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Discovering Books

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Just when you thought there was no hope of luring the kids away from the TV remote control, you discover a whole generation of young readers actually opting for books--as in the Redwall series by Liverpool author Brian Jacques. According to Jody Fickes Shapiro, owner of Adventures For Kids, “One of the special treats of being a children’s bookseller is the enthusiasm in youngsters who have discovered this author.”

His latest, “Marlfox” is the 11th of the Redwall Saga.

Jacques’ appearance at Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura, (650-9688), at 4 p.m. on Thursday may well be a different kind of happening. Shapiro describes him as a “showman and a fabulous raconteur who walks in the door and takes over.” He draws such huge crowds that he developed tendinitis at a recent book signing. Although he writes for ages 10 and older, adults show up to see him as well.

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Children’s author Alexis O’Neill goes one step further in describing Jacques as having “a sort of rock-star status among kids. He’s one guy who is able to create this whole world of vibrant characters peopled with bunches of animals.” And, she added, each character is so distinct that you can tell the difference between them when they are talking.

“He has a great drama background and that comes out in his writing,” she said.

You might wonder what unique qualities make up a children’s writer, and O’Neill is certainly a person who would know. A Simi Valley resident, she is advisor to the Ventura/Santa Barbara Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Her first picture book, “Loud Emily,” (Simon & Schuster) has gone into a second printing. She said she was stunned when it made Newsweek magazine’s list of best children’s books of 1998.

O’Neill thinks the same qualities that apply to any fine writer apply to writers of children’s books. Beyond that, children’s writers must have a very keen perception of what it’s like to be a kid, no matter how old they are.

“You have never forgotten the emotion of being a child and the issues that are very important to kids. You must know how to get back in that voice again,” said O’Neill.

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All authors struggle with how to tell a story, whether in the voice of a young child, an adult, in a quiet voice or an aggressive one. And their struggles can lead authors to seek help from--of all people--a writer’s psychotherapist.

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In fact, such a person, Rachel Ballon, who has a doctorate, will conduct a workshop from 1:30-4:30 p.m. March 7, sponsored by the Ventura/Santa Barbara Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The workshop is titled, “The Psychology of Characters and Conflicts: From Heroes to Villains.”

If you are interested, contact Alexis O’Neill at (805) 581-1906; $20 for members, $35 for others. It takes place at the Santa Barbara County educational office auditorium, 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road, Santa Barbara.

As founder of a writers’ center, Ballon coaches those who pursue writing careers. She is also a poet and screenwriter, and adjunct professor at the USC Film School and an instructor at UCLA and the American Film Institute. You can hear her interviewed at 7 p.m. Wednesday, on “Beyond Words,” KCLU-FM (88.3).

Meanwhile, it’s reassuring to know that you can let your inner child out to play and even earn some money at it.

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HAPPENINGS:

* Today at 2:30 p.m. As part of Nutrition Month, meet Lizzy Rockwell, whose first book as both author and illustrator is “Good Enough to Eat--A Kid’s Guide to Food and Nutrition” (Harper-Collins). Barnes & Noble, 960 S. Westlake Blvd., Thousand Oaks (446-2820).

* Monday at 11 a.m. Stories and art projects. Borders, Thousand Oaks (497-8159).

* Tuesday, 10 to 11 a.m. Meet Lizzy Rockwell, author and illustrator of “Good Enough to Eat--A Kid’s Guide to Food and Nutrition.” Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura.

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* Tuesday at 7 p.m. Read Across America--Dr. Seuss’ 95th Birthday Celebration. The National Education Assn. is calling for every child across the country to celebrate reading today. Guest reader is Ventura Mayor Jim Friedman reading his favorite Seuss title, “Green Eggs and Ham.” Refreshments. Ventura Barnes & Noble, 4360 E. Main St. (339-9170).

* Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. Read about the adventures of the Teletubbies. Barnes & Noble, 4360 E. Main St., Ventura (339-9170).

* Wednesday at 7 p.m. Book signing and discussion with Connie Zeig, author of “Romancing the Shadow: A Guide to Soul Work for a Vital, Authentic Life.” Borders, Thousand Oaks (497-8159).

* Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. Brian Jacques will sign “The Marlfox,” the newest in his Redwall Saga. Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura (650-9688).

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* Friday at 7 p.m., Storytime-Kindermusick. Sing and read stories at this interactive story time. Barnes & Noble, Ventura, 4360 E. Main St. (339-9170).

* Friday at 4 p.m. Storytime incorporates stories and music led by Kelly. Borders, Thousand Oaks (497-8159).

* Saturday at 1 p.m., Bobby Joe Holman leads a harmonica workshop for kids. Bring your own harmonica or purchase one at the event. Borders, Thousand Oaks (497-8159).

* Saturday at 7 p.m. Special Pajamamania--kids, wear pajamas and win a prize at Borders, Thousand Oaks (497-8159).

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Catch you next week.

Information about book signings, writers groups or publishing events can be faxed to Ann Shields at 647-5649 or e-mailed to anns40@aol.com.


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