I need a story to read to a class of Year 6 children that lasts about 20 minutes. Any ideas?
When looking for stories to read aloud, check out collections of retellings by storytellers. Their prose is likely to be highly visual and extra exciting, as they have to keep the audience hanging on every word.
Daniel Morden is a master storyteller who has created successful live shows for children and adults based on traditional Welsh folktales and Greek stories of heroes and monsters. His Adventures of Odysseus with Hugh Lupton (Barefoot Books) would work well with all upper primary children but Dark Tales from the Woods (Pont Books) is a collection of particularly powerful tales told by Abram Wood, an 18th-century gypsy who travelled all over Wales, and his family. Mary, Maid of the Mill is a fast-paced and sometimes gruesome tale about a quick-witted girl who keeps one step ahead of evil which will satisfy children who might think they are too old or too urban for folktales. It includes several poems, which encourages variation in tone, and falls slightly short of 20 minutes but could be extended with appropriate music. There are other exciting tales in the collection, enhanced by Brett Breckon’s illustrations.
May the Devil Walk Behind Ye: Scottish traveller tales, is a collection by veteran storyteller Duncan Williamson (Canongate). They’re all well short of 20 minutes but you could combine three gritty stories into an entertaining session, especially if you can do the right accent.
David Almond’s The Savage (Walker Books, illustrated by Neil Gaiman) is a story-within-a-story which interweaves the tale of bereaved and bullied Blue Baker with the graphic novel that Blue creates to make sense of his troubled life. It sounds a little complicated to read aloud but it does work because David Almond has a precise ear for language. It comes in at a little over 20 minutes but is worth it. Make sure the children see Gaiman’s illustrations afterwards.
Philippa Pearce published several volumes of short stories and The Shadow-Cage and Other Supernatural Stories (Puffin) offers several tales with the combination of soothing familiarity and unsettling strangeness of Tom’s Midnight Garden. The title story and Beckoned are particularly haunting.
A great storyteller writing about another great storyteller is bound to be worth listening to. Michael Rosen has just published a biography of Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr Dahl, and three of the short, engaging chapters (7, 8 and 9) would fit smoothly into 20 minutes. Children who love Michael Rosen, are Roald Dahl fans, or who are interested in spying, wartime adventures or creating stories, will love it.