Surefire Storytelling Hits for One World, Many Stories

A comment on my last post asked about ideas for good multicultural stories to use with this year's CLSP (Cooperative Summer Library Program) theme, One World, Many Stories. Here are a few that I love with sources if I could track them back (being a storyteller for twenty-five years has it's drawbacks!). Give them a try.

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock (Africa)- Eric Kimmel
Buy a spider glove puppet. Gather your jungle animals and a blanket or rug that is green and mossy looking. You play Anansi/Narrator and tell the story while the kids play the jungle animals part. The rest of the kids chant the magic words, “Isn’t that a strange-looking, moss-covered rock?”.  There are plenty of Anansi stories to share from many folklore collections..I have five or six in my storybag but this remains a favorite.

Wise Monkey Tale (Phillipines) - Guilio Maestro
Using a monkey puppet and other jungle animals, tell the story as Monkey/Narrator with kids as animals. Use a piece of rope in a circle to represent the hole and a construction paper banana leaf. Have the audience chant the banana leaf inscription: “If very wise you wish to be, come on down, wait and see!”

Fat Cat (Norway) - Jack Kent (there is also a version in print from Margaret Read McDonald)
Tie a flat sheet around yourself (or a helpful adult volunteer) like a huge bib. Have the kids play the eatees. As you chomp each one, the kids hide under the sheet. The audience chants “And now I’m going to eat you!”. You can use the same technique for the story of “The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly”

The Turnip  - (Russian) Traditional
Tie a rope to a door (important note: make it tight!). Have kids play part (use scarves, ears, headbands, masks) and tug rope as you narrate. Audience chants “And they pushed and they pulled and they pulled and they pushed”. When the time comes for the turnips appearance, bring out a turnip from behind a screen.

Bear and the Seven Kids - (Poland)  Traditional 
I've lost the original source beyond hearing it from another storyteller 20 years ago!  However, you can find it as the "Wolf and Seven Kids" and other variants in folktale collections. I use nesting dolls and pretend to forget how many kids are in the story and then reveal them one by one in the intro.  Great audience particiaption tale!

Tiger's Minister (Burma) - Various; teller Janice Harrington has this on CD/tape
A tiger tests a boar, a monkey and a rabbit to determine who should be his new minister by breathing on each one in turn and asking, "Is my breath fair or foul?". Of course it is disguting and the first two animals try truth, than flattery and are eaten. The rabbit claims, with a twitchy nose, that he "can't smell anything one way or the other" and becomes the minister (and ever after rabbits have twitched their noses and now you know why!)

Roly Poly Rice Ball - (Japan) - Margaret Read McDonald's Twenty Tellable Tales
Crab Eyes - (Caribbean) - Margaret Read McDonald's Twenty Tellable Tales
Just a pleasure to tell straight without props. McDonald does a masterful job at breaking down the telling and adding emphasis to help even novice tellers deliver the story like a pro!

The Mosquito (unsure of country of origin) - Anne Pellowski's The Story Vine
Anne Pellowski's books are chockfull of great stories from many cultures perfect for storytelling. This string story has excellent instructions/illustrations and is worth the time it takes to learn. This is perfect for school visits and produces "big-eyed" results each time for all ages!

I also have used Once Upon a Hodja (long out of print, that has some good Middle Eastern Nasrudin stories (in turns wise, foolish, a trickster and a storyteller) and Caroline Peterson books for additional ideas.

What other good stories do you have?

Illustration from 2011 CLSP Manual. Images are copyrighted. Contact the CSLP for more information


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Now I'll start practicing.

    Martha in CA

  2. I like the story Too Much Noise by Ann McGovern, the poor man's dispair as his house get's noiser and noiser. I've also read the book Susages by Jessica Souhami which is from an old folk tale. The kids thought it was funny.