Monday, May 14, 2007

Good DVD review

A while ago I had a cryptic phone message from School Library Journal, asking for a high-resolution photo of the cover of The Bully Billy Goat and Other Stories. I sent one and asked if this meant I would be getting a review. No answer--until today, when my letter carrier handed me a big white envelope from SLJ.

They didn't use the picture (darn!) and they didn't mention the bonus track, The ghost with the one black eye, but I'm not complaining:
Priscilla Howe is a skillful storyteller who has the ability to capture the attention and imagination of the audience. She captivates a group of children using the school library as a backdrop as she tells them seven stories from around the world. Among the tales are "The Bully Billy Goat" (Poland), "The Pancake" (the Netherlands), "The Bellybutton Bird" (Japan), "Drakestail" (France), and "The Village of No Cats" (Bulgaria). She incorporates fun, interactive moments into "The Poor Little Bug on the Wall" (United States), which helps keep the children engaged. She also uses delightful puppets in telling some of the stories and as an interlude between the tales. A wonderful addition to all collections.--Veronica Schwartz, Des Plaines Public Library, IL.

I think this is the best published review I've ever had. This isn't just vanity on my part: when I was a children's librarian, the reviews in SLJ, Booklist and Kirkus made all the difference in what we ordered. If the review called something "slight" or "an additional purchase," we didn't usually buy it. "A wonderful addition to all collections" would get at least one librarian's initials for purchase.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Last week's busy-ness

It's a nicely quiet week at home. Last week was busy.

Tuesday was Wonderscope Children's Museum (second and fourth Tuesdays at 9:30, though in September it will shift to the first and third). I really appreciate having that regular gig, getting to see some of the same kids every week. Having structure gives me the freedom to try out new stories for little guys and audition new puppets.

Wednesday I went to two schools in Olathe, KS. One was an older school right near downtown. There were some 5th graders in the gym when I was getting ready, so I warmed up with the circular story, A dark and stormy night. This was one of those great schools where the teachers and kids join in. Even the principal did the call-and-response song My aunt came back with the kids. I love that!

From there, I went on to a newer school with a rock-star principal. Huh? At some schools, the principal is so well-liked by the kids they treat him like a rock star. This was a particularly good day: as a fundraiser, the principal had auctioned his job off, so the acting principal was a 2nd grader. She did a fine job introducing me and thanking the students for listening so well. The performances were the real principal's way of thanking the kids for doing their best for the standardized tests.

Afterwards, I drove to Jefferson City for the Mid-Missouri Storytelling Festival. It's a funny festival, with lots of driving to schools in the area. I went to New Bloomfield and Mokane on Thursday, driven by my friends Sarah and Angela from the Daniel Boone Regional Library. I'd been to Mokane a few years ago, not under the aegis of the library. When I was done with the show, I said the usual, "Stay sitting down and look at your teachers. They'll know the order you're going to leave the gym." The principal made a little hand motion for the kids to wait, and then she asked if I could tell one more story--one of the teachers had requested "Chickens!" No problem!

Thursday was gray and drizzly. Friday was absolutely beautiful. I was at two schools in Columbia, MO, hosted by Hilary from the library--she drove me around one day last summer, so it was old home week. I know I'm with the right people when it's okay to swap camp songs in the car on the way to a gig. These schools were the two in town where they don't always get the best test scores. Too bad they don't measure how kids listen to stories--they were excellent audiences at both schools.

That evening I shared a performance at the Columbia Public Library with Tom McDermott from Texas. I've performed at this library many times (they have a performance space in the shape of a big green egg!) and knew it would be a good show. Before the show, Tom and I played a bit of "Name that tune" with the audience--Tom's an excellent musician as well as storyteller.

On Saturday I hung around, having a relaxed breakfast with Sarah and Thom at the Cafe Berlin, then going down to Ashland to see Beth Horner perform. I love hearing Beth tell stories--she's always wonderful. Eventually, after a long and leisurely lunch, I made my way back home.

Now I'm puttering. I plan to tackle the pile of papers on my desk and kitchen table soon, and I may even vacuum. I spent some time this morning planting tomatoes and peppers. I'm always so optimistic this time of year, even knowing that I have a packed schedule and may not get time to weed or water.

Oh, and my new mower finally arrived! I splurged and bought a cordless electric mower, a Bully. I'm looking forward to mowing without so much noise and smell, and to being able to start the darn thing right away. It's charging now.