The Sto­ry Tree: Tales to Read Aloud

Retold by Hugh Lup­ton; Sophie Fatus, illus.
  • Review
By – February 13, 2012
The Sto­ry Tree: Tales to Read Aloud is a large for­mat book con­tain­ing sev­en known folk­tales from world folk­lore, includ­ing Mon­key-See, Mon­key-Do” (Indi­an), which is a ver­sion of the famous Caps for Sale, The Mag­ic Por­ridge Pot” (Ger­man), from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and The Three Bil­ly Goats Gruff” (Nor­we­gian). The book includes one Jew­ish sto­ry, The Blue Coat,” which is the very pop­u­lar sto­ry often titled Joseph Had a Lit­tle Over­coat” as in Simms Taback’s Calde­cott Medal win­ning book. How­ev­er, in Hugh Lupton’s ver­sion, there is no indi­ca­tion that it is from a Jew­ish” source, not even in the source notes — only that he had heard the sto­ry either from an Eng­lish or a Scot­tish sto­ry­teller and saw it in print in Parabo­la mag­a­zine, (but with­out stat­ing which issue or ver­sion). Actu­al­ly, this sto­ry comes from a Yid­dish folk­song called I had a lit­tle coat.” In 1978, sto­ry­teller Nan­cy Schim­mel made the song into a sto­ry (“The Tai­lor”) and pub­lished it in her book Just Enough to Make a Sto­ry: A Source­book for Sto­ry­telling (Sis­ters’ Choice Press). If one did not know the ori­gin of this sto­ry, there is noth­ing iden­ti­fi­able as cul­tur­al mark­ers to indi­cate that this is a Jew­ish folk­tale. The boy’s name is Tom, a rather non­de­script choice. As the coat gets cut down to a waist­coat (yes, a waist­coat), and then to a hat, then to a bow-tie, then to a but­ton, and final­ly to a sto­ry, the moth­er repeats, Oh dear, oh dear, that coat [or oth­er item] is tat­tered and torn beyond all redemp­tion!” Now, redemp­tion is a Jew­ish con­cept, but I won­der how many par­ents will be able to explain clear­ly what that means in the con­text of this sto­ry. Why weren’t more Amer­i­can words used in place of waist­coat’ and redemp­tion’? There are, how­ev­er, some repet­i­tive sec­tions of the sto­ry that make it a delight­ful par­tic­i­pa­to­ry expe­ri­ence for the read­er and lis­ten­er to say out loud togeth­er. The car­toon­ish illus­tra­tions are delight­ful­ly spaced all over the pages with a lot of col­or and humor. How­ev­er, there’s a scene with snow and a palm tree, which don’t seem to go togeth­er. Ages 5 – 10.
Penin­nah Schram, well-known sto­ry­teller & author, is Pro­fes­sor of Speech and Dra­ma at Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty’s Stern Col­lege. Her lat­est book is an illus­trat­ed anthol­o­gy, The Hun­gry Clothes and Oth­er Jew­ish Folk­tales (Ster­ling Pub­lish­ing) and a CD, The Min­strel & the Sto­ry­teller, with singer/​guitarist Ger­ard Edery (Sefarad Records). She is a recip­i­ent of a Covenant Award for Out­stand­ing Jew­ish Edu­ca­tor and the 2003 Nation­al Sto­ry­telling Net­work’s Life­time Achieve­ment Award.

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