Don't Miss These Storytellers

Bring your school-age kids to the library this Thursday to for a real treat as Megan Hicks, storyteller extraordinaire, tells humorous stories about greed, gratitude, and why you must never forget to thank the good fairy.  She’ll be at the Headquarters library at 4:30, and at 7:30 she’ll be telling civilian stories from the Civil War and World War II to teens and adults at the Salem Church Library.  Her appearances are the final events in this year’s Ardiena Ann Tromley Family Storytelling Series.

After listening to a storyteller as skillful as Megan, you’ll understand the power of stories to move listeners to laughter, tears, and everything in between.  Even if you’re not a storyteller yourself, you can read traditional folktales and fairy tales to your children, and see for yourself why they have endured for generations.

Robert D. San Souci is a prolific reteller of traditional tales whose latest book, “As Luck Would Have It,” is a new version of an old tale from the Grimm Brothers.  Left alone to take care of the house and farm while their parents are away, twins Jonas and Juniper get into all kinds of trouble.  Jonas leaves the oxen to plow the fields by themselves, while Juniper leaves the cider tap to fill the mug by itself, resulting in total chaos.  When three peddlers sell Juniper new pots and pans, she leads them to the family’s secret hoard of gold for payment, and soon enough the peddlers have run off with it.

How the foolish twins end up restoring the family fortune and cleaning up the messes they’ve made is as funny as the antics that got them into trouble in the first place.  In Daniel San Souci’s atmospheric watercolors, the fairy tale setting is filled with lively details.

Less familiar but no less enchanting are the stories from Central Asia retold by Sally Pomme Clayton in “Tales Told in Tents.”  Clayton is a storyteller who has traveled in the area and collected a dozen tales of flying carpets, tricksters, and strong women that will appeal to adventure lovers.  “Zarina’s Orchard” from Tajikistan features a girl with 39 sisters who faces down the terrifying Dev, a creature with a bald head, one red eye and a long black tongue. A boy who longs to travel the Silk Road gets his wish thanks to a lucky ruby he finds inside an old carpet in Afghanistan’s “The Carpet of Dreams.”

 Interspersed are riddles like this one from Uzbekistan:  “Sweet little princess with a crown on her head, break her open and her jewels are red.”  (Did you guess it’s a pomegranate?) Sophie Herxheimer illustrates each tale with richly colored paintings decorated with traditional motifs.

All children should know the Robin Hood tales, and they are beautifully retold in “Song of Robin Hood.” Anne Malcolmson went back to the original ballads to edit the book, complete with musical accompaniment by Grace Castagnetta.  Virginia Lee Burton’s spirited black and white illustrations on every page are filled with details that evoke medieval manuscripts.

Readers and listeners who can adjust to a few thee’s and thou’s will be rewarded by heroic stories of Little John, Will Scarlet, Maid Marian and Allen a Dale as they battle the Sheriff of Nottingham and bring justice to the oppressed.    

Originally published in the 3-10-09 Free Lance-Star newspaper.