Bedtime Stories from Around the World

Bedtime Stories from Around the World told by Margaret Read MacDonald.
(audiocassette) Little Rock, AR: August House, 1997. ISBN 0-87483-511-9 62 mins. $12.00.

Margaret Read MacDonald is a storyteller, folklorist, children's librarian and prolific producer of storytelling books. Because I have been familiar with her work for so many years, I was curious to finally hear her voice. I like it; it has a nice quality. This tape, as the title states, is a collection of bedtime tales. Each side starts with a lively tale and then progresses through quieter stories. The tales come from the British Isles, Siberia, Japan, Liberia and Chile and Argentina.

Music is provided throughout by Richard Scholtz on dulcimer and autoharp. There are some problems with this tape, many of which should have been: caught in the recording studio. In the first story, the music almost overpowers the teller. In other stories it is better, but I feel there is too much music. It is constantly in the background throughout the stories. A more judicious use of it would have made it more effective and would not have distracted from the stories. I wanted the teller's voice to carry the stories with the music present only for punctuation, shading, and cleansing the palate in between stories. The last cut on side one - for instance, is just music and it is a lovely calming finish to that side.

More careful work in the studio would also have eliminated the tape's slightly hollow sound. MacDonald's voice, as I stated earlier, has a very pleasant quality. Her pacing was good and she had some nice moments in some of the stories where her expression was natural and delightful. Often, however, her expressiveness was of such a range and inflection that it seemed artificial. A good director for the tape would have caught that and toned it down. Once the teller relaxed into the stories the listeners could relax as well and the overall effect would have been a more calming one for bedtime.

One last concern is regarding the end of side two. MacDonald had just finished lulling the listener with the soothing British tale Counting Sheep. Instead of just ending there, she came back to give bibliographic informationl about the books from which the stories come and to acknowledge Richard Scholtz's music. An inappropriate end to the tape.

On the plus side; it is a charming selection of stories which young children will take to heart.

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

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