Fifty Fabulous Fables

Fifty Fabulous Fables; Beginning Readers Theatre by Suzanne I. Barchers. Englewood, CO: Teacher Ideas Press, 1997.ISBN 1-56308-553-4 (paper) 136 pp. $21.50

This is Barchers' third readers theatre collection for Teachers Ideas Press, and her second aimed specifically at the needs, interests, and abilities of beginning readers. The difference between this and the others, is that this one is devoted solely to scripts based on fables, mostly those of Aesop. The fifty fables are divided into four sections based on their readability level, grade 1-4, according to the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale. Each script is preceded by a brief summary of the tale, presentation suggestions, ideas for props, suggestions for delivery, and a list of the characters required.

The scripts themselves are clearly laid out. In the right margin, numbers make it easy for teachers to call attention to specific lines when prompting. In the grade 1-3 sections, the first letter of each character's name is placed in the left margin to help the young readers locate their o",rn parts. Barchers gives other suggestions in the introduction to facilitate script reading by the students. For instance, she suggests highlighting each character's script in a specific colour, and colour coding the folder to the internal highlighting in order to ease management of the scripts.

The introduction includes very general suggestions on getting started, using props, and bringing the scripts alive through delivery. It gives enough information to get the novice started, but the rank beginner will have to look elsewhere for such things as body and vocal exercises and warm-ups, both of which are necessary to help the readers maximize their communication and presentation skills.

In the fables unit outlined in the appendix, Barchers calls attention to other fables such as those found in the Panchatantra, Jataka tales, La Fontaine, and even contemporary fables such as those by Arnold Lobel.

I should confess that fables are not my favorite stories, possibly because even as a child I didn't like being told how I should interpret the tale. Having said that I will now say that some of the morals included at the ends of the fables seemed a bit obscure, or at least were worded in such a way that the grade one to fours night say, "I don't get it." That, however, can easily be fixed by a rewording by he teacher.

Teachers will find the look useful not only for reading skills and comprehension, but also part of the continuum of oral communication activities which include storytelling at one end and drama at the other. The themes of the fables, of course, make them useful as the starting point for discussions of conflict resolution issues.

The Second Story Review, Vol 3, No. 1, March 1998

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