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FOR KIDS : The Sounds of Storytelling : Reader's voice sparkles with a silly symphony of characters ready to tickle children.

March 17, 1995|HEATHER W. MORGAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Heather W. Morgan writes regularly for The Times

AGOURA HILLS — Sometimes the best way to experience Page Shelburne's story reading is by taking a deep breath and closing your eyes.

It's a stop, don't look, but really listen approach.

What makes Shelburne, 45, different from other children's readers is exactly what you hear--her voice. It literally sparkles with a conglomeration of silly sounds and the voices of cartoonish characters--characters aching to get out and tickle children.

"I absolutely love kids and I love creating new voices," said Shelburne, who does voice-overs for commercials professionally.

The Agoura Hills resident is featured every Saturday at Agoura Book & Coffee.

"What first caught my attention was her sound," said Margaret Anderson of Sun Valley, who heard about Shelburne through a friend who lives in the area. "She really makes the characters dazzle and come alive. That's important for my daughter since she can't see the pictures like the other children."

Anderson's 4-year-old daughter, Molly, is blind in one eye and partially blind in the other.

"She's goofy," giggled Molly. "I like that."

"I can't quite put my finger on it, but her voice really has a distinct sound. Even when she's playing it straight," Anderson said. "It's a long way for us to drive, but it's worth it. You just can't help but listen to her."

Shelburne adores the spotlight. As the oldest of four girls from a strict Virginia military family, she learned at a young age how to command the attention she wanted. Sometimes minor mischief seemed to follow her, and she was even lovingly labeled her family's "black sheep."

Shelburne said that her father, a Navy pilot, had a real sense of fun.

"He could walk into a room and instantly stop everything. He really was quite the extrovert," Shelburne said. "And he told these marvelous stories. What a voice! I know I owe my sound to him."

The story hour is almost like a workout for Shelburne, who is continually refining her voice. She also develops new sounds and personalities with the help of her 10-year-old son, Tyler, who sometimes accompanies her on commercial readings. "He's very inspirational and talented himself," she said.

Her favorite stories to read conjure up strong, descriptive personalities or silly themes, such as the poems and books of Shel Silverstein.

"I practically have to hold back the tears every time I read 'The Giving Tree,' " she said.

"Saturday has become our biggest day," said Agoura Book & Coffee owner John Loesing. "I don't think there's anyone else with a voice quite like hers. She really knows how to capture the kids' attention. The parents love it, too."

Besides her Saturday stint, Shelburne also participates in an outreach program designed by the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Screen Actors Guild to promote reading.

"Even those kids that don't understand much English yet understand silly voices," she said.

"But you know, I'm the one who's really getting the most from all this. This is like my playtime, and I just let the kid inside out."

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WHERE AND WHEN

What: Storyhour with Page Shelburne.

Location: Agoura Book & Coffee, 5649 Kanan Road, Agoura Hills.

Hours: 10:30 a.m. Saturdays.

Price: Free.

Call: (818) 991-9256.

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