Storytellers have always enriched our world by firing the imagination, by sharing wisdom, by building a sense of community, and by opening our hearts so we can empathize with others and see their perspective. The British storyteller Hugh Lupton has devoted his life to this powerful but often-neglected teaching tool. I’ve used many of Lupton’s stories over the years, especially with upper-elementary students. His recommended audience, however, actually ranges from ages 5 to adult. Thanks to Barefoot Books, you can hear his supple, expressive voice on CDs. Of course, you might prefer to read aloud his wonderful stories yourself. Here’s a sampling of Hugh Lupton’s enchanting work.
Tales of Wisdom & Wonder. Illus. by Niamh Sharkey. Barefoot. Ages 8-12. In what ways might a blind man possess uncommon wisdom? Why is it wise to listen to your dreams? Such intriguing themes run through this collection of folktales from many cultures, accompanied by a CD with Lupton’s impeccable recordings. Included: “Monkey and Papa God,” from Haiti; “The Curing Fox,” from the Cree Nation; “The Peddler of Swaffham,” from England; “The White Rat” from France, “The Blind Man and the Hunter” from West Africa, “Fish in the Forest” from Russia, and “The Shepherd’s Dream” from Ireland.
The Story Tree: Tales to Read Aloud. Ages 4 to 8. Another great paperback/CD combo, these seven tales from seven cultures should be part of every child’s literary heritage. Lupton includes his versions of “The Magic Porridge Pot” from Germany, “Monkey-See, Monkey-Do” from India, “The Sweetest Song,” African-American, “Little Lord Feather-Frock” from Russia, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” from Norway, “The Little Red Hen” from England, and “The Blue Coat,” a Jewish tale. You can hear his version of “The Magic Porridge Pot,” one of my favorites when I was quite young, at the Barefoot Books podcast page.
The Adventures of Odysseus. For upper-elementary and middle-school listeners, this crackling version of Homer’s travails is unsurpassed. Boys especially love the perilous adventures filled with bizarre and frightening challenges and with wild creatures that haunt the imagination. You can hear Lupton on the CD or DVD — or gather the family (or class) for an unforgettable read-aloud adventure.
Tales of Mystery and Magic. Illustrated by Agnese Baruzz. Barefoot Books. Ages 8-12. Strange elves and living bones inhabit this fascinating collection of folktales from Chilean, Scottish, South Asian, Inuit, Russian, Seneca, and West African sources. Their power is enhanced by Baruzzi’s gorgeous artwork, which evokes the culture from which each story springs.
An aside: Hugh Lupton’s great-uncle was Arthur Ransome, renowned illustrator and author of such classics as Swallows and Amazons. The first in a series, his beloved novel follows the adventures of four children who are allowed to sail in their boat, Swallow, to a deserted island to camp out for the summer.
Hugh Lupton, Storyteller.