Margaret Read MacDonald,
Shake-It-Up Tales!
Stories to Sing, Dance,
Drum & Act Out

(August House, 2000)

Margaret Read MacDonald's books have been a godsend to librarians, teachers, camp counselors, parents and storytellers, fledgling and experienced, and Shake-It-Up Tales! is no exception. A children's librarian and dynamic storyteller, MacDonald excels in selection, presentation and documentation, to the point where there is simply no excuse not to incorporate stories into one's regular interactions with children.

The focus of this title is telling stories that involve some kind of audience participation, from chanting, singing and even drumming to story theater. The twenty tales from around the world are divided into three main sections: Chanting, Singing, Dancing, Drumming; Talk-back Tales; and Dramatic Play. Each section in turn is divided into sub-categories such as Singing Tales, Riddle Stories and Actors-From-the-Audience, and MacDonald assigns two tales to each sub-category.

MacDonald begins each sub-category with an introduction to the kinds of stories and techniques in the section, a list of tales that lend themselves well to those techniques and often, collections for further research. The text of the stories is presented in "ethnopoetic transcription," which means that the lines are arranged in a way that suggests natural speech, pauses and breaks. Each tale is followed by "Tips for Telling" as well as some information about the story itself. MacDonald does nearly everything except tell the story for you, and her bright and encouraging style inspires confidence in even the most timid of tellers.

A lucidly and cogently written introduction gives the reader basic overall tips on learning and telling stories, stressing simplicity as one of the most effective storytelling tools. MacDonald also emphasizes over and over that nothing is cast in stone, and often, a single tale may be incorporated into a variety of telling styles. She also encourages tellers to make the stories their own instead of telling by memorizing her versions verbatim and refusing to deviate from the printed text.

Any one of the tales is suitable for telling without audience participation, and indeed there are occasions when such participation is not appropriate. But judiciously chosen and well-presented audience participation stories can stimulate and enhance a child's sense of play, or even that of an adult. MacDonald has done most of the work for you; all that remains for you is to pick up the book, choose a tale and start telling. Who knows what you'll shake up?

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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