Story notes for Reception by Phil McDermott

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This collection of stories on DVD provides rich content for use with Reception children.

The Little Rabbit.

When the little rabbit goes outside for the first time, the world is full of strange sights and sounds. He is always safe because his mother is always in sight. One day however, little rabbit goes too far into the unknown.

This telling is inspired by the beautiful story ‘Tim the Rabbit’ by Alison Uttley. In many so-called children’s stories, the object is to pass on information about the pleasures and dangers of life. It is particularly pertinent to modern life that the mother is torn between encouraging the bunny to grow by allowing him the freedom to experience the outside world for himself and the need to keep him safe, secure and free from harm. It is this balance in bringing up children, which is so difficult to achieve, that makes this in many respects a parent’s story.

The Woman and the Goat.

An old woman buys a goat, but the stubborn beast won’t do what it’s told and jump over the style. She tries many methods to get it across the gate, each one more extreme than the last. Finally something works which sets off a chain of events that eventually leads to the goat jumping the style.

This is an old English story that has gone out of favour recently. It originally concerned a pig and a number of more gruesome methods to get the animal to comply. The joy of the story is its repetitious nature and trying to remember the sequence of events. The Storyspinner is delighted to offer the tale up for reappraisal. As in all the Reception tales a measure of audience participation is encouraged.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

One morning the Bear family leave their home to go for a walk to let their porridge cool. Also in the wood that morning is Goldilocks. She does what no one should do. She goes into their house without permission.

This seems a rather light story but on closer inspection raises a lot of issues. Should the bears have paid more heed to the security of their property or are they right in feeling that theirs is a neighbourhood where it’s safe to ‘leave the doors unlocked.’ Does Goldilocks have housebreaking tendencies? Or does she just have a keen curiosity and an enquiring mind? Is it bad manners or a complete disregard for her own well being when she falls asleep in the Bear’s house? These are all issues that require discussion within the Reception community. This is a late Victorian American story where the girl originally had silver hair.

The Three Little Pigs.

Three pigs are given money to build their houses, but two of them spend it unwisely. They are forced to buy straw and sticks to build with, instead of a solid foundation of bricks. They are happy enough with their choices, that is until the wolf comes.

It is said that the American authorities hijacked this story during the depression to encourage people to save money and invest wisely rather than spend on passing fancies. In this retelling The Story Spinner has updated the story to acknowledge the modern trend of targeting children as consumers. It should be noted that once again we have a story that vilifies the wolf for following its nature.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Three goats on a hillside spot fresh sweet grass growing across the river. The only way across is over the bridge. But under the bridge is a troll who likes to eat goats.

This is a first story for many people and a rather strange one at that, in that the lessons it seems to teach are slightly contrary. Should you really shift the danger onto your friends who are coming behind you? If you are the biggest goat should you really send the little one first to clear the way? Nonetheless it is simple, repetitive and easy to recall. Many Norwegian stories like this one feature trolls but they are not the slow-witted dupes this one seems to be. They are more of the wicked, vindictive and thoroughly nasty variety.

Jack and Jill.

Two children are astounded that there appears to be no water. Their concern turns to worry, as what they thought comes from the tap is now nowhere to be found. They resolve to find some in the most likely place. On top of a hill.

Most nursery rhymes do not bare close scrutiny as at their hearts they are unapologetically absurd. This is part of their charm and the reason that they have survived often hundreds of years of changing cultures and social mores. It is always, however a useful, rewarding and fun exercise to try and discover the story behind the rhyme.

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