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 draw and entertain a large crowd, while inspiring kids to read. Most programs do one or the other.  Jon's "twist-and-tell" programs do both.

Three decades of experience as a children's librarian in the public library and schools combine with Jon's 45+ years as a professional storyteller and folksinger to create "Perfect Storm Edutainment." Using his guitar, banjo, autoharp, mountain dulcimer and ukulele 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 his tales and recommended books related to the tales. Those books are available for checkout in an adjoining display set up by the local librarian.

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

Contains abridged versions of stories, songs, and slide sequences presented to public library audiences in 2018 summer reading "twist-&-tell" programs. They represent more than one program's contents. An additional story and two songs likely to be added in 2019 are also included. (1) 001Photo intro with song, "My Daddy Rides That Ship In the Sky," from Jon's studio recording. (2) 2:49 Song: "I Had a Dog and His Name Was Blue," while twisting balloon dog. (3) 4:03 Tall tale: "Daniel Boone's Split Dog," told with dog balloon. 5:30 Slides of recommended dog books. (4) 6:46 "Cumberland Mountain Bear Chase" story-song. (5) 10:06 Monkey & chimp photos & Indian trickster tale:

"Monkey and the Crocodile," told with balloon monkey. (6) 13:38 Slides of Koko, the gorilla; 14:09 slides of folktale trickster books (7) 15:00 Call & response song, "We're All a Family Under One Sky," by Ruth Pelham. (8) 15:42 African trickster tale, "Anansi & the Hat Shaking Dance." (9) 18:15 Spanish language action song, "En la pulga de San Jose," with guitar. (10) 20:35 Chinese wisdom tale: "The Empty Pot," told while making balloon flower. (11) 25:32 "The Garden Song," by David Mallett with motions by Jon Sundell. (12) 27:00 Jon's personal slides from year in China. (13) 28:10 Jon making pirate sword. (14) Abridged telling of Edward and the Pirates, by David McPhail, using slides from book. (15) 31:53 Short description of Blackbeard the Pirate. (16) 32:57 Slides of fairy tales & recent spin-offs. (17) 34:05 Fairy tale, "The Six Swans," told while making balloon swan. (18) 38:44 Last verse and chorus of "The Summer Reading Song," by Jon Sundell. (19) 39:24 Slides of various children with the balloon figures they received after the public presentation.

Possible additions/ substitutions for Universe Theme


  • Mosni’s Search for Sand – A creation tale from the Seri Indians of Mexico. Shy Mosni, the sea turtle bravely persists till he successfully reaches the ocean floor and brings back sand to Hant Caai, the god of creation, so that he can build the earth. Sea turtle balloon
  • The Moon In the Well (Turkey) –When Nasrudin Hodja sees the moon’s reflection in his well one night, he thinks it has fallen in. He tries so hard to pull it back up with a hook that he falls over backwards. Looking upward he sees the moon back in the sky and realizes he has succeeded in his heroic effort!
  • The Rough-Face Girl (Native American) – Three sisters want to marry the Invisible Being, but only the youngest, who has a kind and pure heart, can answer the questions asked about him as a test: his bow is made of a rainbow and his sled of the Milky Way.

The Green Grass Grew All Around
On My Grandma's Patchwork Quilt
Jazzy Three Bears

For ages 2-6 yrs: Song & tale excerpts and one "twist-&-tell" story. (1) Introductory slide show to studio recording of "My Daddy Rides That Ship in the Sky," by Woody Guthrie, with banjo; (2) "The Green Grass Grew All Around" - call & response song with motions, guitar; (3) "Cleano," by Woody Guthrie, with banjo; (4) "I'm Gonna Tell," by Rosalie Sorrels, with guitar; (5) "The Lion & the Mouse," Aesop's fable with finger puppet; (6) "Love Grows One By One," by Carol Johnson; (7) Story-song version of folktale, "Stone Soup," by Heather Forest, with audience input, guitar; (8) "Grandma Moses Sick in Bed," African American singing game; (9) "We're All a Family Under One Sky," by Ruth Pelham, with guitar; (10) "Anansi & the Pot

of Beans" - African trickster tale; (11) "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground," mountain folksong, with banjo - children making up new verse; (12) "Twist-&-tell" story, "Solomon, Sheba & the Bee," told while creating balloon flower; (13) "When I First Came to this Land," by Oscar Brand, with autoharp; (14) "En la pulga de San Jose" - Spanish language motion song of playing musical instruments, with guitar.

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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