Storytelling Bookshelf

Questions Storytellers are Frequently Asked

Tim Sheppard in England generously offers ‘Storytellers FAQ' beginning with a story, accessible on his website here (Archived).
Learn more about Archived Sites

Guidance books for telling oral stories

Lipman, Doug (1999) Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics for all Who Tell Stories in Work or Play August House: Little Rock, Kansas.
Guaranteed to provide practical insights into how you prepare and learn stories to tell. Lipman brings his personal experience and principled thinking to his guidance; a wise, outstanding coach.

Maguire, Jack (1998) The Power of Personal Storytelling: Spinning Tales to Connect With Others New York, New York: Jeremy P.Tarcher/Putnam.
Loaded with quotes, practical hints, and personal story triggers, this book argues for the promotion of storytelling and listening in a variety of social contexts: family community and work. It includes guidelines for tapping into memories, building stories, learning stories, conveying a story effectively, and identifying situations where storytelling will serve yourself and others.

McKay, Helen & Dudley, Berice (1996) About Storytelling: A Practical Guide Marrickville, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger. (A more recent second edition exists also)
This is the only totally home-grown Australian book about the general art and craft of storytelling. It is pithily comprehensive, chatty and easy to read. Although it sometimes adopts a distractingly didactic tone, it does address most of the basic practical questions any storyteller seeks to have answered.

Pepper, Bill (2003/4) Voice in Action DVD & Booklet. Currency Press, NSW (Distributors)
A very practical DVD with a supporting booklet showing and explaining a range of voice exercises demonstrated by NIDA leader Bill Pepper with a group of workshop participants. The exercises cover a sensible range ‘designed to undo tight, restrictive vocal and physical habits and replace them with freer and more flexible open ones'.

Morgan, John & Rinvolucri, Mario (1983) Once Upon a Time: Using Stories in the Language Classroom Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Undoubtedly the most accessible, stimulating and flexible source of activities for exploiting stories in language teaching (ie English to Speakers of Other Languages, or other second languages). Adult focus at various levels of language proficiency, but can be readily adapted to younger groups.

Jennings, Claire (1991) Children as Storytellers: Developing language skills in the Classroom Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press Australia.
A well-organised resource book for encouraging storytelling culture at primary school level. It reviews in successive chapters ‘types of stories to tell', ‘developing awareness of story features' and ‘techniques for story-telling' with clear examples and illustrations. It also describes the framework of ‘the storytelling workshop' as vehicle for teaching, with additional suggestions for widening children's audiences, for using story across the curriculum, and for integrating curriculum around story.

Mellon, Nancy (2008) Body Eloquence: The Power of Myth and Story to Awaken the Body's Energies Energy Psychology Press, Santa Rosa: CA , USA
A stimulating interpretation of stories, storytelling and story creation, integrating them with an holistic approach to health. From a strongly Rudoph Steiner metaphysical and metaphorical base (as opposed to conventional science), Nancy Mellon has synthesized how storytelling and story writing processes can address imbalances of energy associated with various body systems (eg heart, kidney, lymphatic) , in turn correlated with the body meridians of traditional Chinese medicine. She explains how personal stories can both indicate imbalances and how the right stories of transformation can play a role in healing with their poetic resonance. Her holism is revealed by the rich variety of stories (both traditional and personal) she provides, her analysis of them, along with yoga exercises, musical recordings, and affirmations to match body systems.

Pellowski, Anne (1990) The World of Storytelling Bronx, New York: H.W. Wilson.
A perspicacious, pioneering reference book for researching the cultural background to storytelling in various countries, throughout history.

Perrow, Susan (2008) Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour Hawthorne Press: Gloucestershire, UK.
This book is firmly grounded in Perrow's own storytelling and story writing practice, in Australia and Africa, as a parent, teacher, researcher and counsellor. Quite visibly she values the power of the imagination to heal, for teller, listener, and writer alike, underpinned by the philosophy of Rudoph Steiner and Waldorf education. She focuses on practical nitty gritty matters for parents/teachers who are concerned with the development of young children (toddler to Primary age mainly) The five sectional headings convey her balanced coverage: 1. My Story Journey; 2. Writing Therapeutic Stories; 3. Stories (texts) for Challenging Behaviour (classified to address whingeing, greed; disrespect, bullying etc); 4. Stories for Challenging Situations (eg new baby, illness in family, separation anxiety); and 5. The Art of Storytelling(includes an assessment schedule, and hints about using props, being culturally sensitive etc). Consistent, clear guidelines, and numerous specific story exemplars ensure this book will be a valuable resource for anyone working with young children.

Zipes, Jack (1995) Creative Storytelling: Building Community Changing Lives New York & London, Routledge.
Jack Zipes is a scholar (well known for his collections and discussions of the Grimm brothers and versions of Red Riding Hood), a dedicated educationist, and master storyteller. His writing in this book displays the solid commitment of time he has invested in teaching story to students in schools (primary and secondary). He puts himself on the line with lucid descriptions of his approaches to introducing narrative to children and young adults, and he includes the vigorous texts of many stories as he retells them. He also tackles more narrative genres in detail than most educationists. In addition to fairy tales, fables, legends, and myths, he addresses tall tales, Utopian and Wishing Tales, and science fiction. You may disagree with his strong attitudes to neo-Jungians and his unrelenting exploitation of stories for pedagogical purposes, but he will also inspire you with some powerful ideas and stories.

Story collections (in books) suitable for oral telling

Carter, Angela (ed) (1991+) The Virago Book of Fairy Tales Virago Press, London.
An anthology of gutsy, punchy adult fairy stories with female protagonists in various social and familial roles. Groupings of stories, often unusual and unknown ones, include: Brave, Bold & Wilful; Clever Women, Resourceful Girls and desperate Stratagems; Good Girls and Where it Gets Them; and, Moral Tales.

Kelly, Montgomery (2010) Out of the Storyteller's Hat ..New Stories to tell 4-7 year olds with songs, poems & Activities Published by Montgomery & Siovan Kelly; details for purchase Montgomery Kelly Facebook
A practically-spiral-bound collection of well-tested stories, poems, & action songs for the target audience; the package includes excellent notes on learning and telling; a CD recording of seven items from the approx. 40 total; carefully designed & scaled masters for making illustrative & participatory materials.

MacDonald, Margaret Read (1988/91) When the Lights Go Out: Scary Tales to Tell USA: H.H. Wilson.
This collection, with an audience of primary school level children in mind, includes at least two ghost stories: one, in the ‘Scary in the Dark' section ‘The Tinker and the Ghost', the other in the ‘Tales to Act Out' section ‘Let's Go on a Ghost Hunt'. MacDonald provides background notes about motif and guidelines for telling supplementing her storyteller-friendly text layout (lines and font designed to support phrasing etc). She also includes a list of some twenty or so very short spooky tales, many of which are ghost stories.

McDonald, Margaret Read (1994) Celebrate the World: Twenty Tellable Folktales for Multicultural Festivals USA: H.W. Wilson Co.
A collection of twenty stories (McDonald's magic number for several anthologies is twenty) presented in an ‘ethnopoetic' style, that is with cultural background information, phrasing in lines for telling with certain emphasised words, and practical hints for telling. Although the balance of cultures sampled does not include some that are very significant for Australia (eg Greek, Italian, and Vietnamese), the selection is still useful – supported as it is by practical ideas for exploiting the stories on days of celebration with children of suggested broad age levels (preschool-Year 7). Most of the stories are not found in other common sources and include eight for audience participation and three which can be used with improvisation slots.

Spagnoli, Cathy (1998) Asian Tales and Tellers August House: Little Rock, Arkansas.
A delightful, wide-ranging collection of about 50 stories (1-3 pages) groups around nine value-laden themes like: Harmony and Friendship, Hard work and Study, Faith and Belief, National Identity & Pride. Two exceptionally insightful introductory chapters give rich details succinctly: Storytellers and Styles, Storytelling Tools.

Yolen, Jane (1981/86) Favorite Folktales from Around the World New York: Pantheon Books, Random House.
A wide ranging anthology of stories gathered and selected by a storyteller with a good sense of story and oral language.

Zipes, Jack (ed) (2001) The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm WW Norton & Co: New York.
An authoritative, comprehensive collection of fairy tales (some 800 pages)which are grouped in sets of 2-4 stories/story versions under accessible themes and motifs. Examples of the forty groupings are: Magical Transformations, The Father's Betrayal, wild men, the power of Love, and Abandoned Children. Seven critical papers included (some 40 pages) are a bonus, providing insights into the readership of stories in cultural context and other interpretive insights (eg Zipes' ‘Cross-cultural Connections and Contaminations of the Classical Fairy Tale').