1 of 2
Photo by Diane Cox
Author and storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis jumps into character moments before telling stories to a group of schoolchildren. Ellis is known as a lively performer at schools, conferences, conventions and workshops.
2 of 2
Photo by Diane Cox
Evangelical students Lexi Conrad (left) and Laycee Fish (right) stand with Evangelical school librarian Ann Hamilton. Hamilton is familiar with author and storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis’ portrayal of historical people and characters from fables.
GODFREY — Evangelical School students got a show when author and storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis visited to share tales connecting science, history, art, social studies and language arts.
“I think his stories tell life lessons in a really fun way,” seventh-grader Lexi Conrad said. “He told us stories about forest creatures and their journey. I think it made us see it as the journey of life. His stories are about ways to lead a good life even though everyone faces challenges every day. His stories put it together in a way that is easy to understand.”
A former science teacher, Ellis said by listening to fables from different lands, students absorb ecological information and how animals relate to their habitats.
“I think the life lessons are universal,” Ellis said. “I’m impressed that the students at Evangelical picked up on those meanings. Most of all, I love to share the fun. I do a lot of sing-alongs, encourage audience participation and engage with the students.”
Earning the nickname “Fox” after having a pet fox named “Foxy” as a child, Ellis said he enjoys reaching out to school-age children and seeing what they can pull from his performances.
“I could see the inner story of life’s journey in his story about a mouse,” seventh-grader Laycee Fish said. “He’s very descriptive and you can visualize his story. He uses a lot of body language and he changes his voice volume and makes different sounds when he tells a story. He’s a lot of fun to listen to and he really interacts with the kids. He doesn’t just sit and read us a storybook; he acts out his stories from memory.”
Performing 300 to 400 shows per year, it’s not uncommon for Ellis to do six to eight shows every day. Traveling the country, Ellis visits schools, conferences, conventions and workshops and appears before audiences ranging from preschool to great-grandparents. He has published 16 books, written 20 musical theater productions and is a frequent contributor magazines including trade journals, parenting, academic and general interest magazines.
“I had seen and heard Mr. Ellis many times,” Evangelical librarian Ann Hamilton said. “He has performed at the Hayner Library and on the steamboat The Spirit of Peoria when it’s docked in Alton. He’s done shows where he portrays different historical characters. He keeps the audience engaged with constant movements, sounds and actions.
“The last time he was here he taught the kids how to make horse galloping noises,” she said. “They had so much fun with that, but it took some time to get it out of the kids’ system. He also comes here in the fall for Teen Read Night and he tells scary stories since it’s close to Halloween.”
Ellis lives in Bishop Hill, Ill., with his wife, Kim, and has 23-year-old twin daughters. He said he enjoys the quiet town, which is listed on the historic registry and reminds him of Elsah, along the Great River Road.