Taking Tales Told in Tents into a primary school

Heathfield Junior School, Twickenham, are doing a month long project with year 4 pupils based on my book Tales Told in Tents (illustrated by Sophie Herxheimer and published by Frances Lincoln (2004). They will write and tell stories and learn about Central Asian cultures.

Tales Told in Tents

Tales Told in Tents

I visited the school through Authors Aloud. I took with me coats, hats, carpets and musical instruments I had collected on  trips to Kazakhstan and Kyrgzystan. I told stories from the book and talked about my travels. The children listened to the sound of goat and camel bells, and the temir komuz – the Central Asiain mouth harp. I taught them how to say hello in Kyrgyz. And they tried on hats and coats.

Trying on Central Asian costumes

Trying on Central Asian costumes

 We discussed how felt is made, and looked at the patterns found on the textiles and the meanings they have. The patterns are deeply part of Central Asian life. Many of the patterns are based on the natural world: ram’s horn; eagles wing; goose neck; raven’s claw, and are  auspicious – bringing luck, fertility and prosperity to the wearer.

Velvet embroidered coat from Uzbekistan

Magic, velvet, embroidered coat from Uzbekistan, hat from Kyrgyzstan.

 The children had such interesting questions. One was, “why are all the countries in Central Asia called ‘stan’.”  This led to a discussion about Central Asian history, and the Russian Empire putting borders, boundaries and names to migratory routes that had always belonged to nomadic tribes. I was impressed how deeply engaged and interested the children were during the session.  Their project is about exploring world literature, but through Tales Told in Tents we looked at so many other topics along the way: art and religion; weather and landscape; costumes and food; nomadic culture; storytelling traditions and language. I loved sharing stories with them. At the end of the project they will send me some of the work they make –  I will update my blog with the results!

Heathfield Junior School travelling into stories

Heathfield Junior School travelling into stories


  • Constance Vidor wrote:

    Hello Sally,

    I bought your book Tales Told in Tents a few years ago for my school library here in New York City. I just got around to reading it myself, what a gem it is! I especially love the poem about friendship and the story The Bag of Trickness! I can’t wait to read them to my students next week. Thank you so much for making these stories available to readers. Did you hire translators to help you understand the stories? Thank you again for the book and for your beautiful blog!

  • Sally Pomme Clayton wrote:

    Hi Constance, thanks for your lovely message. I am so thrilled you like Tales Told in Tents. Yes I did have translators – different translators at different times. Sometimes the people telling stories spoke in Russian and sometimes in their own National languages of Kazakh or Kirghiz or Uzbek, or even more local dialects. But I did know many of the stories before my first visit. I had read all the old collections of epics and stories that had been translated into
    English at the amazing library of SOAS – The School of Oriental and African Studies in London. So I knew the stories before I went. And I could recognize them – sometimes without even a translator! And good storytellers communicate so much more beyond language. Thanks for liking my book! Hope your school enjoy it to.

  • Chris Chislett. wrote:

    Hi Sally,

    I came across your book via the CLPE website. Can you recommend a place to buy it online in the uk? Hoping to use it with our Y3s.

    Are doing school visits at present?

    Many thanks


  • Sally-Pomme Clayton wrote:

    Hi Chris, thank you for wanting to find Tales Told in Tents. I am really sad to say that it is now out of print and Frances Lincoln have decided not to re-print it again. So it is currently unavailable.
    It will be re-published by Janetta Otter-Barry Books in a couple of years time. But I am available to come into schools and tell stories from it and show the book and talk about it, and show some of the objects from my collections ( children get to try on hats and coats) though so do email me if you are interested: sallypommeclayton@hotmail.com

  • Years ago I had the pleasure of seeing you perform some of your stories at Waterman’s Theatre in Brentford when my children were young. It was a delightful afternoon. Would you be kind enough to let me have further information on your school visits.

  • Sally-Pomme Clayton wrote:

    Hi Dawn I have emailed you – but if for some reason this does not arrive then please email me sallypommeclayton@hotmail.com for more info.

  • Sally-Pomme Clayton wrote:

    Hi Dawn thanks so much for remembering my work after all these years. That makes me so happy! I am available to work in schools with all ages from Year 1 upwards. I will email you with all the details. Best wishes Sally-Pomme

  • Sarah Hayward wrote:

    Dear Sally,

    My teachers have asked me to get hold of this book for them – but I cannot find it at an affordable price anywhere – do you know if there are any stocks of it anywhere? I need 3 copies so our year 4’s can enjoy it…

    Many thanks and kind regards,


  • Sally-Pomme Clayton wrote:

    Hi Sarah, I am so sorry but the book is out of print at the moment. It will be re-printed in 2018 by Otter-Barry Books. Until then I am available to come and tell the stories from the book and share costumes and musical instruments from Central Asia, and look at pictures from the book with your school.

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