October 12, 2017

Stories to Tell ‘Round the Campfire

Written by Deborah B. Ford

Creepy PairWith the turn of the calendar, comes the fall of the leaves. As a young girl, my family often went camping in the autumn. In the evening we sat around a campfire and told stories. So when I see patches of gold and red in the trees, my thoughts turn to storytelling. As a librarian, my memories go to the storytelling festival I led in an elementary school many years ago. Using stories long-forgotten or relegated to a bottom shelf (Who checks out books from the bottom shelf?), my students and I pored over tales that begged to be shared. We spent a month learning how to share a story. Then we put on a festival.

If I were choosing books to tell this fall, what would I share? I’d look for a powerful story like Manjhi Moves a Mountain by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Danny Popovici. Manjhi used a hammer and chisel to carve a path between his village and the next. It took him twenty years. What makes the story so great is that it’s true. Kids will want to know why he was so dedicated to his project. Why was building a road so important that he spent twenty years to do it?

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story by Darcy Pattinson and illustrations by Peter Willis is perfect as a tale and fits perfectly with curriculum research. What is fake news? Why does is spread like wildfire? In Pattinson’s story, we learn about a sea monster off the coast of Nantucket. There are sightings. Footprints are seen on the beach. We later learn it was a Macy’s publicity stunt with the help of master balloonist, Tony Sarg. Pair this book with Melissa Sweet’s Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy ‘s Parade.

Laugh out loud stories also make great takes to tell. Creepy Pair of Underwear, by the talented duo of Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, delivers a story that makes you laugh out loud—and maybe think twice about leaving your dirty clothes on the floor.

Biographies can be great stories to share with a captive audience. In Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, we learn that sometimes librarians collect stories because what they hear doesn’t seem to be complete. Schomburg looked for stories about his people and his culture. What he collected became a library. E.B. White was inspired to write stories from life on the farm, as we learn in A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Lauren Castillo.

Nonfiction offers information that not only informs us, but often tells a story that empowers or inspires us. The Quilts of Gees Bend blends photographs with personal stories which may motivate readers to make their own quilts or record their own stories. How Dare the Sun Rise is the memoir of a refugee who survived, despite the odds. Perhaps her activist work will encourage others to be kind and to reach out to immigrants.

Look at your new releases (and even those who haven’t circulated in a bit). Which stories can you sell with a little bit of storytelling magic?

For more on storytelling:

Transformers: The Power of Storytelling by Jerry Pinkney @ The Horn Book

Storytelling Festival for Fall by Deborah B. Ford @ Junior Library Guild



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  1. Deborah B. Ford

    on Wed, Nov 08, 2017 at 11:48am

    Wow! How fun is that?!

  2. Deborah B. Ford

    on Wed, Nov 08, 2017 at 11:48am

    Great ideas Carol. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Carol Simon Levin

    on Sun, Oct 29, 2017 at 18:07pm

    If you are looking for other stories to tell around the campfire, check out my post:

  4. Kathy Wellington

    on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 21:48pm

    Our library brought story time to a community camp out and we used Creepy Carrots. It was a definite hit!

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Deborah B. Ford

Deborah B. Ford

Deborah B. Ford, JLG’s Director of Library Outreach, is an award-winning library media specialist and international speaker with almost thirty years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools. Traveling across North America, she does workshops, library coaching, and professional development for school and public libraries. Deborah is the author of JLG's Booktalks to Go @ SLJ. She also maintains an award-winning coordinating online resource at Contact her at Follow her on Twitter @jlgdeborahford.

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