New and coming up!

What's new and happening!

I have had a busy summer with work and a healing eye, and the fall seems as equally busy, for which I am very happy. I even got to play and perform with Karen Pillsworth and Odds Bodkin and one of my favourite places - CAMP!

I have been working on new stories since last fall and been polishing them over the summer in preparation for a couple of big gigs and a new CD. There are many stories I know which I don't want to record, as they seem better suited to a live performance and feel that something would be lost in recording them.

The new CD will be a family recording similar to my first two albums, Second-hand Tales and the originally titled More Second-hand Tales. So do I name this new one Even More Second-hand Tales? Used Tales? Passed on Stories? Number Five? (Or six counting Gilgamesh!) Jack John, if you have heard it, will be one of the stories on the album.

In September, next week, I am heading to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Provo, Utah. In October I am returning to the National Storytelling Festival to perform again in Jonesborough, Tennessee. In January, I am off to the Florida Storytelling Festival (great timing for those of us who live in the NE) which is in Mount Dora, Florida. I wonder if I will see Dora or Diago?

So in between all this, I will be working on hte track listing, talking to Rob Brookes about the cover illustrations. You know Rob's work, as it is on all but one of my CDs (Gilgamesh) and on and in my book, Under the Oaken Bough, published by Parkhurst Brothers.

If there are stories you would love to see on the forthcoming album, let me know!

I hope your year has been wonderful so far, and your summer somewhat relaxing, and the rest of the year works out splendidly!

Don't be afraid to reach out!

(Told you your post was inspiring, Marek!)

Peace,

Simon

ANNAN AND THE FOREST

ANNAN AND THE FOREST

An original story by Simon Brooks, storyteller, copyright 2019
One day a boy found a forest.  It was a small wood filled with many trees.  Some had leaves or needles all year round while others went naked into the winter.  Some were tall, reaching high into the sky and some trees were not so tall.  Some trees were wide and some were narrow.  Some were smooth and others had wrinkly or peeling trunks.  There were as many different trees as there are people, or so it seemed to the boy.  All the trees had their own names and the trees gave the boy a name, too.  The trees named the boy Annan.

Jonesborough, 2018 - National Storytelling Feestival

(This should take no more than ten minutes to read.)

This was my first time to visit the National Storytelling Festival, and my first visit to Jonesborough, TN. Leading up to the event, I was nervous as I was going to perform as part of the Exchange Place. This is where six storytellers got a twelve minute slot to tell a tale in front of a lot of people. The tent (one of five at the festival) holds 1,200 bodies. It’s been a while since I have been performing before so many people. The last time was back in my twenties when I was sat behind a drum kit!

After the meal held for everyone involved in the festival, from performers to volunteers, sound crew to organizers (thanks for making us first timers all so welcome and included) on Thursday night, it was off for a sound check. I had climbed on the stage and looked over the seats when I first arrived, but at the sound check reality sank in. Geraldine Buckley (our MC) was there to help us through the process and to give us tips, and helped us understand that everyone there from top performers to the audience all wanted us to succeed. Everyone kept telling us - “Just don’t suck! And have fun up there.” The sound guys did a great job.

The bonus of performing here at Jonesborough is that you get to see and hear people you might not normally get to see - like Donald Davis and Bil Lepp, Diane Ferlattet and Tim Lowry who rarely make to my neck of the woods. And there are people you might not think to go and see, which for me was cowboy singer and spoken word artist Andy Hedges, and be blown away by their talent. The list of performers at the festival is top notch and I wanted to see as many as I could.

It was suggested that I pick a tent and let the tellers come to me, rather than bounce around. That nearly happened! On Friday I saw Jennifer Monro and Donald Davis share the stage. Amazing. Everyone knows Donald is one of the best tellers of personal stories there is, and Jennifer Monro is every bit as good. Her story on parenting and pets was delivered in that wonderful dry British way she has and her choice of words, and delivery cannot be beaten! I then headed over to see Bil Lepp and Andy Hedges. Andy, the cowboy spoken word artist, singer of ballads and obscure ‘country’ songs and blues knocked my socks off. As did Bil Lepp. Again I moved tent to see my great friend Megan Hicks, and Donald Davis. I had to see Donald again! Megan was superb, of course. Witty, powerful and fun. Elizabeth Ellis, the MC for this performance, said of Megan - “…if you looked up the word ‘joy’ in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Megan so you would know it when you saw it.” I agree.

At this point I had lunch and got talking to other tellers and their partners or plus-one! I was going to head out to see Tim Lowry and Alton Chung and have to say I was so interested in the conversations going on over lunch I lost track of time and missed them. I then headed off to get ready for The Exchange Place.

I needed a shower as the weather was in the mid to upper 80’s and humid. I was also about to don my three piece suit and Converse low-tops. College Tent, when I got there, was filling up. Other storytellers were in the audience, along with a thousand other people. I saw friends, and people I know. Folks I have respect for, people I have not seen in ages. This was quite a crowd. Myself and the other tellers took another go at the stage to take it in, I stood beneath and looked over the faces before getting seated. Geraldine took the stage and began. First up was Willa Brigham, a sassy, take-charge teller filled with wit and full-on stage presence. She told a story about her passion of hats. This may not sound interesting, but it was so funny and lively she had the audience in her hand. Next up was my friend and colleague Rachel Ann Harding. She and I were telling folk tales and Rachel Ann told the most wonderful version of the Corpse Bride I have heard. Creepy in places, funny in spots and filled with compassion. Brilliant job. Nestor Gomez followed Rachel Ann with an impassioned performance about his coming to America as an undocumented child and becoming a citizen. I think it was one of the most powerfully told stories I saw over the weekend. This did not mean Jessica Piscitellli Robinson could not follow Nestor with her story. Oh no. Her personal narrative about overcoming fear and crappy boyfriends hit it out of the park too. Her story hit home. I followed with one of my favourite stories - The Song Unsung, Story Untold. I had had doubts about telling this story. It is a low-key story, a quiet story. Would this work at this event, especially fit between two personal stories? I had had a long conversation with another friend and colleague Sheila Arnold, a fabulous storyteller on the way down. With all the nerves I was having doubts and was thinking of switching stories. Sheila’s words were magic and I am glad I did not change plans. The story went down really well. Following me was the extremely funny and talented Paul Strickland. He tells wonderful tall tales, and is a natural liar - so it seems. He tells those tales that folks who love Bil Lepp enjoy and I loved his piece. Standing on the stage with all these folks was incredible and an honour. Especially when we got a standing ovation and could see the tent was filled to capacity. What a night. And it wasn’t over.

After changing clothes I rushed down to listen to Joseph Bruchac, Elizabeth Ellis, Bobby Norfolk, Anne Rutherford and Shelia Arnold tell ghost stories. What a cast, and what stories. Some were so creepy chills went up my spine, others made the audience jump, but Sheila Arnold’s closer was my favourite. She told an historical ghost story of enslaved people escaping a cruel master and the way things sometimes happen in a swamp. I get the shudders just writing about it.

A few folks met back at the hotel and hung out. More great conversations well into the night. I got to meet Bil Lepp’s kids and they have turned out alright! Megan Hicks and Donald Davis’ grown children were there and it was great to meet and chat with them and others who were there. Late night, early start on Sunday.

The tale I was thinking of telling instead of The Song and Story got told at the Swapping Ground where I heard three other funny tales before heading off to see Megan again. Her story Transformations about her mother was impassioned and beautiful. I stayed in the same tent to see Sheila Arnold present Locks Opened: Waterway Stories of the Underground Railroad. This was another impassioned story, and imbued with humour. I love these two women. They are so good at what they do. I caught a second helping of Andy Hedges, and then saw a remarkable set of stories told by Egyptian princess Chirine El Ansary. She grew up in France, so I had an odd idea of what an Egyptian accent was until I spoke with her afterwards! She is another incredible teller and told stories from A Thousand and One Nights, story within story, within story. It was great. Again a late lunch and lost time again hanging out with other tellers. It was beautiful. That evening I got my third helping of Megan, second helping of Chirine, and got to see Tim Lowry and John McCutcheon for the first time. This olio entitled Waging Peace was another great set of tales, and ended on another impassioned performance, this time by John. Wow. What a night.

Because I came with my wife and daughter (the latter has totally fallen for Bil Lepp) we left early Sunday morning. We headed to Asheville and explored there for a while before heading to Charlotte. Our trip to-and-from Jonesborough found some good eating places. One on the way there was a great little spot in Hickory, NC: a cafe/bar filled with great art, and fabulous food - a great mix for meat-eaters and vegetarians - Crescent Cafe - look them up. And in Asheville we found this great little ice-cream shop called the Golden Cow, all homemade. To say I am full of stories is an understatement. To say I met some wonderful people and had a great time would also be an understatement.

If you have thought about this festival but have not gone, make the effort. It is an incredible event, and the food vendors have a very wide range of very good food for many dietary needs and food choices. It’s not just hot-dogs, but from good Mexican food to tasty Indian meals.

Thank you to Krystal, Susan, Kiran, the sound guys, food peeps, and volunteers of the festival. Thanks to all those wonderful shop-owners we met in Jonesborough and all the other people we chatted with and met. Thank you Jonesboro, TN. I hope to see you again soon.

The Old Man in the Woods - a short story

The forest was unusually quiet this morning walking with my black dog, Moe. Just the sound of a slight wind in the trees, the cries of birds, and the patter of Moe’s paws on the forest floor running here and there sniffing, and rushing after small animals. Those squirrels always seem faster than Moe and get the better of her. Off in the distance we heard the church bells toll eight of the clock. We were a little later than normal when we set out. A mist was rising in places, from last night’s rain. Cool, the humidity began to bead on my glasses. I stepped over piles of leaf litter and cones washed throughout the path in piles. Looking at the streams, they seemed excited, dancing over the rocks.

Coming between a couple of large boulders supporting tall, waving trees whose roots gripped like fingers to the rock, we saw an old man. The smoke from his small pipe drifted lazily upward as he sat on a rock. I noticed his clothing was somewhat unusual. The path led us to the man; as we approached, Moe a little wary but tail wagging, he looked up and smiled.

After a friendly greeting we began to talk.

“My wife will be along soon,” he said. “She's a wonderful woman. She loves dogs. She'll like this one.” The man scratched Moe's ear as she got closer to gingerly sniff his trousers. “Is she a mutt?”

I told him what I believed was Moe’s varied ancestry. We discussed that the day was quite beautiful despite the mist, maybe because of it and how this was such a nice place to wander. I asked how he had met his wife.

“She saved me, she did.”

I asked him, how?

“From a dragon,” he said and took a puff on his pipe, the smoke once more gently rising towards the branches drooping above us.

I wasn't sure what to say, so I sat down on a fallen tree and listened.

“We lived in a small cottage in a small town where we told stories to small children. Sometimes when it rained in the summer, we would come here and we'd dance beneath the showering clouds and dripping trees. Too old for that now, I think.”

I smiled.

“We grew together,” he said. “Aged together, and joked about each other farting. Her’s were sweeter than mine, and she always let me know! We always held hands, except when we were cooking together, or reading. Sometimes we'd write poems to each other and hide them so we'd find them later. It was more than once when I hid mine too well and would have to unhide them.”

I couldn't help but laugh at this. I turned about to see between the branches. There was still no sign of the man’s wife.I wondered at what type of person she was. They were obviously happy together. Geese flew overhead, and I looked up. Their cries filled the air. Moe jumped about, then spotting a squirrel chased after it.

“Lively one, that dog of yours.”

“She is that. Her name's Moe.”

“What, for Maureen?”

“No, just Moe. M O E.”

“She likes the woods, eh?”

I nodded. “She does.” There was still no sign of his wife. “Moe loves most places I take her,” I told the man.

He looked over his shoulder, then turning back opened a pocket watch that appeared in his hand. Gazing at the watch face, he shrugged. The watch looked old but well kept, the kind I wouldn’t mind owning one day. He lifted his face and spoke. “We loved going to town market. It always seemed an adventure. The market sellers was always smiling at us. It was as if we were rich and they wanted us to spend all our money on them. But they knew we weren't. We had fun tasting the wares, though, especially if they had chocolates. It was rare they ‘ad chocolates, though. If the old bookseller was at the market, we would sit and read bits of books and stories to each other, buying our favourite to read at home together later.

“My favourite was when one of townspeople would visit and play the fiddle for us. I was getting on then.  We would slowly dance in each other's arms, eventually collapsing on the sofa and we'd fall asleep still wrapped in an embrace.” The man smiled and gazed off, as if remembering something from a long time ago.

“One o’ me friends said our kisses could light the skies, that fireflies glowed more brightly when me and the missus kissed, the crickets would chirp louder, and birds sing more sweetly! At least that's what he said.”

The old man looked about again. He sighed. “Seems she’s not coming today. Maybe tomorrow.” He sat gently tapping his pipe on the rock, watching the tobacco fall to the forest floor. Lifting a foot, he stamped the tobacco out in the damp earth. “Oh well. I hope I didn’t bore ya. I don’t get to meet too many folks who notice me out here in the woods. Folk are funny these days it seems. Won’t even look ya in the eye.”

“You didn’t bother me at all. It’s nice to meet you. A pleasure. I should get on though. Work and all that.” I turned and called for Moe, who came bounding towards me and leaped up on the rock the old man and been sitting on. The old man had vanished. I stared at Moe.

It was then I realized that the man had only talked in the past tense. I looked at where the burned tobacco had fallen, and sniffed the air, but could see no sign of it nor smell the tobacco. It occurred to me that he had never told me his name, nor how his wife had rescued him from the dragon.

© Simon Brooks, 27th September, 2018

Unintentional Magic

Originally posted July 12, 2018

There is much talk about what we do in the work of ‘healing’ as storytellers. I think we can help people. But unless we are also trained therapists or psychologists, not simply storytellers, we need to be very careful in the realm of things like "stories for addiction" or "stories for veterans."  If we are not trained or qualified, and are not a vet or addict (for example), really we have no idea what could be the 'right' story. In fact we might even think a story that would be ‘good for a veteran event’ turns out to be triggering instead. We need to remind ourselves that we are storytellers, entertainers. We need to know why we are telling a story and if we have the right to tell it. The motives need to be authentic. This is an art and craft.

I do believe in gut instinct and if a story cries out to be told (not from ego, but from that place within - the story as the petulant child – me, me, me), or the story you planned on telling does not seem right anymore, then to listen to that voice, that inner (or outer) guide.

Although stories can help (unless we are trained, as I said) we are not therapists. We are entertainers, as I see it. The fact that our craft can lighten the load, can help people see through an issue they might be having is secondary. I love being told, as I am sure everyone who tells tales does, that a teacher has never seen this or that child laugh before. And at the same time that is really saddening. It makes my day when someone comes up after a performance and says: "that story really helped me...” But it was not me, it was the story, and when this happens, it was not because I had a plan, other than – I think this would be a great story today. No other motive, just a great story to tell.

I know we suggest tales to one another. It's what we do. As a colleague said, we should be doing due diligence and asking if there are any 'off topics' which could be triggering, and leaving those stories at home. I believe we should not be finding which are the right tales to tell. If we do our due diligence, make sure we leave out stories which could trigger and tell stories we love, then maybe we will heal someone along the way. And that is what is wonderful about what we do: we can create unintentional magic.

Public Speaking - from a storytellers PoV

Originally posted June 18, 2018

Public Speaking in Seven Steps (well, maybe eight) – Seen from a storytellers perspective

Public speaking is just like storytelling. When I talk about storytelling, I mean the traditional kind – telling the ancient stories, word of mouth. Not filmmakers, not playwrights, not poets or novelists, not script writers or directors, but oral storytellers. Storytellers, raconteurs, a maître conte, cuentista, conteur or griot will all stand before an audience and without a script, piece of paper, or screen of some kind, will tell stories. View public speaking as a skill you probably not only have, but one you can hone. And public speaking should not be seen as an exercise in humiliation. It is an opportunity to show off your best work or skills, and you know it better than anyone else – or else, why would you be asked to do this?

1.    With any presentation, tell a story in the most direct way. This does not mean read bullet points. It means leaving out what’s boring or irrelevant, but retaining what is essential to the story, builds a necessary picture, or is entertaining. Make sure the sequence of what you are talking about is understandable!

2.    People want to be entertained. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about a new product, tips on selling, discussing a project, presenting your homework, sharing how people have been healed, or how to act. Entertain. I am not talking about writing a comedy skit. Simply inject a bit of humor. It will add a human touch. Find things to include in a presentation that is personal, and relevant - something that the audience can identify with. If it is a product, then make fun of something that happens to older versions or problems it or similar products have had in the past. If you are talking about acting, make fun of gaffs you have made, or reactions from audience members. Your audience should know about these sorts of things, and can usually identify with them. This creates empathy and a rapport with the audience.

3.    Practice. Make notes, read them out loud, and listen to how it sounds. If you can record yourself, do so. Listen to how you sound. Are you getting your point across? Are you going to confuse the audience? What can you do (add, remove) to your presentation which will make it clearer, more concise and understandable? Is it all relevant to what you want to achieve?

4.    Practice more. Get rid of your notes. Once you have read through your notes or script a few times, you will know what to say. Practice in front of someone who knows nothing about what you are about to present. Ask them if there were parts which were unclear or confusing. Fix that. Unless you are an actor or have total recall, you will not remember every word, every line. So create bullet points of your presentation and work from those. Then lose the written word all together. I believe if you miss something out it will not be hugely important. And if it is, it will come back to you. Add it to your presentation as soon as you can.

5.    Embrace your case of nerves. It means you are truly alive, that you are at your most alive! The feelings you get, butterflies (or alligators), pounding heart, shaking, this is your body telling you you are ready. It is that feeling warriors get before battle. You might not be going into battle, but your body is quite possibly feeling the same thing. You have practiced, rehearsed, trained (or at least prepared yourself properly) for this moment.

6.    Speak slowly when you present. Really slowly. Tortoise slow. If you think you are speaking too slowly, you are most likely speaking at an intelligible speed. If you think you are speaking at a ‘normal’ speed, you are probably speaking way too fast for the audience. If you find yourself galloping, stop. Your breathing will clue you into this. Stop. Take a deep breath. Smile and look around but think of what you are talking about – stay focused. Then continue. Believe me - there are times when I get into what I am talking about, I get excited and start to speak too quickly. So I stop. I take a deep breath. I might say: “Let me repeat that.” Or “As I was saying.” If someone happened to miss what I had said, I am providing it again.

7.    If you do miss something out, as mentioned above, you will not be the first to do so. Every public speaker has missed a bit, or forgotten part of their presentation at some point. If someone says they have never done this, don’t believe them. Add the missing part when you can. Don’t say something like: “Oh, I forgot this bit!” Simiply add the missing part. If you have practiced enough, you will know what to say to create a segue which will sound okay, if not great. And most people will not notice. I missed a huge section of a story out once, and when I realized this, I thought quickly (still telling the story) about where the best place to add it would be. No one realized. And I am not the only person to have done this.

There are things to avoid.

Don’t read bullet points. If you are using slides don’t read them, but add to what is already on the screen. Make it interesting, raise a relevant point, inject a bit of humor, or that human touch. This will mean keeping what is written on the screen to a minimum. The audience don’t want to see you can read off a slide you wrote. They want your knowledge and/or experience. If you can use images instead of words on the slide all the better. The words you speak and the image should complement each other and build on what is being talked about. The two together should be stronger, not the same.

Don’t just present you work, show your work, talk about it. If you are showing off artwork, or photos of things you have done, don’t tell people about the image, they can see it. Explain the image, yes, but talk about it, add to it. How did you get there, create the image, why? What had the impact for you as an artist? What inspired it? In this day and age most people can find your work on-line and they do not want a repeat, but they want an insight into the work and you. It is similar with sales. Talk about the product or stats, show images of it. Make it a human experience – connect the product to how people will benefit from it, what it can do that no others can. If it’s your homework, show the class and teacher you learned from the project, or research. Inject humor into it – “Did the Greek gods REALLY do that? And no one complained? (Sounds like some school teachers!)” Maybe leave out the bit about the teachers.

Don’t brag. Don’t pretend you know it all. No one does. We should always be learning. Share your failings. Show you are human, and that mistakes are what make us stronger. If someone in the audience is new to what you do, it can be helpful for them to know even the experts failed when they first began, and still make mistakes – hopefully fewer. Your listeners will have more empathy with you, you become a real person, and therefore are more relatable. This is another place where you can make people be more comfortable by laughing at yourself. Maybe it’s that self-deprecating Englishman in me!

8.    My last piece of advice is this: Have fun. Enjoy what you are doing. The nerves will leave soon after you start, and you will be in the moment. If you are having fun, those with you will be having fun. If you love what you are talking about, this will come across and people will feel that.

© Simon Brooks, 2018

Under the Oaken Bough - the new book

April 29, 2018

It has been in the works for a couple of years, with the writing, getting feedback and rewriting, editing with Jennifer Carson and Laura Spauling and re-writing, working with Rob Brookes on the illustrations, and with Parkhurst Brothers, the publishers! (And re-writing a bit more!) But it is out. And I am thrilled. Thanks Ted for approaching me and asking me to do this.

As I say in the author Q&A, I wrote this book because I feel people do not value, or necessarily enjoy folk and fairy tales the way I do. I wanted to try to change that, by putting together a collection of tales that was fun, and that got people interested in these ancient tales from different cultures.

There are many books out there for young people, teachers, and librarians which contain 'the usual suspects' like Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella et al. I wanted to write a book which contains some old favourites (for comfort) and some stories that are harder to find for the layperson. I wanted the stories to be fun to read either to yourself or better still out loud! I wanted to have sources for readers, whether that a Tips on Telling section (check!), or a list of further reading (check!), or a list of words that some readers might find challenging along with their definitions (check)! And as I mentioned above it has an author Q&A.

There are seventeen folk and fairy tales, which, as Odds Bodkin says, are (I hope): "[w]itty, funny and full of tenderness..." Odds also says: "Brooks’ slightly irreverent, post-modern versions of world tales are marked by his ability to bring his characters to life..." Thank you Odds! All of these tales are stories I tell. Some more than others. Some stories to me are special stories that I take out only so often, and there are others which I love to tell more often. Some are like fine chocolates to be spoiled with, others are like soda or coffee - we need it now!

Yes, I have included Goldilocks in the collection, but I think the title says it all: "The True Story of the Brat Goldilocks." I want people who read this book to understand you don't have to tell a story as it is written on the page, but you can add yourself to the story, you can use your own voice and words to tell a story. With each tale, I have often included the Aarne-Thompson tale type so you can find variations, as well as notes where I first heard or found the story, or what it means to me. I want these insights to encourage the reader to dive into libraries and go to storytelling events to discover more stories and see how they can be told, and maybe find new stories to share with others, using your own unique style and voice.

Trying to write the stories as I tell them was a challenge. Telling a story with a live audience, using their energy as feedback and inspiration is very different to writing something legible! If I transcribed stories I have recorded live, either from my CDs or a live performance, the tales would have not mUnder the Oaken Boughade too much sense, or would have been hard to read. There are things I do in performance which tell the story - body movement, facial expressions, sound effects - which do not translate well to the page. But I think I have thrown my energy into the book, and added the style I tell to the pages, if not the exact words you might have heard. If you read the book and have one or more of my CDs, you might want to do a side by side comparison of stories such as Anansi Gathers Stories, or The Dragon and the Monkey's Heart, or One Wish - all tales on my first two CDs which are in the book. (If you have one of my bootleg CDs there are a few more tales you can compare! - Shh.) You will see what I mean by what works in the telling and what works in the writing.

The book contains seventeen illustrations done by the remarkable Rob Brookes. The book is worth the money for these alone! Rob created a holding page for each of the stories and illustrated the cover. His work is a blessing and wonderful compliment to the book. To be honest, I am not sure I would have published the book without his artwork and design suggestions. Rob is really a partner in this. Thanks Rob.

So if you like telling stories, if you are a librarian or school teacher, if you are a parent, grandparent or young person who kind of sort of wants to read more folk and fairy tales, or you want to try telling them yourself, this might just be the book for you. And you don't have to believe me! Check out what the godfather of storytelling, the fairy godmother of storytelling and a colleague and friend of mine who is a storyteller and story researcher have said about Under the Oaken Bough.

"A delicious collection: a tempting mix of old favorites and rare gems, all shared in Simon Brooks' engaging style.
Parents, teachers and tellers will all want this for their libraries. It is made more useful by his informative notes that include folktale index motifs as well as sources and variants. His insightful Tips for Telling is an added bonus."
- Elizabeth Ellis, International Storyteller and Author

"Simon Brooks invites us to relax and rest ‘under the oaken bough’ and the time is well spent.  Whether it is his clever adaptation of an Aesop tale, the humorous fractured fairy tale of a trespassing Goldilocks or a visit with our favorite trickster Anansi, Simon’s beautiful words and imagery will transport you.
In addition to the glorious, fresh variations of familiar and unique tales, these stories are well researched. Simon offers insights on different variations of specific tales, including the Aarne-Thompson classifications, along with his personal insights. Storytellers, educators, and librarians will definitely appreciate the detailed research he shares.  
Simon also offers us an extra gift with a gentle hand, specific guidelines perfected from his years of storytelling on how to find your unique voice before you step onto the stage. That section alone is worth its weight in leprechaun gold! I guarantee your imagination will be happily satiated when you rise from your time Under the Oaken Bough."
-Karen Chace, Storyteller/Author)

"Simon Brooks’ collection of folk and fairy tales is a must-have for parents to read to kids, while trying not to smile too much.  Witty, funny and full of tenderness, Brooks’ slightly irreverent, post-modern versions of world tales are marked by his ability to bring his characters to life, both with breezy but still vivid descriptions of animals and people, gifted dialog for all of them, and a lovely warmth for his material. An overly talkative turtle, a Goldilocks who is quite the brat, a quick-thinking fox facing a vain and hungry bear––the characters go on and on but never resemble one another. Brooks even adds a how-to about oral storytelling itself, filled with insights for both beginners and seasoned performers. With evocative illustrations by Rob Brookes, Under the Oaken Bough is a gem."
- Odds Bodkin, Storyteller/Author