanes. They will also enjoy the topsy-turvy style (as in, “I do can whatever I want”) that Falconer uses to tell “Atabichi, the Hoppositional Frog.” She chose this style for this Okinawan tale because she believes it reflects the unusual mixture of cultures and languages on these islands, as well as the contrary nature of a frog—who does the opposite of what he is asked. It won’t be long before your child tries to replicate this silly style of communicating.

“Little Pink Fish” can be purchased online at or by calling (877) 430-1972. 

PELICAN’S CATCH, by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Bob Dacey and Debra Bandelin, narrated by Doug Thomas, Soundprints, 2004, $8.95 for paperback book with audiocassette, $19.95 for hardcover book with audiocassette, 10 minutes; ages 4-8.

This audio book is part of the Smithsonian Oceanic Collection that explores the creatures that live in our oceans and on the shores. The goal of this series is to foster an appreciation and understanding of wildlife and habitats in young children so they will grow to respect nature and the environment.

Youngsters will be fascinated as they follow a young brown pelican in its first few months of life. They will be intrigued that at an early age, pelicans are taught to be self-sufficient by learning how to fly and fish for themselves. 

Listeners will be transported to the seashore with realistic sound effects, especially water sounds. Bob Dacey’s and Debra Bandelin’s realistic drawings will help readers visualize the scene.

Doug Thomas’ clear, radio announcer-like voice makes the story enjoyable to listen to. It will also help beginning readers follow along with the printed story. This process is further aided by page turning signals on the first side of the audiocassette.

“Pelican’s Catch” can be purchased at major bookstores or 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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