By Andrea McGuire
Friday’s storytelling session at the A.C. Hunter library was jam packed, with “just a little squeeze space left,” as host Catherine Wright pointed out. There were a slew of kids seated on the floor at the front, while parents, storytellers, and other intrepid adults hung towards the back.
Why had we come here? Anne Glover, who tells stories incorporating nimbly looped string figures (think Cat’s Cradle), had come to tell her stories for kids. Many of the kids and grownups here had already seen Anne this week—some through Anne’s school performances, some at her workshop, and some at Tuesday night’s Story Circle—and everyone seemed excited and ready for more.
But first, we were treated to stories by two young storytellers: Benjamin Wright, age 11, and Julianne Taylor, who is a Grade 6 student at St. Mary’s Elementary. Benjamin told a story he made up himself, called “Tom and the Talking Fish.” His mom, who was also the host, said the story was “inspired by Benjamin’s love of nature,” which was easy to perceive. Benjamin’s tale was set in a pond by the forest, and his cast of characters included water sprites, a talking fish, and pixies with magical powers.
Julianne followed this with her telling of “Snow White and Rose Red,” a Grimms fairy tale about Snow White and her redheaded sister (but technically not that Snow White: see https://www.bustle.com/articles/151361-who-is-rose-red-snow-whites-lesser-known-sister-is-getting-a-disney-movie). The pair make friends with a bear, but run into some trouble with a malevolent dwarf. When Julianne voiced the dwarf’s complaints (crying out “Me beard, me beard! You cut off me beard!”), everyone started to giggle.
Anne Glover then took the floor, beginning with the tale of a baby rabbit who’s often left home alone. Throughout, Anne showed us her string figures—a turtle in the baby rabbit’s picture book, a fox running along a path—which always yielded much oohing and aahing. But Anne’s stories for kids are also full of gestures, some coming from sign language, which sparks mid-story guessing games. At one point, she slowly swayed an upright arm in the palm of her hand. This meant “forest,” and everyone mostly got it.
The kids were invited to jump like baby rabbits, make the sound of a key sliding under a stone, and name the baby rabbit’s uncle. Everyone was deeply invested in the twists and turns of the story’s plot. When the tale’s villain, the fox, disguised himself as the baby rabbit’s best friend, no one was fooled, and many kids cried out to the rabbit: “No! No! It’s a fox!”
The story ended happily, as Anne assured us it would. She then told a zoomed-in, oversized string story with a big yellow rope, where five kids played the part of five fingers on a hand. The story was about a monster with no friends, who wanted to catch them using his magic web (or big yellow rope). Every kid eventually wriggled free, thanks to two helpers enlisted for the great un-looping. One exclaimed the moral, saying, “You don’t make friends by catching them! You make friends by knowing each other!”
Anne then invited five kids up to show some easy string shapes that kids could make. Together, they made string puddles, string teeter-totters, string tear drops, string platefuls of spaghetti, and gigantic giddy string grins. She closed by teaching everyone a string trick, “like a magic trick,” letting us in on a secret while likewise dazzling us all.
Any french-speakers with children aged 2 – 4 are invited to a string stories workshop / performance with Anne Glover at the Centre des Grand Vents, 65 Ridge Road on Wednesday, October 17th at 11 am!