Starting pack of stories?

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    From: “Csenge Zalka”

    Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2017 08:16:30 +0000 (UTC)

    Hi everyone!
    I have been lurking here for a long time, but now I have a question I thought I’d put to your wisdom.
    I recently started working for an organization that trains volunteer storytellers to go to homes where children live when they are not in the foster system (not orphanages, technically, since many of the kids have living parents), and tell bedtime stories a couple of times a week. They hired me to train the new tellers, and to provide them with resources and tales. Many of our volunteers (we have about 40, with 30 more coming in this fall) are beginners coming from other walks of life, and they will have a series of workshops and training days.
    For the first workshop weekend, it is my task to create a collection of tales that they can use as a beginner’s story bag, until they develop their own repertoire. Think of it as our in-house version of Read-to-Tell Tales. I am in the process of selecting these stories now.
    So, my question is: If you had to give beginner storytellers (working with kids in foster care) a starting pack of maybe 20 tales, which ones would you absolutely recommend? Sure-fire stories that would give them confidence, and entertain the children?
    I am really curious about your answers 🙂
    P.S.: Some additional criteria: The stories should be mid-length (as in, shorter fairy tale or longer animal tale), because only one story is told every night, and if it is too short, the kids are disappointed. Also, I am going for diversity in all forms

    From: “Susan McCullough”
    Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2017 16:05:33 +0200

    Even though Grimm is well known, that leaves the variants & versions of their classics available. Not Aschenputtel, but maybe Ye Xian. Including a few stories like that allows your rookie storytellers to have a familiar story or two in their repertoire but not the same-ol’-same-ol’ at the same time, and also stretches across cultures. I’m not going to begin to make a list for you because you know these far better than I do. It’s also kind of fun for the kids to get the realization of “wait, this story is kind of like that story.”

    (What a cool job!)



    From: “stenson.stories”
    Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2017 13:51:08 -0500

    Hi Csenga,

    One of my best received stories in the kindergarten is Judy Sierra’s The Beautiful Butterfly. When the butterfly is sad, the whole world supports her. And the resolve is solved with the Spanish king’s good humor…it is a delightful story. Xoxojane

    Sent from my iPhone


    From: “Merrilee Hindman”
    Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2017 15:10:01 -0400

    When I was involved with training new volunteer tellers, we used Aesop tales and also recommend all of Margaret Read MacDonald’s books. They are the right length, easy to tell and from many cultures. I still turn to her books when I need a tale to learn quickly to add to a program. Once I learn it then I can add to it, add a song of my own tune, etc. Margaret’s books are a wonderful resource.



    From: “Cherie Schwartz”
    Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2017 15:19:55 -0600

    Hello All,

    Chiming in on two queries:

    Norma Livo and Sandy Rietz’ early and seminal book STORYTELLING PROCESS AND PRACTICE has stories catalogued by age groups.

    There are many compilations of easily-tellable tales, and I agree that Margaret Read MacDonald’s are very accessible.

    All blessings on your project! What a wonderful supportive action to be bringing in the sustaining power of stories to foster children!


    There are many cultural compilations of fox stories. Jewish Source: The Talmud has many fox tales. There is a whole section of them in Ellen Frankel’s Classic Tales, pages 459-472. AND, there are so many fox stories in the ancient Jataka Tales from India. Google this and see (video) and read many of them.

    All best to you both in your story quests!

    ~Cherie Karo Schwartz


    From: “Richard Marsh”
    Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2017 22:34:52 +0100

    Heather Forest’s Storytelling in the Classroom has a useful page of very short tales for novice tellers to practise on, though they may be too short for the intended use.

    Many of the Panchatantra and tricking the devil tales should be about the right length.

    Here’s one from my A World of Tricksters.

    Five Eggs
    Spain, Ecuador, Portugal, Middle East

    Marta sent her husband, Martín, to the market to buy eggs. He found that he had only enough money for five. When he arrived home he said:
    “Marta, boil these eggs – three for me and two for you.”
    “Ah, no,” she said. “I get three and you get two.”
    “But I’m the one who went to the market and brought them home. I get three.”
    “And I’m the one who is cooking them. I get three.”
    The argument continued while the eggs boiled. Finally, Martín said, “If I don’t get three, I’ll leave.”
    “Go ahead and leave. If I don’t get three, I’ll die.”
    “Go ahead and die, then.”
    Marta fell to the floor and lay as if dead.
    Martín knew that she was spoofing.
    “Good. Now I get all five.”
    “Three for me,” Marta whispered.
    “Well, I’ll just have to make a coffin and tell our neighbours that you’re dead and ask them to help me bury you.”
    He built a coffin and placed Marta in it, and then went to announce her death to the neighbours. Four of them carried the coffin to the cemetery. Martín walked alongside, wailing and sobbing, “My poor Marta. What will I do without her? If only she had agreed that I get three and she gets two.”
    “Three for me,” came the voice from the coffin.
    They arrived at the cemetery and lowered the coffin into the grave.
    “This is your last chance,” Martín whispered to the coffin.
    “Three for me,” she answered.
    Martín started to nail the lid on the coffin. Marta suddenly leapt out of the grave, shouting, “All right. You can have three.”
    The neighbours thought she was really dead, and they took to their heels in fright. Marta and Martín walked back home and sat down at the table with the five eggs on a plate between them. Marta took one and started to eat it.
    “I have to admit you made a beautiful coffin for me.”
    Martín started to eat his first egg.
    “I have to admit you were a beautiful corpse.”
    Marta ate her second egg.
    “Weren’t the neighbours funny they way they were frightened?”
    Martín ate his second egg.
    “They’ll have a story to tell their grandchildren.”
    Marta suddenly screamed and pointed behind Martín. When he turned to look, Marta grabbed the last egg and popped it into her mouth.
    “And three for me,” she said triumphantly.

    Richard Marsh


    From: “Judy Schmidt”
    Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2017 18:12:13 -0400

    Hi Csenge,

    I’m not going to give you twenty, but here’s one I would definitely include: Roly Poly Rice Ball from Margaret Read MacDonald’s Twenty Tellable Tales. So much fun to tell and kids from 5 to 10 enjoy it.

    Judy Schmidt


    From: “Csenge Zalka”
    Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2017 19:50:09 +0000 (UTC)

    Short update: I was told that a lot of the kids are middle school, going on high school, so some stories about love and heartbreak and relationships would also greatly be appreciated.

    Zalka Csenge Virág Budapest, Hungary “Az igazi meséknek soha nincs vége”


    From: “Fran Stallings”
    Date: Mon, 04 Sep 2017 15:05:26 -0500

    Classic Greek myths and adventures?

    Mr Fox, and other cautionary tales about a handsome new suitor who outclasses home town boys.



    From: “Wendy Gourley”
    Date: Mon, 04 Sep 2017 17:08:58 -0600

    My favorite story for this age is The Black Prince. I think it’s very powerful.



    From: “Fran Stallings”
    Date: Mon, 04 Sep 2017 21:16:02 -0500

    Yes, very powerful for middle schoolers.

    However, I call it “The Warrior in Black” (color of his desert robes) because “The Black Prince” implies that he was Nubian, which might have been nice but I think the story identifies him as Egyptian.

    Fran Stallings


    From: “Marilyn McPhie”
    Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2017 20:55:24 -0700

    For novice storytellers, I definitely recommend anything by Margaret Read MacDonald. The stories in her books are diverse, not always widely known — and, importantly, ready to tell. The stories have been thoroughly tested and come with notes on how to tell them. In addition, many volumes have charts at the back with suggested ages, timings, etc — Everything you need for a successful telling experience. Yes, many are perfect for young audiences, but she includes plenty that will work with teens and adults.

    Another suggestion for sure-fire stories: Any books by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss. Most of the stories in their anthologies are best for elementary school age audiences, but many would work with all ages. These also come with notes on telling and come from a variety of sources.

    Good luck.


    From: “Judith Heineman”
    Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2017 07:49:56 -0400

    Dear Czenga,

    Margaret Read MacDonald’s “Storyteller’s Start up book” has wonderful world tales as well as terrific tips for the beginning teller in a methodical easily laid out order.

    A fun and creepy cautionary tale about prideful love is “Ningun.” It also offers chants for audience participation. I taught this in an after school workshop to high school students. They did very well with it.

    All the best.
    As ever,
    Judith Heineman



    I think the best start up book for your purposes would be any book by Pleasant DeSpain. They are short enough to realize the bones of the story so that if the tellers need more, they can add details imagined. Pleasant has one book on Nature Tales and his others have titles like 20 Tellable Tales, I think. They are from all around the world. Gail N. Herman

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