The other evening, C was reading his latest enthralling Biff and Chip odyssey. He got to the end of the page and I said "bing!". C seems to accept others making seemingly random noises. A asked "What are you doing Mummy?" "Storyteller! You know, when it makes a bing noise when it's time to turn the page." Cue blank looks.
"Storyteller. Funny fella". I think that's how the marketing bumf went. But why would you need marketing when you have the PERFECT PRODUCT. Because that, to my mind is what Storyteller is.
Storyteller played a very, very large part in teaching me to read. And, MUCH more importantly, it made me excited about books, reading and stories. If you are unfamiliar with Storyteller, and are in your early 30s, you can feel justified in telling your parents that you were a deprived child. Storyteller was the best thing to come out of mid-1980s Britain, publishing-wise in my humble opinion. It was a monthly publication, with a magazine, a tape, and an activity book, each with several stories, both one offs and serialisations. Some were classics, some specifically written for the series. All were wonderfully written and wonderfully read. We used to order it in to the local newsagent and get ludicrously excited when it was time for the next installment.
It was not cheap. I used to cost £1.95 per issue, which was quite a lot of money, back in the day, when you think you could have bought an Enid Blyton for 99p. However, it was so, SO worth it.
We had Storyteller 2, the second installment. My friend Jo, being that bit younger, had Little Storyteller and I used to seethe with jealousy that I didn't have that too. When A was about 3 I bought her the Little Storyteller series from ebay. She quite liked it, but was too young to follow the stories from the tape by reading the magazine, which is the best bit. Also the tapes had not been stored well, and were dying a death. They are now pretty much unusable, which is sad, but they have both pretty much grown out of Little Storyteller now anyway. I also bought the first series, which we did not own, but have not yet got round to checking if the tapes still work on that one (fingers firmly crossed).
So, after I had made the bing noise, A decided that she must listen to Mummy's old tapes. I went and dug them out, worried that our tapes would also have perished. But, hurrah! Clear as a bell! Luckily, we still have a tape deck as part of one of our music systems and so A and C curled up with the magazine folder (oh yes, we had the blue folder, and the blue tape box), propped up against the TV stand. They took it in turns to turn the page when it binged. For four hours. It took them a little while to get used to archaisms such as "getting tapes out" and "changing the side", but they were fine after a while. They were entranced by the pictures. A said "I love how the pictures help you think of the story." She said she felt as though she were there. I almost shouted "YES! ME TOO!" and I think she was a little scared. I had a wonderful time, reliving childhood memories of the wonderful stories, but it was even more wonderful to watch A and C following every single word on the page, completely entranced.
Tonight she asked to listen to Storyteller, rather than watch TV or go on the computer. IN YOUR FACE, modern technology." Marshall Cavendish, if you are listening, I implore you. Bring back Storyteller.