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You’ve Got Business

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” Meg Ryan runs a children’s bookstore in Manhattan that reaches out to kids and their parents with lively readings and specialized attention. In the fable for the ‘90s, her store, Little Shop Around the Corner, is endangered by the looming presence of a superstore book chain.

Los Angeles has its own version of Little Shop, but it’s thriving, thanks in no small part to its Saturday morning craft and story hours.

At Storyopolis, classic and contemporary children’s stories come to life in a program that combines a themed craft-making activity followed by a reading of a related story, at a cost of $6 to $8 per child.

Located on the boutique-lined strip of Robertson Boulevard between Beverly Boulevard and 3rd Street, Storyopolis is a spacious children’s bookstore and art gallery.

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“We try to supplement reading because it’s fun for the kids and encourages them to read,” said Fonda Snyder, who co-founded the store with Dawn Heinrichs. “It’s a place where kids have a great time and people of every age are brought back to their childhood.”

Decorated with the illustrated works of more than 70 children’s authors, Storyopolis presents a variety of events each Saturday. Children ranging in age from 2 to 7 spend half an hour on a craft before hearing a story. The programs get underway at 11:30 a.m.

Each week has a different theme. One week it was the Rugrats, another it was reptiles and princesses. On a recent Saturday, the theme was monsters, and author Laura Numeroff was there to read her newest book, “Monster Munchies.” Her illustrator, Nate Evans, was on hand to draw pictures.

The activity started when each family got a poster-size piece of paper and a spot on the floor to make their monster. There were lots of supplies, and soon the families were stacking up ripped egg cartons, straw and yarn. The kids poured glue on their paper and stuck together their messy monsters.

When they were finished, they headed to the story room, a spacious area with a large Oriental rug where the children all sit. Some weeks the reader is an author; other times he or she is a celebrity--Robin Williams and Meg Tilly have been among the guest readers--and some weeks a Storyopolis staff member does the honor.

On a recent day, Numeroff was the reader. She read her monster book to “oohs” and “aahs” from the children and when she was through, she read her books, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and “If You Give a Moose a Muffin.”

When Numeroff finished, she handed the show over to Evans, who used a felt marker to draw pictures. Among the favorites: a dinosaur eating an airplane.

Week to week, many of the same families return to Storyopolis and others visit for the first time.

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“This bookstore has a neighborhood small-town feel that a lot of the commercial chains just don’t have,” said Stacey Wing, bookstore manager. “We see a lot of the same faces and we’ve watched a lot of these kids grow up since we opened.”

Dick Clark (not Mr. American Bandstand) has been bringing his 4-year-old daughter Abigail to Storyopolis about once a month since she was 2. He said she enjoys the crafts and especially loves the stories.

“She loves books,” said Clark, who drives from Sherman Oaks. “It’s also a fun place for the kids because they come up with something different each week.”

A variety of events is scheduled for January, including Crazy Classic Crafts, the coolest crafts projects of 1998 (Saturday); a tooth fairy story and craft hour (Jan. 9); grandparents’ and grandchildren’s story and craft hour (Jan. 16); and “This Little Piggy” craft and story hour (Jan. 30).

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BE THERE

Craft and Story Hour at Storyopolis, 116 N. Robertson, Plaza A, Los Angeles. (310) 358-2500. Cost: $6 to $8. Reservations suggested; drop-ins OK if space is available. Two-hour parking for $1 below the building with Storyopolis validation.


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