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Forest, Heather 1948–

Forest, Heather 1948–

PERSONAL:

Born September 19, 1948, in Newark, NJ; daughter of Manny (a teacher) and Fay (a nurse) Friedman; married Lawrence Foglia, September 27, 1981; children: Lucas, Laurel. Education: Douglass College, B.A., 1970; East Tennessee State University, M.A., 2000; Antioch College, Ph.D., 2007. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Story Arts, P.O. Box 354, Huntington, NY 11743. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Storyteller, beginning 1974; Story Arts Inc., Long Island, NY, executive director, 1975—.

MEMBER:

National Storytelling Association.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Notable Record Award, American Library Association, 1982, for Songspinner; Parents' Choice Gold Classic Award, 1993, for Eye of the Beholder, and Gold Award, 1994, for The Animals Could Talk; Storytelling World Anthology awards, 1996, for Wonder Tales from around the World, and 1997, for Wisdom Tales from around the World; Storytelling World Award, for recording World Tales of Wisdom and Wonder; Circle of Excellence Award, 1997, National Storytelling Association; Best Children's Books of the Year citation, Bank Street College of Education, for Stone Soup; American Bookseller Pick of the Lists citation, for Big Quiet House.

WRITINGS:

RETELLER

The Baker's Dozen: A Colonial American Tale, illustrated by Susan Gaber, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1980.

The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies: An Old Tale from Scotland, illustrated by Susan Gaber, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1980.

Earthsong, Joyful Noise (Norwich, VT), 1988.

Wonder Tales from around the World, illustrated by David Boston, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1995.

Wisdom Tales from around the World: Fifty Gems of Story and Wisdom from Such Diverse Traditions as Sufi, Zen, Taoist, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, African, and Native American, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1997.

A Big Quiet House: A Yiddish Folktale from Eastern Europe, illustrated by Susan Greenstein, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1997.

Stone Soup, illustrated by Susan Gaber, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1998.

Feathers: A Jewish Tale from Eastern Europe, illustrated by Marcia Cutchin, August House (Little Rock, AR), 2005.

The Little Red Hen: An Old Fable, illustrated by Susan Gaber, August House (Little Rock, AR), 2006.

The Contest between the Susn and the Wind, illustrated by Susan Gaber, August House (Augusta, GA), 2008.

RECORDINGS

Songspinner: Folktales and Fables Sung and Told, Weston Woods (Weston, CT), 1982.

Tales of Womenfolk, Weston Woods (Weston, CT), 1985.

Sing Me a Story, A Gentle Wind (Albany, NY), 1986.

Tales around the Hearth, A Gentle Wind (Albany, NY), 1989.

Eye of the Beholder, Yellow Moon Press (Boston, MA), 1990.

The Animals Could Talk: Aesop's Fables, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1994.

Wonder Tales, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1995.

SIDELIGHTS:

Storyteller Heather Forest has entertained both young and old listeners for dozens of years with her retellings of stories from around the world. Through recordings as well as in books for young children such as The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies: An Old Tale from Scotland, Stone Soup, and Wonder Tales from around the World, Forest has expanded her audience to library story hours and "read me a story" bed times alike with tales that contain "phrasing and imagery [that] are consistently vivid," according to School Library Journal contributor Lee Bock. Her written stories contain "the same smooth, appealing cadence that she uses in her live performances," Susan Scheps noted in a review of The Baker's Dozen: A Colonial American Tale for School Library Journal, the critic adding that "each comma and phrase [is] carefully placed to create a musical whole." In addition to her own story-telling, Forest has also founded Story Arts, a storytelling organization that presents concerts and workshops.

Forest became interested in storytelling while learning to play folk guitar as a teen. As she noted on her Story Arts Web site, she "especially enjoyed ballads because they had a plot," and when she began writing her own songs in her early twenties, she looked to the traditional ballad form for inspiration. She also turned to the folktale section of her local library for stories to set to music, and discovered that she "could wander the world reading plots from cultures around the globe and create songs out of them." From writing songs, Forest soon began to craft spoken tales, inspired by traditional stories that contained "a sense of familiarity … as though it was really about something that happened to me. Or maybe there was something I needed to learn from the tale. Maybe it healed me. Maybe it made me face myself, by telling it again and again. There is a freeing anonymity and at the same time, a revealing vulnerability in telling a folktale."

Since Forest began telling stories in the mid-1970s, invitations to perform have come from all over the country: "From concert halls to circus tents, to elementary school auditoriums," as the storytelling author once commented. She has been a featured storyteller at Jonesborough, Tennessee's National Storytelling Festival several times, and has also appeared at the Smithsonian Institute and the Museum of Modern Art, as well as at Edinburgh, Scotland's Festival Fringe, Austria's World Festival of Fairytales, and Rio de Janeiro's "Telebration." "As a storytelling artist, I am attracted to tell folk tales and fables from around the world that contain a kernel of wisdom passed down through the oral tradition," Forest once explained. "Spanning time and place, these ancient tales have a universality which is fresh and relevant in modern times. Although [their] … plots … come from diverse cultures, a common thread of joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams, and fears emerge as the colorful tapestry of human experience is presented in metaphor. In spite of our global differences, people everywhere share the same sky."

Forest collected a number of tales into larger collections such as Wonder Tales from around the World and Wisdom Tales from around the World: Fifty Gems of Story and Wisdom from Such Diverse Traditions as Sufi, Zen, Taoist, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, African, and Native American, while other books contain only a single story. In The Baker's Dozen: A Colonial American Tale, for example, Forest describes the origins of the thirteen-item "baker's dozen," which takes readers back to New York City during the mid-1700s. A prominent baker who specializes in cookies shaped like St. Nicholas learns a bit about the Christmas spirit after he refuses to give one extra cookie to a mysterious customer who can only afford a dozen. When the customer returns the following year, a run of bad luck has made the baker realize what his stinginess has cost him; he gives her the thirteenth cookie free, completing the "baker's dozen."

Forest's second stand-alone tale, The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies, retells a Scottish story about a sweet-toothed king of the fairies and the woman who outsmarts him. "Forest's graceful retelling perfectly captures the story's fairy-tale flavor," wrote Diane Roback in a Publishers Weekly review of the book. Another stand-alone tale, A Big Quiet House: A Yiddish Folktale from Eastern Europe, illustrates a clever solution to the problem of a complaining spouse who finds the house too small: slowly fill the home to overflowing with a host of noisy animals, then take the animals away and peace, quiet, and space are gained! In this version of the Yiddish tale "It Could Always Be Worse," Forest "hams up her telling with intermittent rhymes and refrains," noted another Publishers Weekly, who added that A Big Quiet House "invit[es] audience participation." Hazel Rochman, writing in Booklist, commented in particular on Forest's "rhythmic storytelling voice." Another Jewish folktale is the basis for Feathers: A Jewish Tale from Eastern Europe. The story, about the difficulty of taking back gossip once it has started, features a rabbi who releases all the feathers from a feather pillow into the wind, and instructs a gossiping woman to gather them all back. The story is "an entertaining tale, ably retold, with a timeless lesson" according to Lee Bock in School Library Journal.

A retelling of a familiar story, Stone Soup, finds two hungry travelers refused food when they stop at a small village. Finally, they convince the less-than-generous villagers that they can make soup from a stone. With contributions of various vegetables from curious—and hungry—onlookers, a wonderful collaborative soup is the result ll. Forest's "simple, direct telling is enhanced by the addition of several folkloric-style rhymes," noted Booklist contributor Kay Weisman. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly added that the author's "jolly prose simmers with energy…. Flavorful and nutritious, this classic tale is served up with a smile." The fable of The Little Red Hen shows that hard work should be valued. While in most accounts of this tale, the Little Red Hen is the only character who does any work, Feather's retelling offers the other animals a chance to redeem themselves and join in the work. Using one of the tale's repeated refrains, a Kirkus Reviews contributor asked: "Who will help read and enjoy this story? Everyone."

Wonder Tales from around the World and Wisdom Tales from around the World both earned a Storytelling World award. Each volume contains brief retellings meant for reading aloud arranged by region of origin. Wonder Tales from around the World includes twenty-seven tales from around the globe, each of which is accompanied by Forest's source notes. The tales feature a repeating phrase to make it easy for audiences to join in with the storyteller in a group environment. Janice Del Negro, writing for Booklist, considered the collection "a good resource for storytelling and comparative research." Wisdom Tales from around the World features fifty tales, fables, and parables, both familiar and less-well-known. Noting both the humor and diversity of the cultures included, Karen Morgan of Booklist felt the collection is "bound to please."

Forest lives with her family on a tree and perennial flower farm on Long Island, New York. "As well as writing books, I share stories with over 40,000 children each year in the Long Island area in schools and community settings," the author/storyteller once explained. "I also travel to storytelling festivals and theaters throughout the United States to present my repertoire of world folk tales told in a minstrel style which interweaves original music, poetry, prose, and the sung and spoken word."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 1995, Sandy Doggett, review of The Animals Could Talk: Aesop's Fables, p. 1662; November 15, 1995, Janice Del Negro, review of Wonder Tales from around the World, p. 551; October 1, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of A Big Quiet House: A Yiddish Folktale from Eastern Europe, p. 353; March 1, 1997, Karen Morgan, review of Wisdom Tales from around the World: Fifty Gems of Story and Wisdom from Such Diverse Traditions as Sufi, Zen, Taoist, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, African, and Native American, p. 1157; September 1, 1998, Kay Weisman, review of Stone Soup, p. 121.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1997, review of Wisdom Tales from around the World, p. 204.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2005, review of Feathers, p. 1079; September 15, 2006, review of The Little Red Hen, p. 953.

Publishers Weekly, March 16, 1990, Diane Roback, review of The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies, p. 68; October 7, 1996, review of A Big Quiet House, p. 74; December 2, 1996, review of Wisdom Tales from around the World, p. 62; May 25, 1998, review of Stone Soup, p. 89.

School Library Journal, December, 1983, "Heather Forest: Songspinner—Folktales and Fables Sung and Told," p. 47; April, 1989, Susan Scheps, review of The Baker's Dozen, p. 96; June, 1990, Luann Toth, review of The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies, p. 112; April, 1996, Lee Bock, review of Wonder Tales from around the World, p. 144; November, 1996, Linda Greengrass, review of A Big Quiet House, p. 97; April, 1997, Judy Sokoll, review of Wisdom Tales from around the World, p. 169; May, 1998, Kathleen Whalin, review of Stone Soup, pp. 131-32; October, 2005, Lee Bock, review of Feathers, p. 138; November, 2006, Kathy Krasniewicz, review of The Little Red Hen, p. 120.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1997, review of Wisdom Tales from around the World, p. 128.

ONLINE

August House Web site,http://www.augusthouse.com/ (December 3, 2007), "Heather Forest."

New England Library Association Web site,http://www.nelib.org/ (December 3, 2007), "Heather Forest."

Story Arts Web site,http://www.storyarts.org/ (December 2, 2007), "Heather Forest."

University of Calgary Web site,http://www.ucalgary.ca/ (December 2, 2007), "Heather Forest."

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