An Interview

I was intereviewed by Kenny Mah, Malaysian writer, for his blog.

Why are you doing this (creating the website)?

I created the website after a couple of years’ frustration from trying to find a decent website dedicated to Story Teller. If you look on the web, there are fan sites on almost anything, that include everything you would ever want to know about the chosen subject matter (and then some). I wanted a website like that for Story Teller and so I just went ahead and did it. I also hoped that through the website, I would hear from other fans. Sadly, none of my friends offline are Story Teller fans – in fact, most of them don’t even remember it! – and I wanted to find people with whom to share my enthusiasm.

What is the single most striking memory of Story Teller for you as a child?

Story Teller gave me countless hours of pleasure as a child, listening to the tapes and looking at the pictures. But I think my single, most striking memory is actually when I first saw the commercial on TV in January 1983, advertising the first series. The commercial featured the catchy Story Teller jingle and showed animated illustrations from the first ever issue, including Gobbolino being fished out of the river and the naked emperor parading in The Emperor’s New Clothes. I knew then, even before buying an issue, that there was something very special about Story Teller.

What is your strongest impression of it now, as an adult?

For me, the magic of Story Teller has never faded away. You would think that I would have grown out of it by now but I haven’t and I don’t think I ever will. The stories and illustrations still inspire me in so many ways, both in my personal and professional life. For example, I’ve introduced Story Teller to my little nieces and reading the stories with them is one way of spending quality time together. Similarly, many of my own writings have been inspired one way or another by Story Teller.

Why should others be interested in this? Why do we need to preserve these stories?

I don’t think there will ever be another collection of children’s stories as rich in content or high in educational value as Story Teller. I guess you could say that the website has two main purposes: to keep the memory of Story Teller alive and to remind everyone, parents in particular, of the importance of reading and fairy tales. A childhood without fairy tales is a bit like Christmas without Santa Claus. Sadly, today’s children are missing out on so much by spending all their free time watching TV and playing computer games. Reading for pleasure is all but forgotten and as a result much of childhood’s magic is lost

Which is your favourite story from Story Teller? Why?

This is a tough question. It’s like asking “What’s your favourite book?” when there’s so many to choose from. But if I had to choose which story I like best, I’d say my sentimental favourite is Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat. It was the very first story to appear in Story Teller and it’s the one I remember most. From the emails I get, I’d say Gobbolino is the character many people identify most with the partwork, even though Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat was a novel in its own right many years before Story Teller was published. This was reflected by the fact that a sequel, Gobbolino and the Little Wooden Horse, appeared in Story Teller 2 (a genuine case of “back by popular demand”, surely) and Gobbolino also appeared in two of the three Christmas edtions.

If you had a chance to write a story for Story Teller, what would it be about?

I’d go for an obvious but hopefully popular idea by writing a story with many of the Story Teller characters in it. How about a grand adventure featuring characters created specially for Story Teller like Aldo, Timbertwig, Jester Minute and Grogre the Ogre? Perhaps they somehow find themselves in outer space and get rescued by Shorty the Satellite and maybe even get to ride the Diggersaurs. That would be so cool …

Who would illustrate it?

This is easy: Francis Phillipps! He was always my favourite Story Teller illustrator because he drew such vivid, lifelike and colourful pictures. Somehow, he painted the characters exactly how I imagined them to look. He illustrated four big serials (the two Gobbolino serials, Peter Pan, and Pinnochio) as well as several standalone stories in both series.  A testament to his popularity.

And who would read it?

Hopefully the nice people at Marshall Cavendish would read it and convince them to re-issue Story Teller or even publish a completely new series! My story would make them realise that there is still a lot of interest out there and the world needs Story Teller to bring magic and literacy to a generation of children whose idea of fun is playing video games all day long.

Finally, if you had the opportunity to create your very own Story Teller project, what would you do?

How about a free, interactive version of Story Teller online? Wouldn’t it be great if children (and the young-at-hearts!) could listen to the stories and look at the pictures on the web? A bouncing ball would guide readers through the text (rather like in those karaoke videos!) and when the traditional “ping” sounds, one would just have to click on the corner of the page to turn it. It doesn’t have to stop there … For the truly interactive experience, we could animate the illustrations and replace the four-page colouring section that came with every issue with interactive activities. Entertainment and education went hand in hand in Story Teller and it would be great to take that combination to the next level.

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