Books and Recordings

Through The Grapevine: World Tales Kids can Read and Tell

through the grapevine
Table of Contents

2001, August House Publishers. Illustrated by Carol Lyon
1-800-284-8784 or

2001 Storytelling World Honor Award
Bank St. College of Education - Best Children's Books of 2002

Marvin Gaye may have popularized it in song, but stories have been coming down that grapevine for at least 35,000 years. As recently as 100 years ago, the great majority of people living on this earth were learning things the old-fashioned way--by word of mouth.

As in their previous collections of tales designed for kids to read and tell, this storytelling duo has gathered a diverse collection of thirty-one world tales that are fun to read out loud and especially fun to tell. Each story has tips for telling the story without the book, and the authors encourage budding tellers to "take these stories and make them your own. Don't tell them exactly the way we wrote them. Make them jump off the page!"

Twenty-nine story traditions are represented including Tibet ("One Good Trick Deserves Another"), Malaysia ("Ah-Choo!"), Denmark ("Scrambled Eggs"), India ("The King and the Wrestler"), and Eastern Europe ("The Thief Who Aimed to Please"). General tips for telling stories, follow-up activities, and story sources are included.

This latest collection embodies the philosophy of Hamilton and Weiss when it comes to the importance of nurturing the modern-day grapevine: "It's only when stories are passing from one person to another that they really come alive. It's the living story--the one told directly to us by someone else - that grabs our attention and touches our hearts."

Book Reviews: Through the Grapevine

"Kids telling stories? Three words: Hamilton and Weiss. Nobody does a better collection of stories for kids to read and tell. So a new volume from these authors is a cause for celebration. If you want the ancient, authentic texts, complete with archaic vocabulary, difficult phrasing, and the kind of musty atmosphere that demands more footnotes than story, you'll need to look somewhere else. But if what you have been searching for is a compilation of easy-to-read, easy-to-tell, kid-friendly, culturally diverse stories, this is it. If you're doing a unit on storytelling, forming a kids storytelling club or troupe, or simply addressing the multitude of framework standards calling for oral language, retelling, and public speaking, you simply can't go wrong with Through the Grapevine. Each story (and there are thirty-one) has a complete text in language that reads like people talk, one or two pronunciation aids (useful when a student-teller introduces the story to an audience), a few sentences about the source of the story (which---cleverly---often mention another related story, giving ample opportunity for further exploration), and some tips for telling. The tips for telling are especially welcome. The authors suggest gestures, inflections, character voices and development, even pauses and facial expressions. This is done in a few, non-technical sentences and assures that student-tellers will give an expressive, animated performance. Success is virtually guaranteed."

-The Story Bag: A National Storytelling Newsletter

"Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss published their first book, Children Tell Stories, in 1990. It remains, to this day, the bible for classroom teachers who plan storytelling units. That book was followed by three collections of stories, each aimed at young people and each accompanied by directions/tips on how to tell stories. In this new collection they have really hit their stride. Here, as in the other collections, Hamilton and Weiss have selected tales that will appeal to children and have retold them to make them accessible to young tellers. The stories are illustrated and are presented in typeface large enough to invite children to pick the book up and read it. Each story is followed by notes and a brief section of tips for telling. The authors are careful to say that these tips are only suggestions and they encourage the student tellers to make the stories their own. 'Tell them...anywhere you get the chance. Don't tell them exactly the way we wrote them. Make them jump off the page! Put your own unique mark on the stories; it's only when these stories are passing from one person to another that they really come alive.'

In addition to the story-specific tips, there is a whole chapter devoted to choosing, learning, and telling stories. Another chapter offers follow-up activities for children who want to make up their own tales. These are ideas which could also be used by teachers in the classroom. Teachers will, as well, appreciate the world map which is marked to indicate where the various stories in the collection come from. The book's introduction discusses very simply the theories regarding origin and movement of folktales throughout the world, and looks at how, from oral to written to electronic transmission of stories, the grapevine keeps stories moving and changing. Adults who use the book for themselves will find the simple retellings good springboards to the development of their own retellings, and they will be aided in their leap by the multiple sources that are provided for each story. A three page bibliography of story collections is thoughtfully marked to indicate which collections are particularly child friendly.

Some of the stories in the book are already favorites passed on by children themselves, while others are destined to be new favorites. Whether the reader meets old friends in the pages or makes new ones, he will find a good solid collection and the inspiration to make the stories jump off the page."

-The Appleseed Quarterly

"Through The Grapevine is a recommended pick for families as well as small groups. Storytellers Hamilton and Weiss provide over thirty world tales geared to reading aloud-by kids. Kids are encouraged to add drama and personality to the stories, which represent over twenty countries and traditions around the world. An excellent guide for budding young drama students.

-The Children's Bookwatch