Multicultural Folktales for the Feltboard and Readers' Theatre

Multicultural Folktales for the Feltboard and Readers' Theatre by Judy Sierra. Phoenix
Arizona: Oryx Press, 1996. ISBN 1-57356-003-0 (paper), 186 pp.

I have told felt stories for years but somehow it never dawned on me to use interfacing for my figures! It is lightweight, stores easily, and best of all you can see through it and trace your designs easily and quickly. Designs can also be made reversible allowing characters to face in different directions or be altered to suit the story. Tiny details show clearly, and the little hands and fingers of your figures don't disintegrate when you cut them out. And the figures can be easily coloured in with markers, doing away with the frustration of trying to colour fuzzy felt. More ideas course, make them useful as the starting point for discussions of conflict resolution issues.

But interfacing isn't the only wonderful idea in this excellent book. I also made anew, more portable felt board from an artist's portfolio. The ties at the sides of the portfolio make it free-standing. I covered a piece of stiff cardboard with a dark brown velour instead of the light blue I had used before, and glued it to the longer side of the portfolio and voila I'm ready to go.

The Stories
Judy says, "A good tale deserves to be told many times and in many different ways." Each of her twenty tales has two formats, one in prose for storytelling, and one in script form for readers' theatre. She suggests turning the designs for felt figures into rod puppets by gluing them to a ruler or stick. Children can use the figures to retell the stories they have heard, thus developing their oral language skills.

Her choice of stories fits her format beautifully as all of her stories benefit from visual effects. In The Talkative Tortoise, the tortoise first has a smooth shell but when he falls he cracks. So, one side of the figure is coloured to appear smooth, and the reverse is coloured to appear cracked. My favourite tale is the African Dilemma Tale Where a man has to solve the problem of how to transport a wolf, a goat, and a basket of cabbages across a river where he can only take one thing at a time. If he leaves the goat with the cabbages she will eat them, and if he leaves the wolf with the goat he will eat her. Using the feltboard and being able to actually see the problem makes it clearer. Many of Sierra's stories are variations of more familiar tales which makes the collection interesting. Many are chain tales which help children remember sequences.

I found this to be an excellent resource book both for storytellers and for teachers and others who work with kids age seven through twelve.

This review was written by Beverly Matson, retired teacher / librarian turned storyteller.

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