Fairytales, Families and Forests review

By Jill Tina Taplin

I recommend this as a valuable book for parents and those working with young children. It is a comprehensive compendium of resources for storytelling aimed at children up to the age of seven. There are many traditional tales included, which experienced practitioners are likely to already know, but there is a good variety of stories new to me, from other parts of the world and original stories by the authors of the book. In addition to the stories, the art of story-making and telling is introduced, and many aspects of child development come out of the ‘conversation’ between the two authors.

A delight of this book is the thoughtful way in which it has been organised, including the beautiful rainbow of unfolding and enlivening colours which the pages create. The illustrations are inclusive and contemporary; Snow White and Rose Red are sensibly dressed in trousers and t-shirts for their adventures in the forest and a variety of skin colours and body shapes represented. More than half the book is made up of stories which are arranged for each year from babies upwards. This will be so helpful to parents searching for something appropriate for their child. It is refreshing that babies, one- and two-year-olds are all included, being as worthy of ‘stories’ as older children. There is a healthy emphasis on the rhythm and mood which songs and verses bring to very young children (see ‘Amazing Ant’ and ‘Wondrous Worm’ reprinted here as examples). Interspersed amongst the stories and through the book as a whole, are useful snippets on understanding young children with tips for easing family life.

Young children’s innate connection with the natural world is fostered by many of the stories and verses included. The authors show how story can be used to strengthen children’s bond with the natural world as they become more aware of the threats to it, with a special section on ‘Restorying Nature’. A further section covers stories related to seasons and festivals. There are two sections on making your own stories and on the art of being a storyteller for small groups and large. These are full of clear and helpful advice. The book closes with a section headed ‘Research on Storytelling and Education’ with ideas to keep us thinking about the necessity of maintaining a place for storytelling as a balance to the fast pace of life and the screens which are a growing influence on a 21st century child.

These two co-authors found themselves drawn together, as they explain, to share their experiences and resources. Out of their partnership has come this book, a valuable fruit of a chance meeting, and that is a story in itself!

Jill Tina Taplin is a Steiner-Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher