quack, quack, quack

The power of story cannot be denied. Neither can the priority of story within the Bible. It is a story. And yet sometimes those most committed to biblical preaching suddenly become ambivalent when the conversation moves to story and storytelling. I don't get it. As far as I am concerned, at its best, biblical storytelling fits within the best descriptions of biblical preaching, or exposition.

When I teach on the subject I find the most effective entry point to be the children's story. I like to start with Joy Cowley's Quack, Quack, Quack.  
[NB: it is not easy to purchase these days, I see!].

As the image to the left describes (I chose it for this reason) - the story takes place in 16 pages, with only 126 words.

It takes just five minutes to read. But the discussion which follows is difficult to stop. People hear and see for themselves the significance of all the central features of narrative: scenic structure, setting, plot, realism, character development, tension, humour, emotion, imagination, dialogue, point of view, repetition, surprise ...

All of that in just 126 words. Have I mentioned that yet? Amazing. The illustrations help as well. This brevity, or compression, is something we find in biblical stories - particularly the parables.

One of the reasons why I love Quack, Quack, Quack is because it was given to me by my lovely Alyssa when she was six years old. It came with a greeting inscribed at the beginning - and then a little note which I have stapled as a postscript at the end. It brings me joy...

[Can you tell it's time to head home and see the kids again?! 28 days]

After Quack, Quack, Quack, I like to take people to a fuller story - Love You Forever. I am not the world's best story-teller, but I have had grown men crying at the end of telling this story. One time in Hamilton it was a professor at a university in New Zealand... It has all the same features - except that the repetition is more obvious and the surprise is an unbelievable exaggeration, but it doesn't seem to matter to most people.

It is much more advisable that you order your own copy - but there is a link on youtube where you can hear and see the story being read...
[Spoiler Alert: the narrator goes far too quickly...it is kinda disappointing].

In more recent years, I've taken a shine to a little book set in Africa called Handa's Surprise. It is the story of a gorgeous little girl (Handa) who takes a basket of fruit to her friend (Akeyo) in a neighbouring village, but along the way different animals steal different pieces of fruit from the basket on her head - and then there is ... well, a surprise.

My lovely Alyssa is all growed-up now. She and Tim have a gorgeous little boy - Micah (not yet two years old). Every time we chat on skype, Micah and I eat crackers together and read Handa's Surprise. I never tire of the story...

In 28 days Micah and I are going to enjoy an animation of Handa's Surprise - exquisitely done (at the right pace!) and with the right accent too. Alyssa has offered to ensure that Micah does not see this animation of the story until he is sitting in Grandpa's lap - but we can make exceptions for you.

But back to preaching...
There are two pathways by which to travel into this world of retelling the stories of the Bible. One is through the scholarly world of what is called narrative criticism, or analysis. It is important. But it is not the place to begin. Too much clutter, too early. No! Start with the best in childrens' stories. Sensitize yourself to all these literary features by soaking often in simple, brief and compelling stories designed for children. Aim to be simple, brief and compelling with your retelling of the biblical story ... and then go away, do your exegesis and engage the scholars.

nice chatting



Rachael Ayres said…
If you're really pushed for time and can't manage over a hundred words, you could try Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins - it's only 32 words, but has all the features you're looking for in a good story. Even if you don't read it to preaching students, make sure you enjoy it with Micah!
Tim Jacomb said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Jacomb said…
Hi Paul

As always, it's good to sit with your thoughts. I had the privilege just the other day of reading to Micah...he is certainly a boy who knows what stories he likes, and quite the little guitarist=)

Your comments on narrative criticism are timely and good reminder. Back to the kids books for me!
Paul RW said…
I will definitely get hold of Rosie's Walk, Rachael. Thanks so much.

As for you, Mr Jacomb, you are privileged to be able to read to my grandson. But if you get anywhere near Handa's Surprise with him, you will be Surprised by the fury that will come from my Hand :).

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