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Once Upon an If: The Storythinking Handbook

Once Upon an If was shortlisted for the Education Resources Award, Educational Book 2014 and was awarded the Bronze Prize for Primary Teacher Update's Annual Awards 2014.

 The Philosophy Foundation has a track record of producing a kind of book that’s in short supply: truly innovative contemporary guides to teaching critical and creative thinking to children. Peter Worley’s Once Upon an If: The Storythinking Handbook – a companion to The If Machine and The If Odyssey – is a valuable addition to an exemplary series of books. It further equips teachers to facilitate philosophical enquiry in the classroom, using stories as a springboard for exploring challenging ideas.

Michelle Sowey, Co-Founder and Director of The Philosophy Club


If you want to tell more stories in the classroom but lack the confidence to do so...

If you need guidance finding stories that are good to get students thinking...

If you like using stories in your teaching but want to get more from them than the moral at the end...

Then Once Upon an If, (awarded Bronze in the 2014 Primary Teacher Update awards and Educational Book of the Year Finalist), is the book for you.

Oral storytelling is a powerful medium for inspiring children's imaginations, and using stories for thinking through enquiry encourages their critical engagement with the stories, whilst developing speaking and listening skills.

Once Upon an If is a complete handbook to the art of bringing a story to life and engaging young minds with big ideas through storytelling.

From the award-winning author of The If Machine and The If Odyssey, Once Upon an If draws upon over 10 years of experience as a philosophy teacher, trainer and storyteller to help any teacher place stories and storytelling, both practically and theoretically, back at the heart of teaching.

Once Upon an If also comprises a treasury of stories, new and old, written especially to get young audiences thinking actively about the deeper issues that lie behind and within the stories. Guidance notes, lesson plans and questions are included with every story, which has been tried and tested in the classroom.

'Tell me a story!' is a perennial plea and we are all of us the richer for that. This book shows clearly why.

Anne Fine, second Children's Laureate

There is also a companion website containing resources for teachers to use on the interactive whiteboard which can be found at

Some additional material to accompany the book can be found below: Thinking in Pictures is a list of picture books, themes and questions.  More Stories to Think With is a list of stories with suggested themes. Both are documents that will grow over time, which is why they are an online resource rather than in the book itself.

The Matches

This film is a starter for the lesson plan attached here taken from Once Upon an If. The Matches invites young people to devise their own story-telling techniques and will allow them to explore the concept of 'story' itself. 

The Matches