Stories in Picture Books to Lift up for Storytelling

In addition to finding inspiration for telling from your life experience, a family story, Aesop's fables, your Holy Book, mythology, folktale, or fairytale, stories for you may be hidden in the fabulous body of picture books, just waiting for you to discover. Picture books may have the look and feel of a children’s book but be prepared for a surprise. Good picture books are more likely to be intergenerational. There is a rich array of tales with an ancestry shaped in an oral tradition of different cultures and given rebirth by contemporary gifted authors and artists. Others are new stories that leap of the page as ideal to shape for the ear. One can imagine that storytellers of old would have loved to tell them. Select those with action and peopled by characters that are 'real’ and those that appeal to you. 

With all stories always be honest and open about the source of your story and tell the audience. E.g., Show the picture book.

To prepare and shape a picture book for telling takes careful thought, feeling, and imagination. You want the story to seep into your soul and become a part of you. You have to shape it for telling, distinctive from the printed word. Here are some strategies:

  • Read the story three or four times, not to memorize it but to learn the key elements of the story.
  • Carefully study the illustrations. The artists in these picture books illuminate and enhance the text giving details you may want to include in the telling. Together with the text, they help conjure images in your mind. 
  • Read multiple versions of the same story to enrich your understanding.
  • Close the books. Start building the story in your head. Shape it for the ear. Make it yours.
    • Live the story. Deliberately enter its world and experience the action. Dramatize the story in the theatre of your mind. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What are the tones of the conversations? What are the feelings displayed? What's the energy that is dictated by the story?
  • Do background research as necessary, (e.g., historical, geographic, social realities of the time and place).
  • Meet the characters. Flesh them out. Deliberately strive to feel their emotions, (e.g., fear, awe, surprise, excitement, sadness, anger). Ask them questions and imagine answers. Get into the role. Stand in front of the mirror and display their emotions. Talk to yourself about them. 
  • Read between the lines. Imagine the actions that led up the story, and follow the story. What happened behind the scenes? Ask lots of 'I wonder' questions,(e.g., I wonder why ...? I wonder how it feels to...? I wonder what would happen if ...?).

          Build your story from beginning to end aloud. Live with the story in your head and heart.