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'Dad, Let's Go See a Story'

August 23, 1992|Martin Zimmerman

Like most of the Great Existential Questions, in its purest essence it all boiled down to a simple query: Would the Squirrel Monkey sit still for 30 minutes?

The occasion for this philosophical line of thought was an excursion with my four-year-old son Jeffrey, a.k.a. the Squirrel Monkey, to a storytelling session at Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena. The other Great Existential Question--what does one wear to a storytelling session?--was easily resolved due to the ungodly heat wave: Peanut-butterproof shorts and T-shirts with advertising slogans for both of us.

So, one recent Saturday morning found me stumbling bleary-eyed into the valley of children's books, Sendaks to the left of me, Potters to the right. . . .

The scene: The second floor of Vroman's--bookstore basic. To get to the storytelling area, a besieged parent must get past the display of Babar dolls, read-along tapes and books, videos and "Clifford the Big Red Dog" jigsaw floor puzzles. If Vroman's has a weak point, marketing isn't it.

Who was there: Emily, Nikasha, Michael and Jeffrey, plus three late arrivals (junior celebs?) who refused to give their names. A gathering multiethnic enough to use on a Rebuild L.A. poster.

The topliner at this event was clearly our host--Jennifer Alexander, 25, a Biola University grad and animated storyteller who says "the more kids the better." She's been reading stories at Vroman's for a year and a half and still thinks "it's wonderful." Ah, youth.

Dress Code: Serious colors and patterns. Everything from nu-wave chic to '60s psychedelia--even a kidlet in post-industrial depression funk, all natural materials of course.

Chow: Cookies, biscotti and pound cake for the kids. And, to reveal my reason for choosing story hour at Vroman's over the others around town: powerful coffee, Swiss cappuccino and cafe latte for the adults. Vroman's had the decency to install a real coffee bar next to the children's book area, complete with a magazine rack and some benches to sit on while the kids do their networking.

Book list: "Where's My Teddy," "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed," "Pierre," "The Napping House," "No Plain Pets" and "Shoo Fly."

High drama: The finale to "Shoo Fly," wherein the pesky protagonist meets his comeuppance. Good enough to be read to the crowd twice.

Critic's comment: "The best part I liked was when she carried a bottle of cake; she splatted it at the fly and the cake squished the fly and they did 'shoo, shoo, shoo.' "

Exit line: "Dad, I wanna hear that story, I wanna go see that story again later."

Vroman's, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (818) 449-5320. Storyteller sessions: Wed. 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Sat. 9:30 a.m. Many children's bookstores and libraries have scheduled events as well; check the listings on this page.

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