The Monday Book: PLAYING WITH STORIES by Kevin Cordi

Kevin sent this book to be reviewed; he and Wendy were in graduate school together, at the ETSU storytelling program. Jack wrote the review.

playing-storiesWendy asked me to review this book because she knows the author personally. I’m pleased about that as I found it fascinating!

This is a book about storytelling; specifically it’s about the combination of storytelling and play (in the many senses of that word). In the opening section of the book, Cordi talks of his introduction to stories as a young child in a family setting.

My own introduction to storytelling as an integral part of traditional culture happened in the 1960s when I was honing my skills as a singer of ballads and folk-songs in my homeland of Scotland. I visited with the Stewart family in their home in Blairgowrie and was immediately immersed in a wonderful mish-mash of tunes, ballads, songs, stories and riddles. It was only later, when I met Wendy, that I realized that storytelling was an art-form that could stand on its own two feet and wasn’t just what you did between songs. Later we became friends with Duncan Williamson and through him many other wonderful ‘traveler’ storytellers.

So I was interested in the idea that stories don’t live apart from other activities. In my case they live alongside music and songs. In Cordi’s book they are aligned with play.

Cordi makes important arguments for the use of storytelling and creative play as a counter to the culture of standardized testing and ‘league tables’ in the education system. In other words, he uses stories and play as ways to open up minds and encourage real learning.

He also uses ‘play’ in many different senses – having fun, playing with words and language, setting old stories in modern settings etc.

As someone who worked as a professor in a Scottish college for more than twenty years I can completely sympathize

Going back to my own experiences –

Some years ago I was staying over the weekend of the Auchtermuchty Traditional Music Festival with Duncan Williamson. Also there were some of the Stewarts and another iconic traveler storyteller, Betsy Whyte. As the night wore on the stories and songs gave way to riddles and finally homed in on riddles about death. The next morning we discovered that Betsy had died in her sleep in her trailer parked in the yard outside.

I don’t know if Kevin Cordi knows that story, but it certainly reinforces his opinion on the strength of connecting stories with real life!

If you want to visit Kevin’s website, it’s


1 thought on “The Monday Book: PLAYING WITH STORIES by Kevin Cordi

  1. Jack (and Wendy) I only have returned and found this wonderful review. Jack, thank you so much for your words. I do value the storytellers in Scotland. I spent a greater part of the week with David Campbell and he was a gracious host with stories and more. I wish I could have heard Duncan but there are many who share his tales. I am lucky to have heard his tales.
    I so value the play in your work and story. We need all the advocates for play that we can find. Let us move to the schools, communities, and businesses. I enjoyed all the playful times when Wendy and were sharing stories at ETSU. I hope one day that Barbara, my wife, and I can come to the bookstore and share a world of wonder and play with the both of you. Play on! tell on! Thank you again, Kevin

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