Story Teller 2 in Retrospect

Imagine my delight when I read this on the back cover of Part 24 of Story Teller 1:

Coming soon … Story Teller 2, another great collection of children’s stories.

Not that it came as too much of a surprise. Even as a child, I had a sense of how successful Story Teller had become. Also, earlier on in the series, a questionnaire had been inserted in one of the issues asking parents what their children liked about Story Teller. Which stories did they enjoy most? Which illustrations did they like? I kind of guessed that Marshall Cavendish had a second series in mind.

A second series meant that for one more year I had to save up my pocket money to buy every issue. For one more year, I had to sacrifice sweets, comics and other things for a fortnightly issue of Story Teller. I wasn’t one of those lucky children whose parents bought them every issue. But I did not care. I knew that it would be worth it.

So exactly how delighted was I with the second series? Well, it was more of the same. The same ingredients that made the first series so magical were still there: great stories with beautiful illustrations as well as fantastic readers, music and sound effects.

There were differences that the ST nerd in me immediately spotted, however.

The main difference was that Story Teller 2 had done away with the story categories present in the original. In Story Teller 1, each issue was a balanced mix of genres, with the stories coming from different categories such as Famous Fables, Tales of Today, Classic Fairy Tales, The Story Teller Serial, Cartoon Heroes, Folk Tales of the World and Rhymes and Verses. In Story Teller 2, the stories weren’t so clearly labelled though in practice every issue still contained different types of stories. In each issue, for example, there was still a serial, a poem, a cartoony story, a story set in the present day and so on.

That said, there was a bigger focus in Story Teller 2 on original stories. There were still traditional tales but there were noticeably more specially commissioned stories. As an established publication, Story Teller 2 could afford them!

In Story Teller 2, where one serial ended, another started. In Part 6, for example, the last episode of The Wizard of Oz appeared and the next serial, Gobbolino and the Little Wooden Horse, debuted with its first episode in the same issue. This was not the case with Story Teller 1 where the next serial started in the following issue. To illustrate, the original Gobbolino series concluded in Part 4 of Story Teller 1 and the first episode of Timbertwig, the serial that replaced it, appeared in Part 5. I guessed the new strategy in Story Teller 2 was Marshall Cavendish’s way of ensuring children kept collecting!

What I loved most about Story Teller 2 was that four of my favourite children’s classic novels were serialised. In addition to The Wizard of Oz, the following received the serial treatment: Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows. All four were lavishly illustrated and brilliantly narrated. The soundtracks were superb and to this day I find myself humming them now and again.

Two favourite characters returned: Gobbolino and Grogre the Ogre. The former was only to be expected. Story Teller wouldn’t be Story Teller without Gobbolino, after all. But then, I would have said the same thing about Timbertwig who was sadly missing from Story Teller 2. The iconic character’s absence, I would say, is one of Story Teller 2’s (admittedly few) disappointments.

Story Teller 2 for me was every bit as good as the first series but part of me always wondered if it was just as successful. Like most fans, I had hoped for a Story Teller 3 but it never materialised. Instead, Marshall Cavendish announced the release of Little Story Teller, a series for much younger children, which had little appeal to existing fans. Did it mean that Story Teller 2 had poor sales which did no justify a third series? I couldn’t imagine that the reason for Marshall Cavendish not commissioning Story Teller 3 was that they had run out of stories to feature.

Nevertheless, Story Teller 2 had given us a second year of stories, a treasury that originally we weren’t meant to have. For this, I will always be grateful. With Story Teller 2, we have two fantastic series that collectively – for those of us who grew up in the 80s –  make up the best library of children’s stories ever. Nothing close has ever been published since and sadly, I don’t think we will ever see the magic that Story Teller wove ever again.