StoryWorld: Create-A-Story-Kit by John and Caitlín Matthews, 40 Cards, ALL AGES

StoryWorld:  Create-A-Story-Kit by John and Caitlín Matthews, with illustrations by Wayne Anderson, Paul Hess, David Lawrence, Nicki Palin and Tomislav Tomić is the most wonderfully amazing, creatively inspiring way to get kids thinking, talking and maybe even writing.  Published by Templar Books, the UK arm of American children's book publisher, Candlewick Press, this gorgeous collection is very reasonably priced (at slightly less than a new hardcover children's book and slightly more than a paperback) at $12.95 and comes with 40 cards as well as a 20 page Storytelling Book that has an introduction to the craft of storytelling, how to use StoryWorld, How to Search for the Hidden Clues, How to Play with One Person and Games to Play with the Cards that include acting games, playing with adults, playing with a group and the Tale-That-Never-Ends-Game.

The Well of Memory ripples with things that happened long ago.  Who has come to the well and why? What waits at the bottom of the steps? What is the for? 

Each card has a caption on the front and a brief list of information about the image on the card as well as questions to ponder when creating your story.  The cards have four different borders, different illustrators creating each one, and the subjects of the four groups are all slightly different but related.  There are hidden clues, objects that appear on more than one card, but in various sizes.  The Soldier can be seen as a small silhouette on the River card.  The Door to Faeryland can be seen tucked away in a hedge on the Father card.  These can be used to link the cards and create a thread for a story, or they can just be fun things to look for while examining the beautiful illustrations on the cards themselves.  When you are ready to tell a story, the cards themselves also provide story prompts, which I have added as captions for some of the cards here.

The River:  A pathway between worlds.  What is the eagle looking for? Who lives in the little house? What lies beyond the mountains?

Wayne Anderson, illustrator of two of my favorite picture books, The Tin Forest and The Dragon Machine and a contributor to the magical encyclopedias by Professor Ari Berk, The Secret History of Mermaids and The Secret History of Giants, was the big name that drew me to this unique addition to the world of children's books.  His work does not disappoint, but I found myself very pleasantly surprised by the impact these cards have on all who see them.  I opened them first by myself and was instantly enthralled and found myself matching up cards and thinking about story threads  without even realizing it.  When I took the deck of cards to a family gathering, I had seven kids, between the ages of 6 - 9, gathered around me selecting cards, thinking up names for the people on the cards and waiting patiently for their turn as we went around the circle and told a story.  Finding the deck a few weeks later, my six year old son was entranced all over again.  He took about 20 minutes to sort the deck out and pick the cards for the story he wanted to tell.  I did a little bit of reading for him and we were off, with him telling the story faster than I could type!  Now, every time he sees me at the computer, he thinks that it is time to keep working on his story and I hate to tell him no.  So, I thought that the best endorsement for StoryWorld:  Create-A-Story-Kit is to share the story we created together with you right here.  Pictured are the 13 cards that he selected.  What follows is the story he told, with a little embellishment from me.  Hopefully we will finish it some day...

Once there was a young shepherd who lead his flock of sheep to a grassy pasture to graze.  When they were full, they travelled on with the shepherd's father, a soldier. They took their belongings and walked down the road towards a magical forest that sat at the edge of a river that served as a boundary between the two worlds.  Deep inside the forest, in a small cottage lived an old grandfather.  The old grandfather had a chest that was locked, but he had lost the key.  Somewhere behind the cottage a kite was flying high in the sky.  But who was flying it?  A figure ran past and disappeared behind a hedge shaped like a swan that bordered the grandfather's garden.  Nearby, a blacksmith was making a sword for the soldier.  In the bushes at his feet, a small door, almost invisible to the eye, was hidden in the branches.  This was the door to Faeryland where the Home of the Wishes was hidden.  

Inside Faeryand, the Home of the Wishes sat high at the top of a tower that could be reached only by a series of winding steps.  But first, before climbing the stairs, those wishing to reach the Home of the Wishes had to pass by the Well of Memory that was guarded by a gentle old woman who was the Keeper of Memory.  Olivia, the Keeper of Memory's daughter, lived with her and cooked for the two of them.  She was the best cook for miles around and all of her creations seemed to have a magical taste to them, probably because they were filled with love.  But, no one knew about Olivia and her magical cooking because she and her mother never left the gatehouse at the Well of Memory.  

As the soldier and his son the shepherd visited with the grandfather in the forest, the boy noticed the locked chest.  "Old Grandfather," he said, "what is in that locked chest?"  The grandfather looked at it sadly and said, "Something very special and dear to me, that much I know.  But a spell has been cast on me by an angry imp and I can no longer remember what is inside or where the key is.  Every day that goes by my memory is farther and father away and my heart grows sadder." The boy looked at the old grandfather and then at his father and his eyes grew wide.  "Father, Old Grandfather, I have a key in my satchel! When I was much younger, while you were away fighting, Father, Mother gave me this leather satchel and she said it was full of all the things I would ever need in this world.  She and Grandmother had packed it themselves and it was heavy, as if they expected me to be going on a long journey.  If only I had known it was the last day I would ever see them.  When I woke in the morning and came down from my attic room the house was empty and the fire was cold.  That is when I took the flock and my satchel and began to wander the countryside hoping I would find you, Father.  I think the satchel is magic because I have never been hungry a day.  When there have not been kind men and women at the farmhouses I pass by, there has always been a hunk of bread and cheese in my satchel and a clear stream nearby.  And how did I find you, father?  You were walking home from the great battle, how were you to know where I was?  But, somehow we found each other.  I never made much of it until now, but don't you think it is a near miracle that we found each other?"

The boy turned in is seat and looked into the Grandfather's eyes.  "And Old Grandfather, there has always been a brass key in the pocket of my satchel, but I have never known what it was for. Before I left my home to wander I put the key into every lock in the house and it unlocked nothing!  Perhaps it fits the lock on the chest?"  The Old Grandfather nodded head excitedly and gestured for the boy to go to the chest.  The boy grabbed his satchel and rummaged around for the key while the his father placed the chest at the feet of the old grandfather.  When the boy finally found the key he held it up in the light and the men nodded at him eagerly. The boy put the key in the lock and slowly turned it.  The lock clicked and the chest popped open.  The three peered in, quiet with excitement.  Inside the shadowy depth of the box was a small pouch.  The men looked at the boy and the boy reached his hand inside and pulled out the pouch.  It was heavy in his hand.  He slowly opened the drawstrings of the pouch and reached inside and pulled out a silver heart attached to a string with two clasps.  A twisting, maze like design covered the heart face of the heart and encircled a stone set into the center of the pendant.  The stone glowed green and orange. 

This is where our story has left off - for now. My son just saw the cards out and is already working on a new part to add on.  I have a few ideas of my own, as well...

And, for those of you happy to shop at, or those of you lucky enough to have a connection in the UK, Templar books also publishes 7 other StoryWorld Kits that include themes like The Magical Toy Box, Christmas Tales, Halloween Night, The Mad Professor's Workshop, Stories of the Sea, Quests and Adventures, Animal Tales and Faery Magic.  I have no doubt that the illustrations and themes on the cards are as intriguing and beautiful as the originals.

StoryWorld:  Faery Magic and 
StoryWorld:  Stories of the Sea
in April 2011!!

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