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One of the children helps Alia to become The Jackal!

Tiny Owl is in the middle of a busy summer of events at book festivals up and down the country. At the Greenwich Book Festival and the Hay International Festival, Alia Alzougbi’s storytelling sessions brought two of our titles to life: The Jackal Who Thought He Was A Peacock and The Parrot and the Merchant. In this special blog post written for Tiny Owl, she shares some of her thoughts about these events.

 

There lies a challenge for a performance storyteller, who is used to working with oral traditions, when she suddenly finds herself working with books – beautifully illustrated, deeply philosophical, perfectly worded… books.

I am an artist who conjures up images using no other tool but the audience’s imagination, dwelling in their minds for a short while, cooking up a picture, a thought, a feeling that starts in their stomach and spreads to the whole of their being. And so to find myself faced with books so beautifully illustrated, with characters that are drawn with a spirit vivid beyond the two dimensions of their image, I found it impossibly difficult to ignore this thing called… The Book.

When I told the story of The Jackal Who Thought He Was A Peacock, I asked the children what a jackal looked like. They didn’t quite know, and so I attempted to paint a picture in their minds – the face of a dog, the body of a wolf, the ears of a fox, beige fur…etc. Not quite what a jackal looks like really was my after-thought.

Only afterwards did it dawn on me. There, in The Book, is the Jackal illustrated with such heart, at once adorable and tragic — easy to see and easy to laugh at, easy to feel with and easy to love — personified in such a way that it is easy for us to see ourselves in him, and to recognize that tumultuous journey to knowing yourself.

On my way to the Hay Festival I took with me this idea that sometimes a picture can tell a story a thousand times better than words.

 

Alia presenting the story of The Parrot and the Merchant at Hay Festival

What does it mean to be truly free? Can you love someone or something too much?

These are some of the questions we asked ourselves with our little audience, inspired by The Parrot and The Merchant. Our adult audience, parents of our little ones, also got involved – all parents must face the day when they set their children free to be all that they can be.

So what can it mean to love too much, to the point of suffocation? Can love reach such an extreme, a point where it goes back on itself and is no longer love, like a fish that swallows its own tail until it eats itself into non-existence?

And are these questions limited to the individual and familial levels? Can they be extended to communities and nation-states? The Benevolent Dictator who ‘loves’ his people so much, fears for them from their own thoughts to such an extent, that he suffocates them into a shadow of constrained existence?

Alia and the children with their own bird puppets!

Now we all know we must always end on a note of hope. So what of true freedom? What does that feel like?

‘Like being up in the air and dancing,’ said one child.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

  • You can also read this blog about the event at Greenwich

Buy The Parrot and the Merchant
Buy The Jackal Who Thought He Was a Peacock 

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