Telling It: I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino
I AM A STORY.
I WAS TOLD AROUND A CAMP FIRE.
THEN PAINTED ON THE CAVE WALLS.
Stories are still told around camp fires, of course, but these days the flickering light of the fire is mostly replaced by the flickering of a video or the glow of a handheld device.
But whether it is inscribed on a clay tablet, printed on a press, played out on a page, or shown on a screen, the story is still the thing people love.
Dan Yaccarino's I Am a Story (Harper, 2016) tells its own story of how literature came to be shared, from cave paints to Egyptian hieroglyphic on papyrus, medieval manuscripts to movable type printing presses on paper. And oral storytelling still persists in its original form and in the form of stage plays and movie dramas in all their forms.
Story itself is powerful, that almost miraculous ability of the human mind both to spin out a tale in an alternate universe that can be shared by the creator and can be sustained in the imaginations of listeners, viewers, and readers. Winnie-the-Pooh, Charlotte the spider and Tom Sawyer, Romeo and Juliet and Jane Eyre live only inside our heads, but they do truly have a life of their own there through the power of story.
Of course, stories and story makers have their problems.
I WAS CENSORED, AND BURNED, AND BANNED, BUT DID NOT DIE.
Yaccarino's spare and carefully chosen language and glowing illustrations tell the basic story of literature in a simple form accessible to small children and yet with plenty of punch and power for older readers. The story of story is an amazing one, one that celebrates that special human ability to share the accumulated wisdom and history of all time or the facts of today's latest news in some literary form. Publishers Weekly assigns this picture book a starred review, saying, "Yaccarino’s global scope, as well as a contemporary campfire scene that brings the book full circle, cements the idea that the stories we share are a profound source of human connection."