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Celebrating the Timeless Art of Spinning Tales

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you want a family break from TV and movies, get comfy, close your eyes and let these master storytellers stir the imagination:

Rainbow Tales and Rainbow Tales 2. Rounder Records. Each: 74 minutes. CD: $15; cassette: $9.50. Ages 6 to adult. (800) 443-4727. “Long ago when the world was new . . .,” “Listen my children . . .,” “Once upon a time. . . .”

The art of tale-spinning is celebrated on these two collections of myths, magic and historical and everyday slice-of-life stories for listeners of all ages. Humorous and evocative, drawn from a variety of cultural traditions, the tales are told by a host of world-class storytellers, among them Garrison Keillor, Jay O’Callahan, Donald Davis, Jackie Torrence, Carmen Agra Deedy and Kentucky’s Roadside Theatre.

Among “Rainbow Tales’ ” 14 selections are J.J. Reneaux’s wry reminiscence of a Cajun childhood, O’Callahan’s rich transformation of Super Bowl Sunday into a little girl’s “Super Sundae” adventure and Len Cabral’s “Nho Lobo,” a comic trickster tale from the Cape Verdean Islands.

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“Rainbow Tales 2,” serving up another 14 stories, includes vintage Keillor in “Meeting Donny Hart at the Bus Stop,” Ramona King’s delightfully West Indies-flavored “Leopard’s Birthday Bop” and Jay Silverheels’ dramatic telling of “Coyote and the Frost Giant.”

The Classic Pooh Treasury, Volume 3. Kid-Tel. 3 1/4 hours. Boxed set, three audiocassettes, 3 hardcover books: $20. (800) 328-6640. If you’re already familiar with British actor Peter Dennis’ remarkable gift for bringing A.A. Milne’s creations to life or if you’re a Milne fan who has yet to discover that pleasure, this latest addition to the “Classic Pooh” series--the 10 unabridged stories from “The House at Pooh Corner"--is a must.

On stage and on recordings, Dennis, with the blessings of the Milne estate, has made Milne’s world something of a life’s work and his intelligent and whimsical readings, meant for adults and children alike, are captivating.

When We Were Very Young. Kid-Tel. 1 hour. Audiocassette and sticker book: $8. (800) 328-6640. Dennis performs 20 of Milne’s unabridged poems, including “If I Were King,” “Halfway Down (the Stairs),” “Teddy Bear” and “Buckingham Palace.” Another keeper.

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