Remembering Spencer Shaw
News came today, via another of storytelling’s greats, Margaret Read MacDonald, that Spencer Shaw has gone to the big storytelling circle in the sky.
I quickly turned to YouTube to see if anyone had posted a video of this consummate gentleman and talented storyteller and found a two-part interview from the University of Washington.
It was in a UW classroom that I first met Spencer Shaw. He was teaching a children’s literature class. I was studying to become a school librarian.
He was the first person to introduce me to storytelling as a modern craft and as one of the best tools in the kit bag of any school librarian. With whatever starting words he began a story—”once upon a time”…”once there was…”—Spencer was transformed. His eyes sparkled. His always stately speech became conspiratorial, inviting us into the fun.
During one of my visits to Seattle, during my brief stint as an elementary school librarian, I asked him why children wanted to hear the same story again and again.
His answer is still the best I’ve heard. “It’s because the children know what’s coming, but the characters don’t.”
A tribute to Professor Emeritus Spencer Shaw can be found on the UW’s Information School Web site.
Part 2 of the interview: