A Story for Hurricane Harvey

A Story for Hurricane Harvey

A story and activity for children and parents.  I wanted a Hurricane story to tell my students, but couldn’t find one, so I loosely adapted this from the Chippewa tale Shingebiss.  Themes are endurance, focus on friendships and the positive, and that bad things do end.

My hopes are that the story will help children process their feelings and be comforted.  The activities and especially the inspired free play afterwards is where children can further work out how they feel and also make sense of the event in their own way.

My heart goes out to my city.

click here for the printable pdf:

Story for Hurricane Harvey and Activities: Printable version

(beautiful pictures swiped from this  article)

Once upon a time there lived a little squirrel in a cozy cozy squirrel nest at the top of a big pine tree.  She loved the mockingbird in the tree, the rat who lived in the wall on the house just next to the tree, and the raccoons who lived in the tree next door.  She loved to watch the sun shine through the green pine needles of her tree, and feel it swaying in the breeze to rock her to sleep at night.

But one day, the sun disappeared behind dark clouds.  Her tree began to sway, sway, sway.  The little squirrel was scared.  “It’s a hurricane,” said the mockingbird.

It was true.

Far out in the middle of the sea, there was a tiny raindrop who was very, very angry.  The tiny raindrop was so angry he began to spin and spin and spin.  He had long, long hair, and his hair whipped all around him.  With every spin he grew older and bigger, taller and stronger, stronger,  stronger.

He grew the size of a house. He spun faster.

He grew the size of a mountain.  He spun faster.

He grew to be almost the size of Texas.  He spun faster.  And then, he thought he’d go traveling.

And the whole time, he was spinning.

If you’ve ever spun and spun, you know that you can’t walk very well when you are doing that.  Well, neither could Hurricane Harvey.  Spinning, spinning, not looking where he was going.  He spun all over the land, bumping into things, knocking them down, flooding them.  Now, he couldn’t stop even if he wanted to.

Squirrel was hiding in her cozy nest in her tree.  The mockingbird’s nest blew away, so she huddled in with squirrel.  The tree blew and blew but didn’t fall down.

I don’t care I don’t care

windy hair, windy hair

Spin, spin, spin!

-screamed the Hurricane.

Squirrel sang out:

“You can’t spin forever, your spinning is done.

The sun will come, the sun will come!”

But Hurricane Harvey only laughed, because the sun was no where to be seen.

He blew the tree down.

Now squirrel and mockingbird didn’t have a home.  But the raccoons were passing by in a boat and they pulled their friends on board.  They were safe.

I don’t care I don’t care

windy hair, windy hair

Spin, spin, spin!

Hurricane was still spinning, trying to blow them off the boat.  He was so angry he was crying and his tears made so much rain.

But squirrel sang:

“You can’t spin forever, your spinning is done.

The sun will come, the sun will come!”

The raccoons took their friends to rat’s house.  It was in the wall of a house and the house was still okay.  All the animals huddled together, safe and warm.

I don’t care I don’t care

windy hair, windy hair

Spin, spin, spin!

But Harvey was spinning slower.  He was running out of water.

“I’m tired of spinning,” he sighed.  He was so tired.

The animals sang:

“You can’t spin forever, your spinning is done.

Here comes the Sun.  Here comes the SUN.

The sun will dry up every drop

Spinning, spinning, spinning- STOP.”


The sun was coming out.  So golden and strong and full of light.


Harvey became tiny.  He became a tiny raindrop again.  He fell down and went to sleep.  He was so tired of spinning.

The water dried up.  The animals helped squirrel find a new tree and they built her a new home.  She helped the raccoons and mockingbird build new nests.  The rat cooked them dinner.  They were safe and warm and so happy to be friends.

And the sun was making a rainbow again.

Snip, snap, snout

Our tale is all told out.

The End

(Here is a puppet show version I made from the story.)

Art Activity:

Draw Harvey

Materials: paper, bigger the better.  Crayons.  Water color.  Can also use glitter, bits of tin foil.

Adult narrator:

“Harvey was like a tiny dot you make with a crayon.

Make tiny scribbles, around and around.  Slowly, slowly.

Now go a little faster…

and a little faster….

Now really really fast!

And slower- the sun is coming.



and…. stop.”

Children can paint over the crayon drawings with watercolor, and decorate with bits of foil or glitter.


Movement Activity:


Need: small drum or empty wastebasket to be a makeshift drum.  Could also just clap.

Long streams of paper: crepe paper, toilet paper

Flashlight, if you have one.



-Narrator- adult or older child for the first few times.

-One child to be hurricane.  Hurricane holds long streamers in her hands. (Helpful: to mark out a square or circle with masking tape or designate a rug for Hurricane, so Hurricane knows where her boundaries are and will not hurt herself..)

-One or more child to be Sun. Sun holds the flashlight.

-Extra children can be baby animals, hiding under a table or in some sort of “shelter.”  Stuffed animals can be good props.


Hurricane child begins on the floor like a little tiny raindrop.


Narrator slowly chants, accompanied by drum or clapping:


I don’t care I don’t care

windy hair, windy hair

Spin, spin, spin!


Slowly.  “Now the raindrop gets bigger.  Stand up!”

Chant again. Faster.  “Now you are a hurricane!  Go faster!

Chant again, very fast.



Chanter stops drumming.  Sun child comes out and shines flashlight on Hurricane child.

Chanter says:


“You can’t spin forever, your spinning is done.

Here comes the Sun.  Here comes the SUN.


The sun will dry up every drop

Spinning, spinning, spinning- STOP.”


“Fall to the ground now Hurricane!  You are finished!”


The end.


Repeat until children lose interest, then let them loose with toilet paper, the shelter, and the flashlight and let them free play!

When the Storyteller meets the Dancer

How shall a Storyteller collaborate with a Dancer?

Well, first the Storyteller spins a story to a group of very imaginative kids, ages 7-11 years old.

The story is about two lands: one is the tropical paradise island of Lemuria, and the other is the crystal urban labyrinth of space-aged Atlantis.

After the story, she gives them paper and crayons to draw scenes from the story.  That’s an okay idea, but the kids explain to her that what they what they really need is to build.  Out come the magnet blocks.  The children begin to build the crystal structures, how they imagine the buildings of Atlantis to be.  It was the architecture that interested them most.




Now the Storyteller’s work is done.  The kids transition into the dance studio with Amanda Barrett Hayes (who runs a lovely movement program for children, Moving-Body).  The Dancer.




Amanda asks the kids: “If you were in the streets of Atlantis, how would you move?  How would you move through this techno city?  Like a robot?  Fast? Slow?  Are there tunnels to crawl through? Are there crowds to get through?”

The kids begin to unroll yoga mats and lay them out like streets.  Techno music plays, and they begin to fly through space, and crawl, and roll, drop to the ground, spring up again, pivot, freeze, and turn.



The song ends.

Now it is time for Lemuria.

The Dancer asks:

“How would you move if you were in Lemuria?  Through the sea, how do you dive, are there animals?”

She opens a magic box filled with color, and passes out silk veils to all the children.

Music.  A drumbeat, with a sprinkling of piano falling like petals.

The children begin to fly around the space with the silk and color, like butterflies.

And as for me,  the Storyteller, I have been watching this entranced.  And I know that tomorrow my story will have tunnels, and bridges, and animals, and children who move like butterflies.


This post is part of a series about my experiences collaborating with educators, artists and children at Whole Kids Summer Camp, Houston.


Five Beautiful Moments from Camp Today


tellingSPECIAL REPORT FROM Whole Kids Summer Camp!

SunBee Friends, I feel so blessed to be part of the amazing alchemy of imagination and magic that is going down at NiaMoves this week at Whole Kids Summer Camp.  I’d really like to share five things from today that were absolutely soaked in sunshine and sparkles and enchantment.  You see, it’s hard for me to explain to people about this camp when they ask me because it really is so multidisciplinary.  So perhaps these five jewels will help explain…

  1.  I told the beginning part of “The Crystal and the Whale”, a tale about two children got caught in a storm at sea!  Kids made journals and took some time to write and draw their responses to the story.  One girl mapped out the entire island.  Several showed me their interpretations of the famous “Warrior’s Tattoo” from the story.  Another showed me just what a girl with fins on her ankles and a gill on her forehead, like the main character, would look like.

2.  Theater teacher Gabriela Maya invited the kids to use sounds and movement to create the beginning of their play.  The children began with creating a storm: one was the spirit of the wind, another pair were seagulls pulling at each other’s wings, and another twirled like a spinning tornado.

The Beginning of a Storm!

The Beginning of a Storm!


3.  The plot thickens.  Some kids become animals on the island.  Another girl arrives: a human, but the storm gods do not like humans!  Drama.  There was definitely some drama.


Pounding the floor with feet and hands to create thunder sounds.

4.  Outside, the children work with artist Holly Hudley to create a totem.  On REAL wood with REAL paint!  I dunno, it’s such a thrill when you get to work with a heavy material like actual wood- not cardboard pretending to be wood, but actual timber!





5.  Speaking of high quality materials: we all screen printed our own T-shirts!  Screen printing is awesome…



PS. Another thing that brought me joy today, although it was unconnected with the kids’ camp, was the contents of the recycling bin at Nia Moves.  Keep calm and kombucha on.


You know you’re in the Houston Heights when…

The Crystal and the Whale (Stories for a Summer Camp)

One of my characters was inspired by Hawaiian girl surfer Ha'a Keaulana. Photograph by Paul Nicklen for National Geographic.

One of my characters was inspired by Hawaiian girl surfer Ha’a Keaulana. Photograph by Paul Nicklen for National Geographic.

“Could you make up a tale about a peaceful civilization?  What would that look like?”

This question was posed to me by Lisa Gale, who needed such tales for  this year for her wonderful Whole Kids Summer Camp (no relation to Whole Foods).  Lisa is a shamanic yogi who has tossed stories with shanakees in Ireland, and she knows a thing or two about magic.  Our camp theme this year was “tribal, or what makes a community.”

I had been reading Lost Lands by Lucy Cavendish, so my imagination went to the mythical “lost” cities of Lemuria and Atlantis and wove stories about how they might have been.  Two children from the tribal world of Lemuria wash up on the shores of the spaced-aged, tech-happy Atlanta and meet an Atlantean child.  Adventures ensue, including deep sea diving for pearls, crystal healing, riding a whale and a tsunami.

The whackadoodle yet fascinating Australian book about vanished undersea cities.

The wackadoodle yet fascinating Australian book about vanished undersea cities.

Other teachers are going to come in with playwriting, cooking, movement, dance, and art all inspired by the story.  The children will do the same, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.  I’m already brimming with questions to get them going: which would you rather live in, Atlanta or Lemuria?  I made these stories up based on what I imagine they were like… what do you think?  What if you could invent your own tribe and community and civilization?

I will be recording these stories and hope to have them on MP3 soon.  Thus I shall now say “to be continued…” I will update this post so it has some actual tales on it! The stories are conceived for kids 6 to about 9.  This will take me into the realm of recording technology where I have never traveled, but I figure if I can dream up the streets of Atlanta I can handle this!

Here is a bit of the magic that took place last year at Whole Kids Camp, which still has spots left.  Register here (when you click on the link, you gotta scroll down a bit).




Art installation: under the sea



This looks like an innocent milk carton, but it’s actually the statue of a wicked empire with a deadly curse trapped inside.



Using a sheet they painted the day before to create the underwater dragon’s cave!

Story from the River, Story from the Sea

Did you know that one of the most famous Japanese warriors of all time is called Peach Boy?

It’s true.  An old man and woman find a giant peach, and when it opens, inside is a little baby whom they name Peach Boy, or Momotaro.  Momotaro grows to be a fearless youth who takes it upon himself to teach the mean ogres in the mountain next door a lesson.  Although in the story Peach Boy is around 15, I made him into a younger child for our puppet show.  It just tickled me pink peach how a tough little warrior is called, not Superman, not Ironman, not Hulk, but Peach Boy.  YEAH!

Peach Boy is a bad*$#, as seen by this statue standing in Okayama, Japan.  Photo by jumbokedama on Flickr.

Peach Boy is a bad*$#, as seen by this statue standing in Okayama, Japan. Photo by jumbokedama on Flickr.


The kind old couple finds a baby boy in a giant peach.

Tale of the Oki Islands (The Legend of Tokoyo)

Our oral story inspiration this June also comes from sea-encircled islands of Japan.  A young girl Tokoyo is the kind of strong girl hero I love to find in old stories.  An excellent pearl diver, Tokoyo sacrifices herself to save another girl and journeys to the bottom of the sea.  There she meets the Dragon King, and battles him when all others have given up hope.

I wish I could credit this lovely picture.  I think it's from Studio Ghibli.

I wish I could credit this lovely picture. I think it’s from Studio Ghibli.

Both of these tales were found in my trusty copy of Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole.  But many Japanese tales can also be found on the website Kids’ Web Japan, if you’re into ogres, tanukis and toothpick warriors… and who isn’t?

SunBee Circle in Summer at Ervan Chew Park

This hot, hot June SunBee Circle will have a new time and new location.  Our Friday class for mixed ages (2-8) will take place at the Ervan Chew Park on Dunlavy, a few blocks south of Richmond.  This park has a gazebo, picnic tables, a playground, and most importantly a splash pad for cooling off!  We will enjoy a lot of watery activities inspired by Tokoyo, Dragon King and Peach Boy.  We will also have a new time of 10-11 AM- all the better to cool us with, my dear!

See you there!

the story bag: how to remember an oral story

When I first started telling stories to children (as opposed to reading them from a story book) I worked way too hard.  I would try to memorize the story with the effort of a Shakespearean actor learning lines for Hamlet.  But storytelling isn’t the same as learning a script.  It’s looser, it changes, improvisations and deviations are okay.

Pre-literary people had a lot of little tricks to cheat and help them remember the story.  For instance, all those repititions of “rosy-fingered dawn” in the Odyssey?  They were actually pauses to help the storyteller get his bearings to remember what was coming next.  While the audience enjoyed a few lines of lovely singing, the storyteller was taking a mental coffee break.

I have a mystery in my hand...

I have a mystery in my hand…

Fairy tales also use repitition, and it’s not just because children love it.  In the fairytale Donkey Skin, the princess buys time to wriggle out of a marriage with her incestuous father by asking first for a dress the color of weather, then a dress the color of the moon, then a dress the color of the sun.  The repitions give structure to the storyteller and help her remember what is coming next.

My own trick that I like the best is not only repitition, but something tangible- using a Native American story bag.

“The Iroquis storyteller or Hage’ota carried a bag full of items that acted as mnemoic devices- each item represented a story.  The Hage’ota, or perhaps a chid in the audience, would pull an item out the bag, the item would be shown to the people and the story would begin. ” -Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac, Keepers of the Animals.

Three Characters

Three Characters

I adapted this idea a little because I need more help remembering!  Sometimes I will fill a little bag with something simple, like three little objects.  If I were telling “Frog Creates Rain” I might put in my bag:

A pebble, for First Woman

A bit of sponge, for Frog

A feather, for Crane

Holding these objects as I tell the story helps me remember.  When I hold the pebble, I remember First Woman, and so on.  When I know the story very well, I can involve the children by letting them choose and hold objects from the story bag.

Anything to help remember!