Troubadour's Storybag

Troubadour's Storybag: Musical Folktales of the World edited and retold by Norma J. Livo. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-55591-953-7 $15.95 152pp.

In Storybag, Norma Livo presents the story / music connection for teachers and storytellers. Livo is a retired professor of education, and the author of many books on storytelling and folklore. Teachers who have not already discovered her Storytelling Activities (Libraries Unlimited, 1987), will want to look it up.

In the introduction to Troubadour, Livo cites studies which say that listening to music can increase one's I.Q., that preschoolers who take music lessons may do better in math, chess, and map-reading later on, and that children should have more creative experiences in school, as opposed to the emphasis on skills in the curricula. The stage is then set for the stories themselves, all thirty-nine of which feature music or the playing of musical instruments.

There are six parts to the book, each one a collection of folktales relating to a specific theme. The themes include: Music all Around Us; Flutes and Pan pipes; Stringed Instruments; Musical Miracles; Drums; Musicians and Musical Animals. Some of the stories will be familiar ones-- The Nightingale, for instance, and The Bee, the Mouse, the Harp, and the Burn-Clock. There are tales collected by Grimm, and Greek myths. There are also a number of stories which will be new to the reader.

The country of origin of each story is identified, there is a one or two line intro to each story, and bibliographic information is given for those stories which were taken from other collections. Once again, I wish there was source information for those stories which are retold by the author.

A one page list of suggested activities follows each of the six sections of the book. These are not detailed instructions, but rather general ideas which can lead teacher and student further. A list of activities will typically include suggestions to experiment in some way with the sounds of the instruments in that section ("Experiment with vibration, sound, and pitch using a variety of materials"); some sort of charting/ comparing activity ("Conduct a survey to find out what music inspires people..."); a listening activity ("Find recordings of expressive string music, such as Beethoven's Romances for violin..."); writing (Rewrite one of the stories for a choral reading presentation); and an art or craft activity (Experiment with various materials for flute making...).

This is a delightful collection, and I feel selfish in wishing that it had gone just a bit further. A bibliography of other stories or books such as The Singing-Stories from Around the World(A&C Black, 1992), and Patakin: World Tales of Drums and Drumming ms an ~ I2n!mJJ;1jng (Henry Holt and Co., 1994) would have been much appreciated. Musical notation would have been helpful in the case of The Dancing Sheriff for those who don't know the words and music to "Garry Owen" and "Old Chalmouny Fair". The absence of these does not take away from the quality of the collection, but their presence would have made the collection even more useful for teachers.

Second Story Review, Vol 2, No 1 - Mar 1997

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