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Books for Storytellers

Compiled by Tim Sheppard

Last updated 3/2/02

Essential reading is marked with one to three stars *, although some un-starred titles may be as good but less known. Many are quite inspiring, and expand one's understanding of all the possibilities, approaches and applications of storytelling and performance. The list is my large compilation of lists and recommendations from various tellers. Each teller's contributions are credited, and many thanks to them all. Those marked [TS] I have reviewed myself.

If you have any comments to add, or come across any different books, please let me know and I'll add them to the list. Not all titles will still be in print, but secondhand bookshops will be happy to do a booksearch for you. This document is constantly updated.

I have many other storytelling booklists on specific subjects in preparation, which will make it to the web when I can get them to behave themselves. Also see my collection of weblinks to storytelling Books, Magazines and Recordings.

General Storytelling

Akeret, Robert. Family Tales, Family Wisdom. New York:William Morrow and Company. 1991

Alison, Christine. I'll Tell You A Story, I'll Sing You A Song. New York: Dell Publishing. 1987.

Terrific for new parents [RC]

Anderson, Marcella F. Hospitalized Children and Books: A Guide for Librarians, Families, and Caregivers. 2nd ed. Metuchen, Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1992.

Hospitalized children have special needs and offer a unique challenge to the storyteller. This book helps provide useful suggestions for the librarian and performer in this type of setting, and recommends titles and activities for specific age groups. [SJ]

Astell-Burt, Caroline. Puppetry for Mentally Handicapped People. London, England: Souvenir Press Ltd, 1981.

Puppets work very well for this type of audience. The author offers information on the significance of puppets, puppetry as a performing art, theatrical concerns, and other suggestions on how to use puppets effectively with this particular audience. [SJ]

Ausubel, Nathan. A Treasury of Jewish Folklore. New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1975.

This is the most complete collection of Jewish folklore currently available and contains over 600 tales. The stories were adapted from oral tradition and foreign-language sources. The reader will find rabbi stories, wise men, parables, riddle, Hershel, the silly men Chelm, miracles, and better understand the resourcefulness and humor of the Jewish culture. [SJ]

Baker, Augusta and Ellin Greene. Storytelling: Art and Technique. New York: R. R. Bowker Co., 1977.

** This classic book provides information on well known storytellers, purpose and value of storytelling, selection, preparation, presentation, program planning, and publicity. There are useful suggestions on storytelling in special settings or to children with special needs. This is an excellent introduction to the art of storytelling for the beginner. In Appendix two there are listings of sources for the storyteller [SJ]. Baker is widely recognized for her pioneering work in the field of Black literature for children, and for inspiring storytelling long before the current revival [TS]. A classic [RC].

Baltuck, Naomi, Apples from Heaven: Multicultural Folk Tales about Stories and Storytellers. Linnet Books, ISBN 0208024344

A whole book full of stories that are themselves about the process of listening and getting involved. [BK]

Baltuck, Naomi. Crazy Gibberish

Lots of audience participation stories including a rap version of Little Red Riding Hood that is hysterical if you can do rap. [SB]

Barton, Bob. Tell Me Another. Markham, Ontario: Pembroke. 1986.

Down-to-earth, yet creative, suggestions for 1. choosing a story (with generous quotations from many of Barton's own favorites), 2. making the story your own, 3. telling the story [MD].

Barton, B. and Booth, D. Stories in the Classroom. Portsmouth,NH: Heinemann. 1990.

Barton and Booth are dynamite. They bring drama and storytelling together. [RC]

Bauer, Caroline Feller. New Handbook for Storytellers with Stories, Poems, Magic and More. Chicago: American Library Association, 1993.

Contains information on program techniques, planning, promotion, and types of storytelling (paperfolding, puppets, papercutting, drawing, and participation) [SJ]. This updates the old handbook of 1977 [TS].

Birch, Carol and Heckler, Melissa. Who Says: Essays on Pivotal Issues in Contemporary Storytelling. Little Rock: August House, 1996.

Great [VD].

Brenemann, L. and Brenemann, B. Once Upon a Time: A Storytelling Handbook. Chicago: Nelson-Hall. 1983.

Their chapter headings give an excellent idea of what you'll find here: choosing a story, analyzing and adapting the story from books for oral telling, working for fluency, working for characterization, working for visualization, working for bodily action and control, working for unity and polish, anticipating a real audience [MD]. The Brenemanns are much loved in the profession [RC]. A practical, useful guide for teaching storytelling systematically, written for use as a textbook, but not very exciting. The authors' premise is that storytelling is an acquired skill that anyone can learn. They pay special attention to story biography as a rewarding category to explore. Includes sample stories and an annotated USA bibliography of recommended stories for telling. Doesn't cover either history or issues, just straight how-to. [VD]

Brett, D. Annie Stories. New York: Workman Publishing. 1988.

Explores one-on-one therapeutic potential of stories. [RC]

Campbell, Joseph, The Flight of the Wild Gander - Explorations in the Mythological Dimensions of Fairy Tales, Legends, and Symbols.

Cameron, Julia, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

A twelve week course (I've been doing it for about six months) on getting in deeper to your creative self. There are two main tools to do this, and hundreds of exercises and ideas to think about. One tool is the "morning pages," three pages of journal writing, most of which will probably be whiny drivel, with a few gems embedded in the muck. The other tool is the "artist date"--you take your artist self out on a date once a week, maybe for a walk in the woods, or a fancy cup of coffee. It doesn't have to be a great cultural event, just a way to treat yourself well. I can't recommend this book enough for people who are interested in creativity and self-discovery. [PH]

Cassady, Marsh. Storytelling Step By Step.

How to choose a story, learn, develop, and adapt it to a particular audience. In-depth look at voice gesture and prop use [TS].

Cassady, Marsh. Creating Stories For Storytelling.

Whether you're a storyteller or writer, this will show you how to create better stories for your audiences. In this, you'll find the tools you need to go out and create new worlds [A]

Cassady, Marsh. The Art of Storytelling: creative ideas for preparation and performance. Colorado: Meriwether Publishing 1994

A pretty good how-to book, covering choosing stories, developing original ideas, and presentation. It's aimed at teachers, although it would suit others too. There are copious practical tips, given in a pithy form. Each chapter has the full text of a story or two, used for examples, and a list of classroom activities. Strangely, the stories are presented in a rather literary form, with lots of dialogue - she seems to expect cross-over writing activities in class. Lots of practical processes with examples, on choosing types of stories; audience and location; analyzing the story - interesting stuff on plotlines and structure; adapting stories; ideas from experience; creating characters; planning structure; creative presentation; setting moods; body and voice. [TS]

Champlin, Connie. Storytelling with Puppets. Chicago: American Library Association, 1985.

This is a practical guide on how to use puppets in storytime. The authors provide information on adapting stories, types of puppets, finger stories, and numerous suggestions on puppetry as a form of innovative storytelling. [SJ]

Clarkson, Atelia and Gilbert B. Cross. World Folktales. New York: Charles Scribner's Song, 1980.

This is a collection of classic and traditional tales from around the world and contains valuable information on their variants and motifs. Worth reading for an understanding of these tales and to locate other variations. This title is out of print. [SJ]

Colwell, Eileen. Storytelling.

* The storytellers' grandmother, she is in her nineties and still telling. A classic. Slim, and focuses on telling to young kids, but full of insights. [TS]

Connolly, James E. Why the Possum's Tale is Bare and Other North American Indian Nature Tales. Owings Mills, Md.: Stemmer House Publishers, 1985.

Excellent collection of Native American Tales involving animals with some teaching tales. Each story contains an introduction explaining the cultural significance of each tale. I have used this book in the past for various programs. [SJ]

Cooper, Pamela J. and Collins, Rives. Look What Happened to Frog: Storytelling in Education. Scottsdale, AZ: Gorsuch Scarisbrick. 1992.

An absolutely brilliant book. New edition out. [RC]

Dailey, Sheila. Putting The World in A Nutshell, The Art of the Formula Tale by H.W. Wilson Company, 1994.

It's not a history, but an interesting how-to primer. [RC]

David Holt and Bill Mooney. Ready-to-Tell Tales.

I especially like this fairly new collection There are notes from storytellers on the best way to tell the stories they have included. [BV]

De Mille, Richard, Put Your Mother on the Ceiling

Hard-to-classify book of imagination games for children using a kind of guided imagery. [PH]

Edwards, Margaret A. The Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts: The Library and the Young Adult. Chicago: American Library Association, 1994.

Edwards offers valuable suggestions on how to cope with young adults and their need, ways to involve them in the library through outreach and in-house programs, and hints on literature that is of interest to them. [SJ]

Egan, Kieran, Teaching as Storytelling

A great resource, which looks at objective based learning concepts and the integration of story thematics. [GS]

Gillard, Marni, Storyteller, Story Teacher, Stenhouse Publishers/York, Maine ISBN 1-57110-014-8

* A favourite book [FH] . Amongst many other things I talk about learning through diving, about nervousness, performing and competing. I also describe how I saw students leave nervousness behind by stepping wholly into their stories. Keep trusting and listening to your inner self. Keep standing in the center of your stories. [MG]

Goldberg, Natalie, Wild Mind

One of my favorite books. It puts forth a fairly simple and effective way of stretching writing muscles. At the end of the chapters, she writes, "try this..." and follows with an exercise. I teach a writing class using this method, with some modifications, for storytellers who want to discover the underside of their stories. [PH]

Hamilton, Martha and Weiss, Mitch. Children Tell Stories. NewYork: Richard C. Owen. 1990.

I love this book. Great for anyone who wants to empower kids to become storytellers. [RC]

Heinig, Ruth Beall. Improvisation with Favorite Tales. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 1992.

Rich with activities to follow up after a story has been shared. [RC]

Hunt, Tamara and Nancy Renfro. Puppetry in Early Childhood Education. Austin, TX: Nancy Renfro Studios, 1982.

I have found that puppetry is a good technique to use with preschool through second grade. Renfro's suggestions are informative and appropriate. This is a good source for someone intending to use puppets for programs aimed at the younger audience. [SJ]

Kurtz, Ernest and Katherine Ketcham, The Spirituality of Imperfection, Storytelling and the Journey to Wholeness Bantam Book 1992, ISBN 0-553-37132-0.

A person active in AA is keen on this book. There are many stories in it.

Lee, John, Writing from the Body: for Writers, Artists, and Dreamers Who Long to Free Your Voice

Another one I use in my class. I grew up ignoring my body, sure that my head, that is my intellect, was much more important. As storytellers, we need to be connected with our bodies; this book has a number of exercises that can help us do that. [PH]

Lipman, Doug, The Storytelling Coach. August House 1995

* An excellent resource for those who help others to discover and develop their talents. It relates primarily to storytelling, but includes a section related to other areas and draws from many different fields.[FH]

Livo, Norma J. and Rietz, Sandra. Storytelling Process and Practice. Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited. 1986.

*** Much wisdom in this volume [RC]

. The new "bible" for anyone going into telling. Everything from storymapping, learning stories, syllabi for a course, how to set up an event, etc. a wonderful book [A].

MacDonald, Margaret Read. Booksharing: 101 Programs to Use with Preschoolers. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1991.

Excellent suggestions for participatory stories and techniques to use with preschool groups.There are numerous titles by Margaret Read MacDonald. They include:[SJ]

MacDonald, Margaret Read. Look Back and See: Twenty Lively Tales for Gentle Tellers. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1991.

MacDonald has provided an excellent examples of stories aimed at audience participation and for each tale she has listed alternative versions with motif information. Storyteller, librarian, or individual working with young children (ages 5-7) will find fun and thought provoking, participatory stories. [SJ]

MacDonald, Margaret Read. The Storyteller's Sourcebook: A Subject, Title, and Motif Index to Folklore Collections for Children. Detroit, Michigan: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 1982.

Wonderful source for finding variant versions of a specific folktale or a tale on a specific theme. It should be available in the reference department of most large libraries. [SJ]

MacDonald, Margaret Read. The Storyteller's Start-up Book: Finding Learning, Performing and Using Folktales. New York: August House /H.W. Wilson Co., 1993.

** It's excellent! Rich with practical advice and very tellable stories. Accessible, great layout. [RC] Emphasis on learning quickly and on learning through telling. Good chapter on teaching storytelling through modeling. [SS]

MacDonald, Margaret Read. Twenty Tellable Tales: A Collection of Audience Participation Folktales for the Beginning Storyteller. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1986.

** Collection of folktales from around the world with participation suggestions, "how to" section on shaping, learning, and telling tales and explores storytelling styles. [SJ] Excellent [BV]. Recommended by many tellers [TS].

MacDonald, Margaret Read. When the Lights Go Out: Twenty Scary Tales to Tell. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1990.

This is a collection of scary and funny tales meant to entertain young children (grades 2-4). MacDonald has provided participation suggestions, information on alternative versions with motif citations. "Wicked John and The Devil," "Little Buttercup," "The Great Red Cat," and "Sop Doll" are good tales to learn. [SJ]

Maguire, Jack. Creative Storytelling: Choosing, Inventing, and Sharing Tales for Children. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1985.

* It's a manageable size, comes in paperback, and is broad and inclusive in contents (origins, traditions, types of stories, finding stories for different listeners, remembering and adapting stories, creating your own stories, tips on telling, puppetry, drawing, games, music poetry, making tapes!). Beware confusion: Jack Zipes has a great book by the same title. [SW]

Maisel, Eric, PhD., Staying Sane in the Arts

Made up of three main parts: The challenges of the artistic personality, the challenges of the work, and the challenges of relationships. There are, within these parts, discussions of creativity and talent, blocks, obscurity and stardom, isolation and community. One of the three appendices is called "Transition program: steps to a new life in or out of art." [PH]

Mallan, Kerry. Children as Storytellers. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann, 1992.

This book contains suggestions on how to find, learn, and present stories. It offers excellent suggestions for teachers and librarians who wish to improve their skills and to teach children storytelling techniques. [SJ]

May, Rollo. A Cry for Myth

Respected therapist and bestselling author of Love and Will, discusses the relationships between myths and the subconscious, showing how myths can provide meaning and structure for those who seek direction in a confused world. Here are case studies in which myths have helped Dr. May's patients make sense out of an often senseless world [A].

Meade, Michael, Men and the Water of Life, Harper, SanFrancisco, 1993.

An excellent reference, a male equivalent of Women Who Run with the Wolves. Meade not only shares excellent stories, both from folk traditions and from his own life, but explains how he uses them in a workshop setting.

Mellon, Nancy, Storytelling and the Art of Imagination, Element 1992. £8

The well-known teacher and successful workshop leader expounds her storytelling psychotherapeutic workshops, relating exercises to the elements of stories. Plenty of anecdotes of success but short on detailed practical help. [TS]

Moore, Robin. Awakening the Hidden Storyteller: How to Build a Storytelling Tradition in Your Family. Boston: Shambhala, 1991.

Robin Moore has excellent suggestions for learning a story, finding your voice, and defining characters and plot. He recommends that the storyteller map out the story visualize the story's action in her/his mind. His approach is to find the reader find his hidden, inner storyteller. I agree with him for the most successful storytellers that I have observed are able to tap into this. The result is a captivated audience and a wonderful experience for the teller and the listener. [SJ] Includes good exercises that can be used by storytellers of all ages to enhance their telling. [SS]

Nachmanovitch, Stephen, Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts

An interesting discussion of improvisation. [PH] Inspiring and poetic discussion of the processes and value of play, improvisation and creativity in all aspects of life, drawing on music and other artistic pursuits for anecdotes and examples. A great feel-good book to get you thinking, doing and creating. [TS]

National Storytelling Association, USA. Tales as Tools: The Power of Story in the Classroom. Jonesborough, Tennessee: The National Storytelling Press, 1994. ISBN 1-879991-15-2. Project Director, Shelia Daily.

A great resouce for those who give workshops to teachers and educators to help them use storytelling across the curriculum. I am a teacher and a storyteller. I have used some of the ideas from this book in my workshops and in-services and it is a very effective resource for those who work with classroom teachers [ER]. "This volume will show you how to tell stories to your students--and turn them into tellers too; incorporate stories into the whole curriculum; make reading and writing instruction more fun and more relevant; build community and multicultural understanding; make instruction about science, history and the environment come alive; use puppets, flannel board, and other props to enhance storytelling; organize student storytelling troupes and festivals" [A]. Essays by well-known storytellers, 12 chapters, plus a chapter of bibliography, total of 212 pages. Criticism: no index, too brief a table of contents, so things can be hard to find [CR].

Newman, Frederick R. Mouthsounds. New York: Workman. 1980.

Found in humor sections, this book help tellers make goofy noises and vocal effects. [RC]

O'Callahan, Jay. Master Class in Storytelling. Marshfield, MA: Vineyard Productions. 1985.

A video rich with Jay's philosophy and lots of good advice. He is widely lauded in the States as the best. [RC]

Paley, Vivian. The Boy Who Would Be A Helicopter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1990.

The power of children telling and acting out their own stories. [RC]

Pellowski, Anne. The Family Storytelling Handbook. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1987.

Whether you are wanting to improve your storytelling techniques at home, in a school or library environment, this book will provide the reader with some practical and fun suggestions that are useful in either setting. It contains a section on "easy and entertaining stories" that are particularly useful to those working with young children. [SJ]

Pellowski, Anne. The World of Storytelling. 2nd Ed. Bronx: H. W. Wilson, 1990.

* This book provides practical information on the origins, development, and use of storytelling. The history, and the detailed analysis of the types of storytelling are particularly useful. An excellent source for the beginning storyteller. [SJ] The only available substantial history of storytelling, and therefore an important education for every storyteller. Interesting and accessible, yet erudite. Examines the many contexts of storytelling, from Bardic to modern library sessions; formats and styles of telling, including musical accompaniment; training methods and traditions. Multilingual dictionary of storytelling terms, and massive biblio [TS]. Greatly expanded from the 1977 first edition [VD].

Rubright, Lynn, Beyond the Beanstalk, Heinemann.

A favourite book [FH]

Rubright, Lynn. Storytelling Teaching Tape. Available from the author, 340 E. Jefferon, St. Louis, MO 63122.

A jewel. She has a new book coming out with Heinemann. [RC]

Sawyer, Ruth. The Way of the Storyteller. New York: Viking Press, 1942.

*** Widely praised as the storyteller's bible, full of wise words, and managing to communicate the real spirit of storytelling [TS]. A beautiful, almost spiritual book. A must read. Still the seminal text [RC]. One of my favorites. It offers a wealth of information on storytelling, its history,selection, practical suggestions, and story suggestions. "Wee Meg Barnileg and the Fairies," "The Magic Box," "The Deserted Mine," "The Bird Who Spoke Three Times," and "The Princess and the Vagabone." are my favorite tales told in this book. The reader learns about the most well-bred child in all of Ireland (Wee Meg Barnileg), the secret in the "Magic Box," the terrible secret of the "deserted mine," the bird who saves his mistress, and the vagabond who teaches a selfish princess a lesson or two. Sawyer's stories are not the easiest to learn and geared for nine to eleven year-olds. [SJ] Used as a textbook in my college storytelling course work. It's an oldie but a goodie for a beginner[BV].

Schimmel, Nancy. Just Enough to Make a Story. Berkeley, CA:Sisters Choice Press. 1982.

Kaia Wood recommends this for complete beginners. [RC]

Shedlock, Marie. The Art of the Storyteller. NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1915, reprinted 1951.

* The creme de la creme! [MV] It's half very specific advice on how to tell, half full-text stories she told. Some of the storytelling comments are a little dated in terms of physical [CR]. "...This classic gives you everything you need to know in order to tell stories successfully to children. It covers every aspect of story telling. It guides you in choosing material, in selecting essential points, in creating and maintaining effect; and provides a goldmine of such invaluable information as how to gauge the effect of a story on an audience, when to use gestures, when to lower your voice, when to pause, and how to recapture a child's straying attention." There are 18 stories for possible use and an annotated bibliography listing 135 more easily-available stories [A].

Sierra, Judy. Storytellers' Research Guide. Folkprint 1996, $15. PO Box 450, Eugene, Oregon 97440, USA.

A must for serious storytellers, a helpful guide to oral traditional tales; more than 300 reference books, tale collections, periodicals, electronic and online resources listed. Includes research basics, what makes a tellable tale, tracking down tales, fieldwork, and copyright for storytellers etc [JD]. Amazing, overwhelming amount of terrific information [CR]. A bibliographic essay recapping her time in graduate school and is an excellent beginning tool for the storyteller who is starting to dig for variants and sources [MA].

The American Storytelling Video Series. 1987. New York: H. W. Wilson.

An eight volume video series of some of the best of the best. [RC]

Ward, Winifred. Stories to Dramatize. New Orleans: Anchorage Press. 1952.

Great stories to tell and act out. [RC]

Yolen, Jane. Favorite Folktales From Around the World. Pantheon: NewYork, 1987.

The extended preface to this book offers an excellent short history of storytelling with notes about its current renaissance. As a rule of thumb, if Jane Yolen wrote it, it's likely to be great. [RC]

Zipes, Jack, Creative Storytelling: Building Community, Changing Lives. NY/London: Routledge, 1995. ISBN 0-415-91272-5

I've found his ideas exciting. He suggests (based on things he has tried) teaming up storytellers (in residence?) and teachers in ongoing relationships teaching students storytelling, and all the benefits in learning and thinking critically that can be derived from learning storytelling [BK]. Very provocative [VD]. Beware: Jack Maguire has a great book by the same title.

Also, the publishing house of August House has put out dozens of wonderful books for beginner and professional storyteller alike.

Key to Contributors

There are other contributors noted above, but these are all those identified by abbreviations at the end of their reviews:

[A] Anonymous or from jacket blurb

[AK] Angela Klingler AKFairTale@aol.com

[BM] Barbara McIntyre bmcintyr@merlin.cflc.lib.fl.us

[BV] Barbara Victor bvictor@nslsilus.org

[BK] Barry Kent McWilliams eldrbarry@eldrbarry.seanet.com

[CR] Cris Riedel CRstory@aol.com

[ER] Elizabeth Rose elizabeth_rose@hotmail.com

[FH] Faye Hanson stories@aristotle.net

[GS] Gordon Semple gsemple@interhop.net

[JD] Janice Del Negro delnegro@alexia.lis.uiuc.edu BCCB, Illinois, USA

[JG] Jane Gregory JBUGregory@aol.com New York, USA

[JS] Judy Schmidt FransDotir@aol.com

[LM] Lee-Ellen Marvin lmarvin@sas.upenn.edu

[LS] Lois Sprengnether lois-sez@juno.com Michigan, USA

[MA] Mary Ann Gilpatrick magilpat@walnet.walla-walla.wa.us

[MG] Marni Gillard marnigil@aol.com New York, USA

[MD] Marjorie Dundas TellerVT@aol.com

[MV] Marsha Valance valance@omnifest.uwm.edu

[PH] Priscilla Howe phowe1@aol.com

[RC] Rives Collins r-collins@nwu.edu

[SB] Sabra Brown Steinsiek Sabra@unm.edu New Mexico, USA

[SJ] Sharon Peregrine Johnson shajohns@eramp.net

[SS] Suzie Shaeffer StoryHat@aol.com

[SW] Sunwolf 6500howl@ucsbuxa.ucsb.edu

[TJ] Tim Jennings folktale@together.net Vermont, USA

[TS] Tim Sheppard storyfaq@timsheppard.co.uk Bristol, England

[VD] Victoria Dworkin dworkin@hawaii.edu Hawaii

[VJ] Vycki Johnson v2johnso@argo.acs.oakland.edu

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