Children’s Book Review – The Natural Storyteller: Wildlife Tales for Telling by Georgiana Keable

December, 2017

The Natural Storyteller is a gorgeous heart-warming book full of stories that children (and people any age!) can relate to. It is a collection of stories, carefully gathered over a period of years, from all over the world (different sources, locations, periods in history). Some are based on myths, others on legendary figures or even saints (e.g. St Francis of Assisi makes an appearance – but in the story we meet his child self!) or extraordinary things that happened in the lives of ordinary people.

What steals my heart about this book is that it unflinchingly addresses the turmoil and realities of life in the 21st century. The author does not shy away from tackling themes such as deforestation, war or corporate greed.

My favourite story is the King of the Deer (perhaps because I live in the forest in Sweden for part of the year where I see deer daily and observe them very closely). I had a rather traumatic encounter with deer hunters only two weeks ago and this story (about the King of the Deer putting a stop to the hunting of all animal species) really pulled at my heart strings.

I live in London for the larger part of the year and there is a lovely story about a London woman who finds a wounded baby sparrow on her doorstep during World War II. She takes him in and he becomes her companion, eventually bringing comfort to people who lost their homes in air raids. The woman was called Clare Kipps and I am under the impression that this story is based on a real life person.

The author describes herself as going on hikes and actively asking strangers to tell her stories. Predictably many people first say they don’t know any stories before proceeding to tell a very unique story indeed. Many of those stories are about friendships between humans and animals.

I love the scope of subjects, characters and locations. I also love the fact that she does not shy away from the difficult aspects of life. When children hear about characters in stories surviving such things and even finding courage or beauty under challenging circumstances – then that same resilience is reinforced and inspired in the audience.

Many stories end with a Q&A section where the storyteller can ask questions to test if the children have understood the storyline correctly. There is also a Myths from the Land of You section where children are encouraged to connect the story to their own lives and experiences.

This book is that rare thing: it unlocks emotions, ideas and a wild surge of creativity. Even I now want to take myself off on hikes around London and ask complete strangers to tell me stories about sparrows and crows (and may just do that for a day!) Stories about other subjects would be welcome too…

(Full disclosure: I was asked by HawthornPress to review this book as a teacher and author of a book about innovative work with children myself).

Imelda Almqvist, 9 November 2017, London UK


About the author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently working on her second book Sacred .

For Amazon information, click image below.  (website)  (blog)  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

Tink About It

June, 2016

The Making of… Mr. & Mrs. Deer

A few years ago after a full moon celebration with friends we were drumming and talking about making our own drums. Most of us had never done that before, but together we shared some experience. We decided then and there to get this show on the road! We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into though…. We prepared the best way we could and started fresh. We couldn’t find a lot of info on the www, except for some video’s on YouTube. I decided to document the process in pictures, for ourselves and for others that might be interested. Here’s the ultra-short version:










We wanted to make everything from scratch where possible. I decided to use the frame of my first bodhrán (of which the skin was ripped). Ron (my husband) wanted to make a 13-sided drum. We chose birch (my frame was birch too) and started searching. We found a local entrepreneur that has a sawmill for hobby. He knew exactly where the wood came from, he cut the tree down himself. The planks were beautiful but rough. Ron sawed them smaller and into pieces. I made calculations to see what edge to saw. To make a 13-sided drum we needed a 13.8 degree edge; 13 pieces of 13 by 9 cm made a drum with a diameter of approximately 54 cm (21.26 inch). That’s big, but Ron is tall and strong. Because we knew we would often use the drums outside in all kinds of weather we decided (even though it’s not natural) to lacquer the frames with a special weatherproof yacht varnish.

We got the skins for the drums from a butcher. They were ‘leftovers’ that otherwise would have been destroyed. We did a ritual to honour and thank the animals for the skins (and the tree for the wood). The deer were hunted by professionals with permission for population control. The skins weren’t very clean; we had to cut quite some flesh away. That was hard work of which Ron did the major part. He used the back of a double-handed curved cheese knife (a tip from one of the many YouTube-video’s he watched). I did the finer work with a smaller very sharp knife. We rinsed the skins a few times to clean them. Ron stitched a hole with a suture needle and thread.

The other people used parachute cord to tighten the skin to the frame. Ron and I wanted to use only natural material. Ron made the lacing out of the leftover skin, I used tvinningsbennen (or lucet) to make a cord of light and dark (real) sinew. We watched a lot of YouTube-video’s to find the best way to stretch and tighten the skin around the frame. We used a hole punching tool to make the holes, because that gave less risk of tearing the skin. We tightened the skin wet (both skin and lacing). The drying took quite some time. After a few weeks we gave the lacing an extra layer to tighten it even more. In the meantime we had made beaters from leftover birch wood and leather.

We wanted the drums to have the complete skin with hair, but they were too thick for a good sound. So we shaved the skins with a hair trimmer, a little bit each time until we were satisfied with the sound. During the process I had nicknamed our drums Mr. & Mrs. Deer with the intention to find a real name later. The names suited the drums remarkably well though, so we kept it at that.

It was a long process (months), but it was very worthwhile and rewarding. Perhaps we’ll make more drums in the future but I don’t think we’ll make more drums from scratch as we did this time, because that was very time- and energy-consuming. You could use ready-made frames and prepared skins; you put your own energy and time in it to make the drum your own.

The drums feel so good, they sound wonderful together. Mr. Deer has a deep and healing sound, and Mrs. Deer definitely has her own charm and slightly higher sound. The spirits of the deer connect with our energies and that works out amazingly well. We’ve been using them for quite some time now. Outside we sometimes have to tighten the skins by keeping them near a fire, but most of the time they sound great. When they aren’t used they hang on display in our hall, so they are never far and easy to grab for a drum session.