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


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

"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 

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