How to Tell a Story, published by Workman and written and illustrated by Daniel Nayeri and Brian Won respectively, is the beautiful fusion of book and game. Dubbed a storytelling adventure, How to Tell a Story combines a full-color, 144-page book with a collection of 20 six-sided storytelling cubes that allow kids to let their imagination run absolutely buck wild.
The book is essentially an instruction guide, or an outline on how to get started. It covers all the elements of your average story (conflict, characters, plot, and dialogue) in order to get kids to create the exact opposite. It’s a book with a blend of whimsy and attitude, which is apparent right from the jump. Upon turning over the cover, I was greeted with a “Hey, you! Yeah, you with the face. You are holding in your hand a great fantastical machine.” The book is it’s own hype man, and I was immediately hooked. This confidence makes the book feel like a person, a personified object unlike any other set of instructions I have encountered throughout my toy review travels.
The storytelling blocks act as the rungs in kids’ ladders to storytelling greatness. Each side of each cube has a different color background around the image: red, blue, orange, yellow, green, or purple. Each colored background is (loosely) associated with a part of speech. For example, red represents people or animals, blue represents things, orange represents places, and green represents actions. These blocks are basically the keys to unlocking the imaginative minds of those who play How to Tell a Story.
As kids continue to flip through the pages of Nayeri’s tale, they’ll be prompted to roll a number of blocks and tell a tale of their very own. It could be about a red (person or animal) that just wanted to green (action). Maybe it’s a superhero mouse that yearns to fly in a hot air balloon with a rooster. (The image above will be helpful in understanding all of this.) The possibilities are truly endless and there is magic with every roll. Kids can play with themselves, with friends, or with their family. Using imagination as fuel, there is no limit to the stories that can be created.
For example, page 23 of the book reads: “But then (red circle) met (red circle), who had traveled to (orange triangle) in search of something. After rolling the cubes, kids get to fill in the blanks with things they take away from the illustrations on the corresponding color backgrounds. It’s kind of like mad libs with a twist.
How to Tell a Story is a book. Okay, maybe it’s a game. It’s a book game? It’s a game disguised as a book? Yeah, that’s it. However you slice it, How to Tell a Story not only teaches kids what stories are about, but it inspires them to think creatively and treat it like the art it is.