The StoryWorld Box: Create-a-Story Kit

Title: The StoryWorld Box: Create-a-Story Kit
Publisher: Templar Books/Candlewick Press
Authors: John and Caitlin Matthews
Illustrators: Wayne Anderson, Paul Hess, David Lawrence, Nicki Palin and Tomislav Tomic
Pages: 40 cards, plus booklet
Price: varies (out of print)

StoryWorld was another fortunate, wholly-unexpected used bookstore find. I had never heard of this kit before, and found it randomly tucked into a display for tarot and self-improvement cards. I took one look at it and grabbed on tight; I didn’t want to lose it to anyone else.

StoryWorld is a beautifully-illustrated set of cards, with an accompanying booklet. On the surface, each card represents an archetypal character or element in a classic fantasy/fairy tale: The Queen, The Youngest Son, The Spell of Forgetting, The Magic Mirror, and so on. But the illustrations are richly detailed, with hidden meanings and depths. Take the card, The Father, for example: a middle-aged man holding a smith’s hammer and a sword, and wearing an apron. But look closer: there is a map on his apron, a horse and castle in the background, a spinning top in the corner, a fairy door at his feet, and the stone lintel around him is carved with leaves and vines and the moon and an acorn.

What does it all mean?

And therein lies the magic of StoryWorld. Each card is an entire story unto itself. Start combining them and the story becomes even richer and more complex. The StoryWorld booklet actually includes a sample story gleaned from six cards; suggestions for how to play a StoryWorld game with one or more players; and a discussion of the Hidden Clues which tie the cards together.

Yes, I started playing with it immediately and generated half-a-dozen story outlines which would not otherwise exist.

Despite the beautiful artwork, I do have a few complaints. The first is that the main StoryWorld deck is heavily Euro-centric; with the possible exception of The Knight (it’s a little hard to tell under his helmet) all of the human characters are Caucasian. They also tend to fall into stereotypical gender roles (the women are nurturing and domestic, the men are more active). 

However, several expansion decks were created, and these cards can be combined with the main StoryWorld deck. These include Fairy Magic, Tales From the Haunted House, Quests and Adventures, Legends From the Sea, The Magical Toy Box, and Christmas Tales. The Quests and Adventures deck, in particular, seems to feature multiple ethnicities and characters acting outside their gender stereotype. I was very happy to see that, but, unfortunately, all of the decks are out of print, making many of them very expensive.

I highly recommend The StoryWorld Box to writers, educators, and parents — and I can’t wait to see the stories that I create with it.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan, the editor of EHS.]