PASS IT ON book cover

Title: Pass It On
Publisher: The Traditional Arts Team
Editors: Graham Langley and Amy Douglas
Language: English

At 64 pages, PASS IT ON is short book. It is a mistake to assume that this is a criticism for it is, in fact, quite the opposite. PASS IT ON is a concise resource that is a aimed at helping ‘teachers and youth workers of all kinds’ to master the art of storytelling.

Because the contributors to this resource are some of the UK’s top tellers that the publication of this book has achieved something wonderful: it is a book that’s able to able to introduce storytelling to young people (between the ages of 13 and 25) as an enjoyable performance art. The contributors include Graham Langley, Amy Douglas, Fiona Collins, Andy Hawkins, Simon Heywood, Marion Leeper, Shonaleigh and Polly Tisdall.

It starts with a very lovely paragraph: storytelling is an artform as old as language itself. Humans are designed to tell and listen to stories. From our earliest beginnings history, morality and our understanding of the world around us have been passed on through story. The experience of sharing stories with others bonds and unties communities and cultures. Storytelling at its best is a beautiful art form, engaging and enthralling, able to celebrate the best of human nature whilst exploring and challenging its darkest depths.

The order of the chapters follows what would happen normally in storytelling and covers warm up games, how to remember a story, developing the narrative, performance techniques, telling in a group, evaluation techniques, where to find stories for young tellers and a guide to further reading and resources.

The structure of each chapter is also similar, which helps the reader get into the rhythm of things quickly. Take, for example, ‘Telling in a Group’. Each part in this chapter is set out in the same way – Aim and Method. If there is more than one, it’s divided into Method 1 and Method 2. Or, there are Notes. These are very useful and will state things like warnings and precautions.

Most enjoyable was the following: Taboo. In this exercise, the use of certain words are banned. For instance, in the story Little Red Riding Hood, words like girl, wolf, woods, grandma, house, etc are banned. The storyteller has to re-tell The Red Riding Hood without using these words. In the example given, here’s what a teller came up with: ‘Small scarlet hoodie female child walked through the forest. She met a toothy lupine who asked where she was going.’

The next one of interest is one contributed by Andy Hawkins called ‘Courtroom Drama’. The aim is to allow people to approach stories with different perspectives. To explore characters and their actions and reactions. The characters need to tell their story from their own point of view while the lawyers can cross question. This is fantastic as it shows, at the very least, that storytelling is used in real life situations as well.

PASS IT ON is a must for anyone who wants to become a storyteller.

A free copy of PASS IT ON is available to all youth, education and library organisations. Anyone else can purchase a copy from the Traditional Arts Team for £6.62, including postage and packing. In either case contact Graham Langley:, 0121 247 7607, or 19 Springfield Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham B14 7DU.

Reviewed by Jacinta Rao
(April 2013)

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