Tales, Tellers and Texts
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This issue’s cover is from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Monkey Puzzle. Written in rhyme, this agreeable story has butterfly helping little monkey to find his mum. Scheffler’s distinctive, entertaining and strongly characterised illustrations make good use of the page as little monkey meets lots of jungle inhabitants before being reunited with his mum. Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for their help in producing this July cover.
Tales, Tellers and Texts
Tales, Tellers and Texts is the latest of a valuable sequence of books which have issued over the last ten years or so from children's literature studies at its predecessors it collectively presents a powerful case for the importance of story and narrative in developing literacy, and includes a diversity of material ranging from short critical monographs on individual authors to reports on classroom projects. The forms of narrative discussed are similarly wide ranging, and are grouped under the subheadings of 'Oral', 'Historical', 'Visual', 'Literary', and 'New' (technological) Narratives. This eclecticism brings strengths and weaknesses. On the credit side, no reader could fail to be persuaded that narrative is rich in multiplicity, unified in all its variousness, and indispensable to children's growth; the book is an effective counterblast to the narrow utilitarian pedantry of some government initiatives and current pressures on the teacher. It gives a voice to many interests, perspectives and critical skills. The drawback is that, aside from its overall pro-narrative theme, the book has no linking argument. Apart from a sub-group of three essays by Grant Bage, Hugh Lupton and Fiona Collins on the TASTE (teaching-as-storytelling) project, the contributions are a motley assortment. But the quality is generally high, and four in particular should not be missed. Kevin Crossley-Holland's essay on the retelling of traditional stories is a beautifully written, stimulating initiation into the storyteller's craft by one of its most versatile and gifted practitioners. Sarah Gordon's 'Play Out the Play' is an exemplary guide to introducing Shakespeare in the primary school. And there are two essays of outstanding quality on 'Visual Narratives', Tina Hanlon's 'The Art and the Dragon: Intertextuality in the Pictorial Narratives of Dragon Feathers', and Jane Doonan's essay on Susan Hill's Beware, Beware, illustrated by Angela Barrett. Unfortunately Dragon Feathers, by Andrej Dugin and Olga Dugina, is apparently not available in Britain, but Hanlon's critique is so distinguished that to track down all her primary material seems well worth the effort. Doonan once presented her admirable essay as a lecture at a conference on The Wind in the Willows. She does not mention Grahame in the printed article, but her readers should note the intertext with Mole's incautious outing to the Wild Wood. The collection as a whole is a rewarding hotch-potch. That may be what is needed at a time when proponents of narrative in education need all the arguments that they can get.