Stories that soothe, teach lessons

Storytelling - October 2005


Naomi Leithold

Just one more story, please," is a common request voiced by children who aren’t quite ready to settle down for a good night’s sleep. If one more sounds reasonable, here are a few new releases that will help pave the way to dreamland and end the day on a positive note.

THE SLEEP FAIRY, by Lisa Malkiewicz, Rock Ridge Music, 2005, $9.99 for CD, 30 minutes; ages 3-5.

The Sandman has met his match—the Sleep Fairy, aka Malkiewicz. In this persona, Malkiewicz, a stress management consultant, helps children unwind through progressive relaxation exercises and creative visualizations. She developed this method as a way to help her young daughter, who was afraid of having bad dreams, ease into sleep.

Malkiewicz’s steady, soothing voice, along with mellow background music, guides children through a "spoken word lullaby." Her wand sprinkles magic fairy dust as she directs listeners to take deep breaths and fill their minds with happy thoughts and relaxing images. She helps them do this by encouraging youngsters to think of their favorite part of the day and by providing fuel for them to create comforting images by "taking" them to peaceful locations, such as a warm, spring forest full of flowers, berries and gentle animals. Realistic sound effects (birds singing) bring this scene to life.

By providing children with relaxation techniques, such as relaxing each part of their bodies and encouraging them to think of calming images, she is helping them to soothe themselves to sleep, which will provide them with important tools they later can use independently. Malkiewicz’s comforting words and gentle style are guaranteed to send your child off to sweet slumber and possibly send you in that direction too.

"The Sleep Fairy" can be purchased at major bookstores and at

EARTWIGGLE’S ADVENTURE 1: THE TREASURE HUNT, by Erin Lassiter and Jolanda Garcia, narrated by Lani Minella, character voices by Shannon Patrick, Ellmay Distler, Robert Richardson, Rick Bowman and Jack Academia, EarTwiggles Productions, 2004, $14.99 for CD, 35 minutes; ages 4-8.

EarTwiggle is an innocent, lovable green creature, who, like a young child, is experiencing the world for the first time. This gentle story consists of numerous mini-adventures he experiences on his way to find a "treasure" that would be a good addition to his collection of sparkly things.

Children will be entertained as they follow this invisible critter, who is chased by a cat, on a trip down a chimney and falls into a bowl of biscuit batter. His quest is complicated by the fact that he is invisible only when he eats green vegetables at every meal. (The message of choosing fresh vegetables over sweets is intertwined throughout the story.)

Minella’s clear, emotive narration, backed by orchestrated music and realistic sound effects, brings this action-packed story to life. Minella’s cartoon-like characterization of EarTwiggle with his adorable giggle will endear him to young listeners, who will anxiously wait to hear his future adventures.

"EarTwiggle’s Adventure 1: The Treasure Hunt" can be purchased online at

FEATHERS, retold by Heather Forest, illustrated by Marcia Cutchin, August House Littlefolk, 2005, $16.95 for hardcover book, 32 pages; ages 5-9.

Forest, a renowned storyteller whose numerous recordings have been reviewed in this column, is also an award-winning author. Even though this column focuses on storytelling recordings, I have chosen to review this picture book because it is based on a well-known folktale and reflects Forest’s rhythmic telling style.

"Feathers," a Jewish story attributed to an 18th century rabbi, illustrates the power of the spoken word. The story, written in verse, focuses on a woman who is notorious in her small Jewish community for starting rumors. She is brought to the rabbi (who serves as a judge) to explain her hurtful behavior. She claims that her words are said in jest and she will take them back. The wise rabbi realizes that she truly doesn’t understand the results of what she has done. To illustrate the magnitude of her behavior, he tells her to open a feather pillow, and after the contents are blowing in the wind, to collect them. Unable to achieve this task, she understands how her words, like feathers, can’t be taken back once they are spoken.

Through Cutchin’s vivid, watercolor illustrations, which accurately portray an 18th century Jewish Eastern European town, readers are transported into the story. Her lifelike pictures of people and feathers blowing in the wind, along with Forest’s carefully crafted verse, emphasizes the important message of this tale, one that should be delivered worldwide.

Forest’s choice of telling this story as a simple verse eliminates superfluous words employed in oral versions, thus pinpointing the vital lesson that this story teaches. Her choice of verse also maintains the rhythm of the oral roots of this tale.

"Feathers" can be purchased online at

Naomi Leithold is an award-winning storyteller and early childhood educator. She lives in Skokie and has two boys, ages 14 and 17. Her Web site,, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.


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