The Storyteller's Secrets. Tony Mitton. Illustrated by Peter Bailey. Random House. 128 pages.
Not so very far from here, nor so very long from now, there were two children. Their names were Toby and Tess and they were twins. They lived with their mother in a cozy cottage beside a village green. In the middle of the green stood a great old chestnut tree, and beneath the tree was a stout wooden bench where Toby and Tess sat when they hadn't much to do or when there were things they wanted to talk about.
The Storyteller's Secrets was originally published in the UK. The book has an old-fashioned, traditional feel to it. You can tell this even from the end papers. And the black-and-white illustrations. And the language. What is the book about? It's about two children--a boy and a girl named Toby and Tess. One day after their mother has shooed them out of the house, they meet a stranger. A stranger named Teller. He loves to tell stories--and, of course, these stories all have morals, or should I say MORALS!--and he finds a welcoming audience in these two. The book has five of Teller's stories: The Woodcutter's Daughter, St. Brigid's Cloak, The Seal Hunter, The Pedlar of Swaffham, and Tam Lin. The stories are told in verse, in rhyme. Though the framework of the story--Teller meeting the children, their friendly encounters--are told in prose.
There were a few moments where I felt Teller was a bit too condescending, a bit too didactic with the children. Is the book didactic because it's trying to be old-fashioned? It could be. It didn't bother me enough to stop me from reading the book.
My favorite was "Five Fragments" which sums up the book nicely. I won't share all the poem. But here are the first two 'fragments'.
a shrivelled old berry
that came from a wood
where a woodcutter's cottage
once quietly stood...
a fragment of cloth
from the edge of a cloak
once worn by a woman --
such wisdom she spoke...
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews