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