Stories that stand the test of time

Storytelling - September 2005


Naomi Leithold

A little girl with golden curls, hot bowls of porridge and a family of bears have been entertaining young children for decades. "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" often sent me into dreamland when I was a young child. As a new teacher, it was the first story I shared with a classroom of wide-eyed preschoolers. And when my first born was old enough to utter the familiar request, "Tell me a story," he was treated with a journey to the forest to visit a little log cabin inhabited by mama, papa and baby bear.

As it is passed down through the generations this story, like other folktales, will give birth to new versions, but the skeleton of the story will remain the same. A good story never wears out. Here are my suggestions for recordings that will introduce your child to classics they haven’t heard or to new presentations of those they already love.

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Jolanda Garcia, narrated by Reg Green, Ear Twiggles Productions, 2004, $14.99 for CD, 80 minutes,; ages 4-9.

Like an old radio show, this audio version of the familiar story provides an opportunity for children to use their imaginations to create their own visuals. The realistic sound effects, cast of trained voice talents and orchestrated music aid in this task.

Reg Green’s deep, rich voice will immediately draw in listeners of all ages. His well-paced, expressive narration provides a framework for the varied character voices.

This abridged version of "The Wizard of Oz" is a perfect choice for long car trips and bedtime listening.

UNCLE WIGGLY’S STORYBOOK, by Howard R. Garris, read by Jim Weiss, 2003, $13.45 for CD, $9.95 for audio cassette, one hour, (800) 477-6234,; ages 3-6.

The stories of this kindly, elderly, rabbit gentleman, Uncle Wiggly Longears, were first written in 1910 for a daily newspaper. Howard Garris wrote a new adventure every day for 50 years.

These gentle tales are perfect for younger children. It is refreshing to hear stories that feature characters getting along with each other (even a lion and a rabbit), truly caring about others and enjoying each other’s company. The recurring themes of treating friends and acquaintances the way you want to be treated and cooperating to solve problems are important messages for audiences of all ages.

Children will be entertained by these lighthearted animal adventures. They are sure to giggle at the silly character names, such as Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy (Uncle Wiggly’s muskrat housekeeper), and be delighted by the clever rabbit’s ability to solve problems. When the animal children’s picnic is interrupted by rain, they hide their lunches under rocks or overhanging trees. When they are concerned that the real children picnicking on the other side of the river will have soggy lunches, Uncle Wiggly puts the young animals to work crafting baskets to be filled with their leftovers and then lowers them from the trees for the real children to enjoy.

Jim Weiss’ ability to get inside each character and create a voice that echoes his unique personality is phenomenal. The sophisticated voice he uses for Uncle Wiggly will help children to visualize this stately chap. He also can change his voice smoothly from one character to another. As I listened, I had to continually remind myself that he was the sole narrator.

RIP ROARING PAUL BUNYAN TALES, written, adapted and performed by Odds Bodkin, Odds Bodkin/Rivertree Productions, 1994, $9.95 for audiocassette, 44 minutes, (800) 554-1333,; ages 8 and up.

Youngsters’ imaginations will be challenged as they listen to the three tall tales on this recording. (Two of the stories were written by Odds Bodkin and one is a traditional Paul Bunyan story.) The stories of "the greatest lumberjack that ever lived" are sure to tickle children’s funny bones with exaggerated comparisons (He is "…so big that he brushes his beard with a pine tree") and unique solutions to problems. When Bunyan can’t pull a pine tree out of the ground for Christmas, he picks up the cabin, cuts a hole in the floor, and puts it over the tree. These stories are a great way to introduce the genre of tall tales and to teach young writers how to effectively use similes.

Bodkin’s high-energy level, wide range of unique character voices (all of the tales are narrated by the colorful Sourdough Sam) and the ability to produce numerous voiced sound effects makes him the perfect match for telling tall tales. These action-packed stories, filled with suspense, are sure to keep children’s attention and stimulate them to create their own tall tales.

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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