For a brief time in my life, I helped primary school children improve their reading. Its main effect was to reveal the mind-numbing dullness of those books that are intended to develop literacy skills. Clearly former supply teacher Callan had the same issue; introducing a story about a mouse and his dragon best friend, she explained that she’d written it for the children she was teaching who were ready to start reading, only there were no school approved texts that also captured their imagination.
Most decidedly, Callan’s mixture of stories and poems certainly do capture the imagination of all ages. She has so many stories to share that she has to change her show from day to day, with three different storytime set-lists to fit in. On our day, content ranged from a surprisingly absorbing story about the lifecycle of a bean to a frog saga with touches of Orpheus. Each of these is full of delightful and charming whimsy which is brilliantly complemented by Callan’s style. She truly is like someone’s granny in her bright red and blue clothes and homemade crown and her light Northumberland accent is the perfect accompaniment to these ‘new legends’.
Callan appeared absolutely delighted by her small audience and attempted to build her show around what they wanted. During her longest story she built up the suspense, only to leave the tale hanging to ask us whether we wanted more; she is evidently a pro at handling rowdy classrooms. The set is eye catching and colourful, with lots of intriguing looking props scattered around. Unfortunately – perhaps because she has so many stories to cram in – she did not make use of most of these. This is a show still in the rough stages of being put together; Callan admitted she was using it as a testing ground for her stories. Nonetheless these charming tales are all that children’s stories should be: not just for children but containing something to win over both young and old.