As a child, I learnt to read very early and from that moment was hooked on stories discovered for myself. However, every so often, when I was ill, I was given an experience that was really special – my father read to me. His voice brought the story alive in a different way; it added the sense of performance. This is an element that has always been inextricably linked to the telling of stories from the earliest times This link is vividly illustrated in the article by Geoff Fox which describes an inspiring initiative bringing the telling of the story and performance dramatically together. Here the stories used are drawn from Greek and Roman mythology. Opening the door to worlds less familiar, though no less powerful, Sarwat Chadda introduces the myths of India.
The story and the performance may be tied together but for most people the idea of ‘story’ is bound to the book. Stories today have become locked within the covers. Or have they? Under the pen (or maybe, keyboard) of a great storyteller, the words will themselves perform, dancing through the imagination to create a different reality; and who better to exemplify this than those magicians, Patrick Ness, David Almond and Philip Reeve, all featured in this issue.
Stories can be transmitted in many ways. Some of the earliest stories were wordless and told through pictures. Such tellings are still important whether standing alone or working in conjunction with words; and like words, the effects may be achieved through a wide variety of media , from unadorned line to an explosion of colour and detail as in the art of Rebecca Cobb and Jane Ray. Then there are the technologies of today. Often the digital world is presented as being inimical and diametrically opposed to that of story. But are they? Our round-up of current apps suggests something different. Rather it confirms the realisation that stories can be, and are, told in many different ways, all of which are celebrated in the person of the Children’s Laureate. From its beginning this has been held by a succession of authors, poets and artists, all performers, each with their own distinctive approach.
The key element in all, is the voice. This may be a private, personal voice of the author or illustrator speaking to the reader, or that of the storyteller bringing to life tales that have been passed on in this way across centuries and continents; tales that can be found in the collections listed by Pat Ryan. These stories are just waiting to be released from the page, to be spoken aloud.
So we return to that element of performance. I can still hear my father’s voice making real stories that live in my imagination still. And what was he reading? Why, The Heroes by Charles Kingsley.