From the In-Box: Best Jim Weiss CDs for Young Children

September 27, 2008 @ 4:32 pm | Filed under:

A sweet reader named Jennifer writes:

I wanted to ask if you had any recommendations for the best Jim Weiss story CDs for littler ones (and/or O’Callahan—you’ve mentioned him a couple times I think?). We checked out Weiss’s Just So Stories from our library, and my oldest is loving it (as am I!), but many of the others look like they might be a bit past her comprehension right now, and certainly past her younger sisters’. Their attention for this one is spotty. We’ll be driving 10 hours next month to my best friends’ weddings, and I’d like some story CDs for the car. I’m just not sure what would best hold my girls’ attention! As I said, my oldest is 4.5, then my twins are 3, and the baby is nearly 18 months, but of course she wouldn’t really be listening anyway.

Unfortunately, Jennifer wrote me in July, so I’m responding way too late to be of help with that road trip. Sorry about that, Jennifer—I hope the weddings were fun and the drive went well!

As Jennifer had observed in my archives, we are huuuuge Jim Weiss fans here in the Bonny Glen. We even got to hang out with Jim and his wonderful wife Randi a couple of times at homeschooling conventions and once at their home in Virginia. But we were fans long before we met the Weisses in person: I remember buying our first Jim Weiss story CDs back in New York, when Jane was a wee thing. The night we had dinner at their house, my girls were utterly starstruck because Jim was a superstar in their universe. Listening to them chatter in the backseat all the way home, I was overcome with a fit of giggles—they sounded just like my high-school friend Caryn and I must have sounded when we used to gush about Duran Duran.

(If I’d been invited to dinner at John Taylor’s house in 1985, I might not have survived to tell the tale.)

Anyway. The best Jim Weiss for very small children would be, I’d say:

Uncle Wiggly

Tell Me a Story (that one’s a folk and fairy tale collection—includes stories like The Little Red Hen and Rumplestiltskin)

• the one with The Twelve Dancing Princesses, what’s it called?  :::::hollers to children:::: Ah, yes: Best Loved Stories in Song and Dance

• and the Stone Soup one, um, Fairytale Favorites, I think is the name.
I can think of others (my girls loved the Shakespeare CD from the time they were tiny), but a list that goes on forever isn’t of much use to anyone, so I’ll stop with these.

We actually haven’t heard some of Jim’s most recent CDs, sob—that’s what we get for moving out of Virginia. Jim and Randi were kind enough to let my kids raid their shelves when we visited, and gracious enough to be pleased with a stack of my books in return.

As for Jay O’Callahan, whom Jennifer mentions in her email: we are mighty fond of him as well! Although we’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Jay in person. I first encountered his work the summer before my sophomore year in college, when I was a camp counselor at a theater camp in Missoula, Montana. One of the girls brought an O’Callahan story tape with her and I remember the girls—this was the high-school bunk, not the younger set I was in charge of—laughing their heads off over a story about two children who encounter the King of the Raisins in a strange underworld. Half-remembered phrases from the story were still haunting me almost twenty years later when I began this blog. I posted a plea with a vague description of the story—

The raisins are amiable enough despite their aversion to the strange wiggling things at the end of the children’s arms—

“What you got there, worms?”

“No, they’re fingers! See?”

(Sound of raisins screaming.) “Ahhhh! Horrible, horrible! But I like you anyway.”

And a short while later, the marvelous Lesley Austin of Small Meadow Press chimed in with the answer I’d been seeking so many years: the storyteller we were looking for was named Jay O’Callahan. I Googled accordingly, and there he was. The Raisins story is on his Little Heroes CD. To this day it remains a family favorite. Sing it with me: Raisins, raisins, all we are is raisins; big one, small ones, short ones, tall ones…

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10 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Jeanne says:

    The most consistent “curriculum” I have spent money on over the years is Jim Weiss! It is embarrassing to go to conferences and realize we own nearly every one of his recordings! The longer Henty books he’s recorded are more expensive so we have been a little more gradual in acquiring those – but I can hear one going in our 10 yo’s room as I type! We also LOVE his recordings of Story of the World. My son often brings up things he remembers from listening to that. But of course, the real gems are his stories. And I went to sleep more than once to his beautiful “good night” recordings with my little ones.

    If our family has a sound track, it’s Jim Weiss!

  2. patience says:

    Oooh, I’m so jealous! We are huge Jim Weiss fans here, thanks to you actually, and felt ourselves blessed to have seen him in performance last year. But to hang out with him …! Too cool.

  3. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the great recommendations! I reserved them all at the library. I wish they had your books!!!

  4. Sarah says:

    I’ve met Jim Weiss as well. My favorite story is “Tortoise and the Hare” which is on “Animal Tales.” To see him tell it in person is a real treat. Many a winter afternoon has been spent crafting while listening to Jim Weiss.

    Speaking of books– you mentioned “The King’s Fifth” recently. I was all set to order it when my daughter brought it home from school. She’s not enjoying it, but I wonder if it’s because she HAS to read it 🙂

  5. Lindsay says:

    Just responding to something (the other?) Melissa wrote. If you can’t get Melissa Wiley books at your local library, do ask them to get them for you through Inter Library Loan. I used to hesitate about this, thinking ILL was something reserved for scholarly work, but I’ve heard librarians from various libraries enthusiastically encourage its use. I think it’s one of those things that the more it’s used, the more “the authorities” will see that it is needed, and consequently keep up funding for it. Also, one can hope that the more specific titles are requested, the more likely word will filter back to publishers to keep them in print! (We’ve also gotten Shakespeare and opera DVDs and CDs through ILL. It’s a great resource.)

    Oh, and we love Jim Weiss, too!

  6. Beck says:

    OH! A few years ago, I was in a store in town and there sitting on a shelf… TONS OF JIM WEISS CASSETTES! Priced at TWO DOLLARS EACH! I blinked at them for a few minutes, remembered happily that we have a working cassette player (in our elderly CAR) and grabbed them all. My kids love ’em. And so since then, each of them gets a Jim Weiss CD for Christmas!

  7. Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much, Melissa! I know what we’ll be getting the girls for Christmas. : ) (Sorry my comment is late–we’re in the middle of moving!)

  8. Melissa says:

    We love his Tall Tales, Uncle Wiggly, and Story of the World. The first two are great for the preschool aged children. They have been perfect for twice weekly commutes to the allergist. I heard about Weiss first here -Many Thanks!