Review: The Natural Storyteller by Georgiana Keable

This review of The Natural Storyteller is from June Kent in Indie Shaman, issue 35. Many thanks to June Kent for her enthusiastic and thoughtful review, and for permission to share it here.

Image shows children and animals around a tree, and book title The Natural Storyteller

The Natural Storyteller is an enchanting book full of beautiful stories together with innovative ideas for practical activities which nurture literary skills and a connection to the natural world.

Author Georgiana Keable has taught storytelling at Oslo University since 1997 and she launched the Norwegian Storytelling Festival. Her stories reflect our relationship with nature and she often travels, asking strangers to share stories with her. The Natural Storyteller contains 48 stories from around the world, re-fashioned for children today, as well as games and activities including follow-up quizzes, riddles, story maps, planting a tree and wildlife tracking. The stories are from a variety of cultures and times; some based on myths and legends while others are real life tales, dealing with interesting topics of historical or current day relevance. All of them are inspirational.

Children are natural storytellers, both in listening and in creating stories and The Natural Storyteller is a wonderful resource, both as a source of pure enjoyment and for educational purposes. However as Keable herself says if you don’t want to tell stories “That’s totally fine! Just enjoy the book” and you will, whether you are reading the stories for yourself, or out loud as a bed-time story or in a story telling circle.

Georgiana Keable is a wonderfully talented storyteller and The Natural Storyteller is an absolute delight. I would highly recommend this book for children, parents and educators but it would also be excellent for anyone of any age who enjoys reading or sharing exquisite short stories with meaning.

Buy the book here…

More about Indie Shaman here…

Review: The Natural Storyteller by Georgiana Keable

Image shows children and animals around a tree, and book title The Natural Storyteller

This is another review from the brilliant Imelda Almqvist, written for Pagan Pages. Many thanks to both of them for spreading the love.

 The Natural Storyteller is a gorgeous heart-warming book full of stories that children (and people any age!) can relate to. It is a collection of stories, carefully gathered over a period of years, from all over the world (different sources, locations, periods in history). Some are based on myths, others on legendary figures or even saints (e.g. St Francis of Assisi makes an appearance  – but in the story we meet his child self!) or extraordinary things that happened in the lives of ordinary people.

What steals my heart about this book is that it unflinchingly addresses the turmoil and realities of life in the 21st century. The author does not shy away from tackling themes such as deforestation, war or corporate greed.

My favourite story is the King of the Deer (perhaps because I live in the forest in Sweden for part of the year where see deer daily and observe them very closely). I had a rather traumatic encounter with deer hunters only two weeks ago and this story (about the King of the Deer putting a stop of the hunting of all animal species) really pulled at my heart strings.

I live in London for the larger part of the year and there is a  lovely story about a London woman who finds a wounded baby sparrow on her doorstep during World War II. She takes him in and he becomes her companion, eventually bringing comfort to people who lost their homes in air raids. The woman was called Clare Kipps and I am under the impression that this story is based on a real life person.

The author describes herself as going on hikes and actively asking strangers to tell her stories. Predictably many people first say they don’t know any stories before proceeding to tell a very unique story indeed. Many of those stories are about friendships between humans and animals.

I love the scope of subjects, characters and locations.  I also love the fact that she does not shy away from the difficult aspects of life. When children hear about characters in stories surviving such things and even finding courage or beauty under challenging circumstances – then that same resilience is reinforced and inspired in the audience.

Many stories end with a Q&A section where the storyteller can ask questions to test if the children have understood the storyline correctly. There is also a Myths from the Land of You section where children are encouraged to connect the story to their own lives and experiences.

This book is that rare thing: it unlocks emotions, ideas and a wild surge of creativity. Even I now want to take myself off on hikes around London and ask complete strangers to tell me stories about sparrows and crows (and may just do that for a day!) Stories about other subjects would be welcome too…

(Full disclosure: I was asked by HawthornPress to review this book as a teacher and author of a book about innovative work with children myself).

Imelda Almqvist, 9 November  2017, London UK

About the author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently working on her second book Sacred Art.

Buy the book here…

More about Georgiana Keable here…

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Review: The Natural Storyteller by Georgiana Keable

Image shows children and animals around a tree, and book title The Natural Storyteller

This brilliant review was written by Nimue Brown for Spiral Nature Magazine, and is reproduced here with kind permission. Many thanks to  them both for their enthusiasm!

I’m not a storyteller myself, but it’s something I’ve long been interested in. One of the problems storytellers face is that many people assume it’s a thing you do for children, rather than an all-ages activity, and that’s one of the many reasons that The Natural Storyteller is such a good book — it’s a book for children that demonstrates why storytelling is for everyone. pagan ancestors told stories, and storytelling has been an important part of most human cultures. These days, we all too often live in fragmented ways, as passive consumers of amusement. Storytelling is active, a lively engagement with the world and with each other, and author Georgiana Keable makes the case for why we need that in our lives, and why we are much the poorer without it. She also makes the case for the power and importance of ecological storytelling.

The blurb on the back of the book is about children and storytelling, which left me expecting this to be a book for parents and educators, but it isn’t. Once you get inside, and beyond Hugh Lupton’s foreword, this is a book written for children and addressed to them. As an adult, I still found it readable, because there’s nothing condescending in the tone. Much of the advice that is relevant for children who would be storytellers is also relevant to adults, particularly questions of how to source, learn, and present material.

The stories in The Natural Storyteller are numerous and come from around the world. Some are ancient and traditional, some are modern re-workings of old tales, and some are completely new. It’s a really good and diverse mix, which manages to include a vast array of cultures without any issue of appropriation. It’s a really good demonstration of how broad, how ancient, and how integral to human life storytelling is. There are stories about storytelling, too, getting across the idea that we all have stories, and we all have needs that can be met through the sharing of stories. Most of the stories are quite short, which makes them easy for a beginner storyteller to learn. On the whole, the stories are positive and upbeat, although there are some sad ones. There isn’t a lot of violence — these are tales where violence is a problem to be solved, rather than a solution, which I very much liked. The core message is about cooperation, compassion, care, and creative solutions.

One of the reasons I am not a storyteller myself is that I’d never figured out how to practice a story. I wouldn’t want to learn by rote — that’s a lot of work, and seems a bit dry for my tastes. What author Georgiana Keable does, in small commentaries between stories, is to ply the reader with information about how to become a teller. She writes about how to get inside a story and understand it, how to inhabit it and make it your own, how to learn it and express it. She encourages would-be story tellers to really get inside the tales they want to tell, and gives them the tools to do that. It shows that storytelling is more than a feat of memory, it’s about the stories you choose to make part of yourself and how you share them.

Many of the tales in this book capture something of the relationship between human and not-human. The need for balance, care, and respect comes through loud and clear, in traditional and modern stories alike. Part of the reason that modern humans are so destructive is that we have stories of market and economy, of growth and consumption, that let us imagine ourselves as users of the world, not as participants in it. While there are increasing numbers of voices speaking up against this, that kind of activism is hard work and often exhausting. Sometimes we can get the message across more effectively by telling stories, and by re-storying our culture with tales that help us form healthier relationships with the world we live in. This book offers many such stories, and opens the door to even more — the stories we need now are often old stories that we have let go of.

I think The Natural Storyteller is a brilliant book for young people, but it doesn’t end there. Anyone interested in storytelling as an art form, but doesn’t know how to get started, would find this an excellent place to begin. I can very much recommended it for anyone starting down the Bard path, and anyone interested in finding emotionally sustainable approaches to activism. It’s an uplifting read that will leave you with a sense of possibility and optimism — something I think we could all do with right now.

Buy the book here…

More about Spiral Nature Magazine here…