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

2023 Summer Reading Program - All Together Now:

Songs & Tales of Kindness, Friendship and Unity


This summer's themes provide fertile ground for Jon Sundell, who has been using his creative talents for over fifty years to promote kindness, friendship and unity among diverse people and cultures. Just a few examples: The annual Lanterns of Hope Multicultural Program that he founded at Forsyth County Public Library – where children design their own peace lanterns and float them together – is still going strong after thirty years. The Hispanic Services bookmobile he designed and purchased, including a wrap-around mural he co-planned with Cuban artist Raul Montero, still visits Hispanic apartment complexes. Copies of the bilingual anthology Many Voices, One World/ Muchas voces, un mundo, written by diverse participants in his Multicultural Writing Project, can still be checked out from public and school libraries.

Singing in front of Forsyth Public  Library Hispanic bookmobile (purchased by Jon and co-designed with Cuban artist, Raul Montero)
One World Family Album Cover
Music and storytelling: But Jon's most passionate and creative means of promoting kindness, friendship, and unity has come through his music and storytelling. In the last two-thirds of his extensive performing career – both as an independent artist and children’s librarian – he has increasingly emphasized these themes. In fact, he is currently working to complete a CD  set entitled, “One World Family.” Through his long experience he has accumulated a rich repertoire of songs and tales to choose from. And more recently, he has been using his research skills to uncover a multitude of new thematic songs on Spotify. (Welcome to the 21st century, Jon!)


"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 

Jon’s long and varied experience with all ages, backgrounds, and settings has helped him develop a style that is at once highly dynamic and as natural as breathing. A hallmark of that style is audience interaction - from  patterned verbal and physical responses that the audience does in unison to creative ones like inventing song verses, expressing feelings, role-playing, or suggesting plot-points. He uses this array of interactions - including the simplest, leading the group together in song - to not only engage his audience, but to build a sense of community. How fortuitous for this summer's theme!

Another hallmark of Jon's style is variety. By skillfully interweaving stories and songs he is able to not only change up the pace, but, paradoxically, provide continuity. The different threads of song and tale come seamlessly together to form a multi-colored cloth - in this case we might call it a cloth of  kindness, friendship, and unity. Accompanying songs on different instruments - guitar, banjo, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, and ukulele - provides further variety. And colored slides - which engage the sense of sight as they introduce viewers to actual people and acts of kindness and unity - drive home the theme and make it something "real" and actionable.

The bottom line is that veteran edu-tainer Jon Sundell is offering a program that is both entertaining and inspiring, both imaginative and real. Using his fifty-year-old toolbox of songs, tales, color slides and experience, he will not only delight his audience for forty-five minutes, but plant a seed for them to carry forth into the world - a seed to help grow gardens of kindness, friendship, and unity in daily life around them.


Dia stone girl
Still Photo 7

The children were absolutely enthralled from the kindergarteners through the seventh grade. Children of all backgrounds respond so well to Mr. Sundell because he operates on their level.
– Jeanne Pearson, Coordinator of Arts and Education, Dekalb County for the Arts, GA.

Basic video sampler for All Together Now: Songs & Tales of Kindness, Friendship, and Unity. This combination of songs, tales, and slides gives an approximation of Jon Sundell's proposed 2023 summer reading program, although a few specific, songs, tales, and/or slides may be different. (1) 0:00 Title page (2) 0:11 "The Green Grass Grew All Around" - Call & response folk song with motions, with guitar; (3) 00:56 "The Lion and the Mouse" - Aesop's fable with finger puppet; (4) 02:12 "Love Grows One By One" - folk song by Carol Thompson using motions, with autoharp; (5) 2:32 "I'm Gonna Tell" - folk song by Rosalie Sorrells, with guitar; (6) 3:20 Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott - Slide show with narration & Civil Rights spiritual, "We Shall Not Be Moved"; (7) 4:37 Musical Stone Soup with audience help, with guitar (8) 6:29 "Share It!" - call & response folk song by Rosenschantz, with guitar, from studio recording of "One World Family" CD; (9) Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, the United Farm Workers and the Grape Boycott - Slide show with narration and "The Ally Song," by Lindsay Munroe; (10) 8:50 "We're All a Family Under One Sky," call & response folk song by Ruth Pelham with 2nd verse by Jon Sundell, using poetry from W. Nikola-Lisa in "Bein' with You This Way," with guitar; (11) 9:37 "It Could Be a Wonderful World" - slide show with folk song by Hi Zaret & Lou Singer, from studio recording of Jon Sundell CD, "One World Family."

This video supplements the basic sampler for 2023 SRP All Together Now theme, It shows how Jon leads kids through making up verses to a song. It also shows his storytelling skill more than in the interactive tales of the basic video sampler. (1)00:00 Title page. (2) 00:12 Mountain folk song, "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground," including students creating a new verse," with banjo; (3) 01:43 Commentary explains how this process can

be applied to "You Are My Sunshine" for the 2023 theme; (4) 02:05 Turkish wisdom tale, "Nasudin Hoja's Hungry Shirt"; (5) 05:26 Old Blue medley: making balloon dog while singing, "I Had a Dog and His Name Was Blue"; Telling the tall tale, "Daniel Boone and His Split Dog," using balloon dog as a prop; (6) 08:27 Description of two true tales of animal kindness that can be told with 2023 SRP theme.

Twist-&-Tell Summer Programs - General Information

An ideal library program should not only draw and entertain a large audience, but also inspire them to read and learn. While most programs do one or the other, Jon Sundell's "twist-and-tell" programs do both!

The promise of getting their own balloon figure is a great hook for kids that adds to the appeal of engaging in a lively, varied program of stories, songs, and color slides. Using his guitar, banjo, autoharp, and other instruments 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 tales and recommending books related to the tales. Jon provides the libraries with program-related title suggestions, so that they have an easy option to set up adjoining book displays for students to check out.

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)
SnapShot Mosni 1 (2)

"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



The video below was prepared as a virtual concert for several North Carolina libraries. It combines two fairy tales and a myth with one traditional and two original folk songs. Creative editing, color slides and balloon figures were added as well. Let us know if you'd like to stream the video in your library or have Jon create a different video in this exciting hybrid style.

(1) 00 General intro; (2) 1:28 "The Summer Reading Song," with guitar, words by Jon Sundell, using music from "I Ain't Gonna Study War No More," an old African American spiritual; (3) 5:27 Intro to mythology and Native American myth; (4) 7:18 Native American Myth: How Raven Brought Light to His People; (5) 13:03 Intro to folk song; (6) 15:10 Traditional folk song: "Little Birdie," with banjo; (7) 18:03 Intro to fairy tales & Barney McCabe; (8) 22:07 Fairy tale: "Barnie McCabe, Doodeleedoo and Sooboy" with singing parts; includes making & using balloon dogs in story; (9) 29:49 Intro to Japanese fairy tale: The Tengus' Magic Fan; (10) 32:41 Fairy tale: The Tengus' Magic Fan;

(11) 44:17 Reflections on how fairy tales help us in real life; (11) 45:20 Intro to song, "Patchwork Quilt"; (12) 46:43 Folk song by Larry Penn: "On My Grandma's Patchwork Quilt," with motions by Jon Sundell; (13) 50:32 Concluding comments; (14) 51:19 Credits.

Recommended Books & Resources on the 2020 Summer Theme. Click here. 

Summer Reading Song
Tengu laughing at the magic fan's nose trick
Tengu laughing at his magic trick

"Your program has it all - Storytelling, folk songs, color slides and balloon figures! There's plenty there to keep everybody entertained." - Emily Cocowitch, Friends of the Library President, Chatham Community Library, Pittsboro, NC



The 2021 summer theme is a perfect fit for Jon's multifaceted, multi-media program! Jon's repertoire is filled with dozens of delightful folk songs and tales about animals from around the world. And he and his wife Vivian have plenty of balloon animals to match. The promise of a personal balloon figure will draw kids in and, in addition to enhancing the performance, provide a sweet treat at the end.

In case you're still not doing live concerts by next summer, not to worry! Jon can produce an engaging, high definition video in similar style to the one above from 2020. Folk songs will still be there to vary the pace, liven the tone, and invite eager participation.  In addition to filling in background and linking to books,  color slides are occasionally used as part of the actual storytelling. Creative editing further enhances the video's appeal, as does the simultaneous twisting and telling.  And if you wish, Jon and Vivian will follow the virtual concert with live balloon making for kids waiting safely outside in a socially distanced line. To shorten the wait, they can make some balloons in advance or you can pre-register families in time slots.

Below is a sampling of possible songs, tales and balloon figures for the 2021 summer program, taken from footage of past concerts. The first 11 minutes should convince you of Jon's skill as a storyteller, songleader and edu-tainer. You can watch the remainder to get a fuller sense of possible repertoire and how the different program elements fit together.

(1) 0:05 Old Blue medley with balloon figure: Folk song,"I Had a Dog and His Name Was Blue" & tall tale, "Daniel Boone & His Split Dog"; 3:05 Book talks about dogs; (2) 4:25 Appalachian folk song, "I Wish I Was a Mole In the Ground," with banjo, including students making up a verse; (3) 6:31 African trickster tale, "Anansi and the Pot of Beans"; (4) 10:41 Folk song, "The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night," with banjo; (5) 12:18 Indian trickster tale, "The Monkey and the Crocodile," with balloon figure; (6) 15:05 Bilingual folk song

by Michele Valeri, "Mi casa es su casa," with guitar; (7) 18:13 Seri Indian Creation myth from Mexico, "Mosni's Search," with balloon figure; (8) 22:45 Cajun tall tale, "The Cajun Possum"; 25:44 Credits

Monkey & Croc w book

"Lovely and engaging program. The children enjoyed listening to and interacting with the presentation. They responded with enthusiasm to the call and response songs, storytelling and balloon creations. Balloons are always exciting for children, and it gave them something to take away to remember their experience. The slides provided a good visual for the participants to follow along."   – East Regional Branch, Durham County Public Library

Jon & Vivian at Greensboro Pub Lib 10-6-18 (4)
close-up guitar trimmed in back of bookm - Copy
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