The magic of folktales

Storytelling - March 2005


Naomi Leithold


Without looking at a calendar, I know it’s March when McDonald’s begins selling green milk shakes, grocery stores have sales on corned beef and cabbage and perky little men dressed in green are smiling at me from store windows. I’m not Irish, but I’ve always enjoyed tales from Ireland, which are rich in magical creatures and spells. Introduce your child to the enchantment of these folktales with the following recordings.

TALES FROM OLD IRELAND, retold by Malachy Doyle, narrated by Maura O’Connell, Barefoot Child, 2000, $19.99 for two enhanced CD set, 1 hour 23 minutes; ages 9 and up.

The importance of stories in Ireland is summed up by an old Irish proverb that Malachy Doyle quotes: “A tune is more precious than birdsong, and a tale is more precious than the wealth of the world.” Growing up near Belfast, Doyle was told these folktales as a child. With her vivid descriptions, she transports listeners to the world that she knows so well.

The authenticity of the seven stories is accented by the native musical introductions and by the narration of the Irish-born Maura O’Connell.

Children will be intrigued by this collection of stories full of kings and queens, magical curses and fairies. One story, “Fair, Brown and Trembling,” is bound to peak their interest. As they listen to this tale, it will quickly become evident that they’ve heard it before. This version of Cinderella doesn’t involve a wicked stepmother, just jealous sisters who are trying to eliminate the competition by keeping Trembling away from the prince’s ball. Listeners will realize that even though this tale has some different elements (Trembling’s lost shoe is green, red and white), it is basically the same. This discovery can spur a library trip to look for the numerous multicultural folktales that tell this story in just a little different way.

 Tales from Old Ireland can be purchased in major bookstores or online at (Click on Storyteller’s Caravan.)

MORE IRISH FOLKTALES FOR CHILDREN, by Sharon Kennedy, Rounder Records Corp., 2001, $2.99 for audiocassette, $12.99 for CD,  1 hour, eight minutes; ages 7 and up.

Children will listen intently as Sharon Kennedy’s exuberance draws them into these four lighthearted tales. The Grammy-nominated storyteller breathes life into each story with her authentic Irish accent and believable character voices. The upbeat Irish music completes the picture by emphasizing the mood and highlighting the action.

The gentle stories will capture youngsters’ attention with likable characters (“Finn McCool”), a magical animal (“Annie O’Reilly and the Magic Dancing Pig”) and a plot twist (“Banogue Bridge”). “Finn McCool,” which is similar to the American tall tale “Paul Bunyan,” is sure to elicit a few giggles and bring a smile to listeners’ faces. The whole family is sure to enjoy listening to this “feel good” recording.

“More Irish Folk Tales for Children” can be purchased at major bookstores, online at or by calling (800) 768-6337.

GREEN EGGS AND HAM AND OTHER SERVINGS OF DR. SEUSS, by Dr. Seuss, featuring performances by Jason Alexander, Michael McKean and David Hyde Pierce, music by Marc Levenson, Random House, 2003, $19.99 for 2 CD set, 1 hour 15 minutes; ages 4-8.

No, Dr. Seuss didn’t write Irish folktales, but in the month of green bagels and green rivers, I couldn’t resist “Green Eggs and Ham.” As a child, this was my favorite Dr. Seuss book. Per my request, it was read to me by my parents, grandparents, babysitters and anyone else who happened to be around. But, I have to honestly say that no one ever read it with as much pizzazz as Jason Alexander. His extremely emotive narration and unique character voices make the characters (especially Sam I Am), come to life. The music, which augments Alexander’s over-the-top enthusiasm and emphasizes Seuss’ rhythm, gives the story a three-dimensional quality.

This collection of nine Seuss favorites also includes: “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!”, “I’m Not Going to Get Up Today,” “Oh Say Can You Say?”, “Fox in Socks,” “ I Can Read with My Eyes Shut,” “Hop on Pop”  and “Dr. Seuss’ ABC.” These stories have been loved by many generations and, after listening to the entertaining performances of Alexander, Michael McKean and David Hyde Pierce, your children are sure to become Seuss fans too.

“Green Eggs and Ham and Other Servings of Dr. Seuss” can be purchased at major bookstores. 

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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