How did stories begin? Writer Marguerite W. Davol has come up with an original folktale explaining the answer, one that kids are likely to believe and enjoy, and one that might serve as a good spark for conversation about the importance of stories and how they are created.
Inspired by a Seneca tale called "The Storytelling Stone," The Snake's Tales is also a perfect vehicle for reading aloud, because it's full of rhythm and repetition, and Davol created it first as a story for telling, not as a book. Listen, for example, to how The Snake's Tales begins: "Way back in time there were no stories. Season after season, the earth turned from day to night to day. People worked and ate, slept and woke. But they didn't tell stories. Believe it or not, people simply didn't know what stories were! So how did stories finally begin? Listen, and I'll tell you."A boy, Beno, is sent out to pick strawberries for his family, and on his way back a serpent glides beside him, promising stories in exchange for the strawberries. The boy, of course, takes him up on the offer, returning home empty-handed, but full of wonder at what the snake has shared. Next, his sister, Allita, has a similar experience when she is sent to fetch raspberries. Neither child tells the parents about this wondrous new thing they have experienced. Finally, the two go together to pick apples, after which they finally confess their secret, sharing their new, exciting tales. After that, so the story goes, the world was never the same, and people began sharing stories wherever they went. Even art starts here, as the children's mother begins to weave the tales into tapestries. This simple yet believable new fable harkens back to Adam and Eve, with its fruit and beckoning snake, and will lure young readers just as the snake lures Beno and Allita.
The artwork of Korean-born artist Yumi Heo is the perfect complement to the fable. Her primitive-style pencil and oil illustrations convey a simple yet rich atmosphere full of amusing touches (a lop-eared bunny nibbling on strawberries, for instance, or a funny little monkey hanging from a tree). The bright red and yellow snake grows bigger and bigger as it spins its tales, fully encompassing its listeners. Young children will be spellbound by Davol's story, and may just be inspired to start spinning tales of their own.