Public Library Programs

"Jon Sundell 'plays' an audience of children as well as he plays any of the instruments he brings to a concert. The pace is lively as he moves from song to instrumental to tall tale to sing-along, and the atmosphere is one of warmth and good humor where every child feels a part of the happening."
– Lynne Crocker, journalist, Arts Council of Wyndham County, VT


An ideal library program should not only draw and entertain a large audience, but also inspire them to read and learn. While most programs do one or the other, Jon Sundell's "twist-and-tell" programs do both!

The promise of getting their own balloon figure is a great hook for kids that adds to the appeal of engaging in a lively, varied program of stories, songs, and color slides. Using his guitar, banjo, autoharp, and other instruments and providing plenty of opportunity for participation, Jon weaves together a multicultural assortment of stories and songs to hold his audience in rapt attention. Color slides engage their sense of sight while providing cultural background for tales and recommending books related to the tales. Jon provides the libraries with program-related title suggestions, so that they have an easy option to set up adjoining book displays for students to check out.

To top it off, several of the songs or tales are performed as Jon creates a related balloon figure, and after the show kids get to choose a custom-made figure to take home with their book. The promise of a balloon draws a big crowd. Watching Jon "twist-and-tell" stories enhances their interest. And getting their own balloon at the end is the icing on the cake. Kids go home with songs and tales in their head and books and balloons in their hands.

Trying to hear a child's response to What is a pulga.
telling Mariposa at Un Cr El - Copy (2)
Telling The Monkey & the Crocodile

"Loved the themes, balloons, songs and stories. Very Good storytelling and musical talent."

- Davie County Public Library, NC

Assembling the flower for The Empty Pot

"I think the promise of balloon animals was a big attraction for this program. Our audience was very excited.  It is always interesting to watch the creation of a balloon as the story unfolds." 

- Newton Public Library, Catawba Co, NC

Excerpted performances of myths, fairy tales, folk songs, and fantasy book talks that may be used in a 2020 Summer Reading Program splecial. (1) 00 Introductory slide show to studio recording of "My Daddy Rides That Ship in the Sky," by Woody Guthrie, with banjo; (2) 0.22 "The Summer Reading Song," by Jon Sundell; (3) 1:06 Seri Indian myth: "Mosni's Search," told while making and using a sea turtle balloon figure - from Whiskers, Tails, and Wings: Animal Folktales from Mexico, by Judy Goldman; (4) 5:54 Folksong - "The Green Grass Grew All Around" with guitar;

(5) 7:00 Introduction to folktales; (6) 8:12 Mountain folksong, "Mole In the Ground" with banjo, including children making up a verse; (7) 9:32 European fairy tale: "The Six Swans," told while making a swan balloon figure; (8) 12:09 Folksong: "On My Grandma's Patchwork Quilt," by Larry Jennings, with motions by Jon Sundell, guitar; (9) 13:31 Irish fairy tale: "Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato," as taken from the picture book by Tomie de Paola; (10) 16:10 "The Garden Song," by David Mallett, with motions by Jon Sundell, guitar; (11) 17:23 African American fairy tale/ cante fable: "Barnie McCabe, Doodeleedoo and Sooboy," as told by Janie Hunter, St John's Island, SC; (12) 21:32 "The Summer Reading Song" ending with guitar; (13) 22:10 Slides of Jon & Vivian's balloons & photos with children receiving them, with mountain folk tune, "Cumberland Mountain Bear Chase," banjo. END 22:36

"Your program has it all - Storytelling, folk songs, color slides and balloon figures! There's plenty there to keep everybody entertained." - Emily Cocowitch, Friends of the Library President, Chatham Community Library, Pittsboro, NC


The 2020 theme is custom made for a storyteller. Jon has prepared an exciting mix of folktales from these fantasy-based sub-genres. You don't need to worry about fantasy lending a slow, dreamy pace that might lose your audience. Jon's lively, visceral style and the mix of audience participation and balloon twisting will keep everyone engaged and excited. And knowing that they can take home their own version of the balloons adds a great touch.

Although the exact program is not yet formulated, here are some likely possibilities to be included:

  • Seri Indian creation myth from Mexico: "Mosni's Search," told while making and using a sea turtle balloon figure
  • Folksong - call & response with motions -"The Green Grass Grew All Around"
  • Mountain folksong with banjo - "Mole In the Ground," including children making up a verse

  • European fairy tale from theBrothers Grimm: "The Six Swans," told while making a swan balloon figure
  • Mini booktalks of several fractured fairy tales, including Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin, A Tale Dark & Grimm, the Whatever After series and The Stinky Cheese Man & Other Fairly Stupid Tales
  • Contemporary folksong by Larry Jennings, with motions by Jon: "On My Grandma's Patchwork Quilt"
  • Irish fairy tale: "Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato," based on the picture book by Tomie de Paola
  • "The Garden Song," by David Mallett, with motions by Jon
  • African American fairy tale/ cante fable from St. John's Island, SC, told while Jon creates dog balloon figures and 3 children use them as puppets for "Barnie McCabe, Doodeleedoo and Sooboy." The audience joins in different rhythmic chants sung by Jack, the witch and the dogs,
  • "The Summer Reading Song": Jon 's original song to the tune of "Ain't Gonna Study War No More": "I'm gonna sit down under a shady tree/ with a far off fantasy,/ Gonna read all the summer through. // "I'm gonna amplify my mind, I'm gonna open up my heart; I'm gonna make every day feel new; I'm gonna tickle my funny bone, I'm gonna zap my scary zone!/ I'm gonna read all the summer through."

"Lovely and engaging program. The children enjoyed listening to and interacting with the presentation. They responded with enthusiasm to the call and response songs, storytelling and balloon creations. Balloons are always exciting for children, and it gave them something to take away to remember their experience. The slides provided a good visual for the participants to follow along."   – East Regional Branch, Durham County Public Library

Jon & Vivian at Greensboro Pub Lib 10-6-18 (4)
close-up guitar trimmed in back of bookm - Copy

"Jon Sundell is all about bringing people together. His many talents as a gifted musician and storyteller weave the magic of making a diverse audience feel as one."
Laura Weigand, Children's Services Coordinator, Forsyth County Public Library 

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