Long summer drives are coming. If you want quiet, utterly absorbed kids in the car listening to stories and building their imaginations, here’s the answer.
Get it here. Ships fast via Priority Mail.
“one of the great voices in American storytelling”–WIRED
MOTHER’S DAY SALE! Odds Bodkin’s Master Drive $269.95 now $99 Today Only!
Since every mother should have one for herself and her kids, we’ve slashed our price for this special day. Happy Mother’s Day to all!
SUPER-FAN CHARLOTTE PEZZO PLANS A CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP WITH HER MASTER DRIVE
A True Story
At Odds Bodkin HQ we received an order for a Master Drive, but then, very quickly, a follow-up email from the customer wondering why she couldn’t download her purchase. We wrote back explaining what a Master Drive was (a heavily loaded flash drive of Odds Bodkin’s collected works) and offered her a refund, but she wrote back:
Thank you so much for your prompt reply. I want all of his works so I will wait for the flash drive. DO NOT CHANGE ANYTHING!
I need it by May 15 at the VERY latest for a long road trip. I will pay more for expedited shipping to ensure it arrives on time if it is necessary. Please advise!!
Thank you and please relay the message about how excited we are to have his entertainment on our road trip. The Odyssey and Proto made our last road trip so much more enjoyable.
It will be so nice to have his whole collection. Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you!!
As you can imagine, when Odds saw this email he was delighted, and so he wrote to Charlotte personally to ask whether he could share her letter to let others know about the Master Drive. Charlotte wrote back.
Dear Mr. Bodkin,
I was so pleased to receive this email and find out that they did indeed share my excitement with you.
Yes- it is completely fine to quote me and to use my name. After sending the email, I wished I had written more. My daughter and I still listen to Little Proto 8 years later ( she’s 18 and I am 61!). We are both thrilled to have more works to surprise and inspire us cross-country.
I have tried listening to other books on tape and find my mind wandering after 5 minutes. On the other hand, I am mesmerized by every word and sound on your tapes. I think seeing you perform in person helped fuel our admiration.
Anyway, I now have a year old granddaughter that I can’t wait to share your stories with too.
Thanks again from a lifelong fan!! 🙂
So if you’ve got a long road trip coming this summer—no matter what your age–grab yourself a Master Drive!
Over 2 gigs of road-worthy storytelling.
FUN FOR KIDS IN COLORADO: Magical Stories with Odds Bodkin in May
It’s Friday night, May 25th and you’re sitting in Sunrise Ranch’s auditorium with your kids. Onstage sits a Celtic harp, an African sanza and a 12-string guitar.
“What he going to do, momma?” asks your child.
“He’s going to tell stories about trees.”
“But trees don’t do anything, momma.”
“I have a feeling that in Mr. Bodkin’s stories, trees do all kinds of things. They even talk.”
“Who plays all those instruments?”
“While he’s telling stories?”
COME CHILD AND SIT WITH ME BENEATH THE WISDOM TREE. A family storytelling concert. Don’t miss it.
A NEW STORYTELLING COLLECTION AT ODDS BODKIN’S SHOP
“a consummate storyteller”–The New York Times
For parents with kids 8-11, here’s some solid imagination entertainment and non-screen learning for cognitive development of a deeper kind. The APPRENTICE DRIVE contains The Wise Little Girl: Tales of the Feminine; The Odyssey: An Epic Telling; Earthstone: The Eco-Musical; Giant’s Cauldron: Viking Myths of Adventure; The Hidden Grail: Sir Percival and the Fisher King; Stories of Love; and David and Goliath: The Harper and the King.
Nine hours of award-winning audio. A $119.50 value for $79.95.
Visit Odds’ Shop to hear audio samples of everything.
YOU SAVED US FROM BABY BELUGA
Sunday night I was down in Cambridge at Grendel’s Den warming up my harp and 12-string onstage for a telling of Beowulf when a tall gentleman with silver hair came over, looking somewhat shy. The place was full and new faces were in the audience. Along with the usual crew of fine fans, Harvard students and curious twenty-somethings, I’d noticed husbands and wives in their fifties or early sixties at the tables. Obviously this gentleman had something to say. I stopped playing and smiled at him.
“Am I interrupting you?” he asked. He was fit and had a nice smile.
“No, not at all. I’m just warming up. Good evening.”
“Good evening,” he replied and we shook hands.
“I just wanted to tell you, Mr. Bodkin, that you saved us from Baby Beluga,” he said in a sort of admiring seriousness. It didn’t take too long for me to process that, and so I smiled wryly and chuckled, suspecting I knew what he was saying. He went on. “My kids are in their thirties now and are jealous they can’t be here.”
“Why, thank you.” I’ve had similar conversations with other nice people like him.
“No, thank you,” he said. “Your stories got us through a lot of long trips when our kids were little. We had all your cassettes. Got them from Chinaberry Book Service.”
I used to do business with Chinaberry, a kids’ media operation out in California. Sold tens of thousands of recordings through them. This nice man’s wife, probably, had bought them, back when their kids were little. “Ah, yes,” I replied. “I’m glad your kids liked them. Tonight’s story is very different from those children’s recordings.”
“I expect so.”
“Can’t wait to hear it,” he said, sounding ready for some Viking wildness.
“Well,” I said, hitting a chord on the 12-string, “enjoy the show.”
“We will.” He returned to his seat at the bar next to a woman about his age. His wife, I assumed. The mother of the children he spoke of.
Baby Beluga! Baby Beluga!
The refrain from the song by Raffi echoed in my mind. I once met him, the man who wrote and sang that classic children’s song. A troubador from the Nineties, Raffi’s most famous song was Baby Beluga. He was the best-known of many musicians for young kids back then, a man who sang sweet, reassuring songs. I think of him as the Mr. Rogers of children’s music.
Back then I was selling recordings for young kids, too. Raffi always outsold anything I ever did, but then again, I wasn’t singing songs, which had a huge kids market before the advent of cellphones and iPad games. Instead I was telling stories, but even though they were for young children, they weren’t kiddie stories per se––stories about puppies and baby hedgehogs and so on. Nevertheless, lots of young children, including this gentleman’s who’d come up to say hello, apparently, had listened to them and had talked about them with their parents. I always tried to produce children’s media that didn’t make moms and dads lose their minds while listening to them, over and over again in their cars.
After the show I posed for photos with the man and his wife, along with a few other couples who proceeded to buy EPIC DRIVES. They wanted to send them to their grown children, they said, who now had kids of their own. Two young women in their twenties had listened to the Little Proto stories and loved them. A couple with their kids kept talking about The Blossom Tree, a Tibetan tale I tell, and I mentioned how I’ll be performing it in May as part of a weekend dedicated to the magic of trees, out in Colorado.
And so these stories I made a generation ago continue to make their way into the lives of a new generation, accomplishing a goal I always strove for: to make something that doesn’t quickly become marked as genre material of a former time.
I recommend Baby Baluga, too.
Odds Bodkin’s best family-friendly stories come to The Livery in Sunapee, NH this Friday, August 11th at 7 p.m. With Celtic harp, 12-string guitars and other instruments, Odds uses character voices and natural sound effects to create “imagination movies” for listeners.
Come join the fun!
Tickets are $10 adult, $5 children, $25 for a family of 4. Get them here!
Thirty-five years ago I was a young guy on a mission. I lived in Manhattan and worked with well-heeled independent schools like Spence and Ethical Culture, developing story-based programs for exploring nature in Central Park and beyond.
But I longed to just tell stories––to be a real storyteller. I knew very few tales then, maybe four or five, and my best, I thought, was Sedna the Ocean Mother. It’s a haunting Inuit creation myth about a marrying-age girl and her old father alone on their windy beach. The problem is, Sedna is very picky about a potential husband. One’s too fat. Another puts too few fish on the beach to ask for her. Others have rotten teeth.
Yes, it’s an Eskimo myth. Courtship was like this.
I once told Sedna at an environmental conference and that performance led to an offer from Antioch University New England to teach storytelling and imagination graduate courses, which I did for seven years.
In the story, Sedna’s fed-up father finally forces her to choose a stranger in a kayak who brags about how rich he is. He won’t take off his snow goggles, however, so she can’t see his eyes, and he won’t stand up, so she can’t see how tall he is. Off she goes, huddled in the back of his kayak. But when they slide up onto his home beach and he steps out, he reveals bird legs and burning red eyes. He’s no man at all. He’s the spirit of the storm petrels, an arctic bird, a powerful supernatural being.
Spooky, right? It gets even worse, much worse. Terrifyingly worse. Treated badly by him, she starves and freezes. At the story’s end, Sedna’s father drowns her in a whirlpool created by the husband who’s found them trying to escape. Her severed fingers become the seals, whales and walruses and she becomes the ocean mother, the goddess who provides food to the Inuit. She’s now supernatural herself. A typical Eskimo origin myth. Scary and elemental.
So what was my terrible mistake so long ago?
I told Sedna to an audience of kids too young to hear it. They were Lower School students at the Fieldston Ethical Culture School. Little kids. As an artist, I thought everyone would be entertained by the music, the wind sounds and the characters. Especially the kids.
Instead, the next day, angry parents demanded to know who this stupid young man was who’d told their children this story. I’d terrified their kids so badly––tears in the car and nightmares in bed––that the parents were up in arms. I’d hurt their children. For weeks I felt awful. Still do, looking back on it.
So after I recovered emotionally, I swore to myself that I would never be at a loss for an age-appropriate story again. Instead, I’d learn to tell many more of them, gentle and beautiful ones, tales that even pre-kindergarteners would love and feel safe within.
And that’s what I did. You can find them here. All with age-recommendations.
Sedna is nowhere to be found.
From a recent Susanna Schrobsdorff Time article, Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright:
“If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, as can school stress, but Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drivers of this epidemic. “It’s that they’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to get away from, or don’t know how to get away from,” she says.
In my life I meet families all the time whose kids have grown up with my audio stories. At some point the parents found them in this wild, busy world and exposed their children to them during their formative years. For instance, I just met Stephanie from Pennsylvania, a great mom who invited me to perform there a couple of weeks ago. Afterwards she wrote me a kind letter, part of which said,
“I am proud that in our modern age, your stories played a large role in my children’s lives for several years. I can’t remember if I told you that for years we imitated the saluting bedbugs, or that we created an elaborate drip-sand castle and forest at the beach for the lovely Bargaglina after listening to The Little Shepherd on the way to Cape May Point. And of course you know about the Odyssey on the way to the Bay of Fundy. Your stories were such a gift to my kids’ development!”
So maybe part of the cure for kids going off the rails is mythic storytelling. Old tales, filled with the struggles of men and women who are long gone but whose stories tell us that yes, life is rugged and has its dark times, but heroes are people who overcome those obstacles because they never give up. People who are driven by love or honor or just the deep motivation to survive.
And that’s just the story part. The other healthful factor is imagination itself, the natural sort our minds are capable of. When we imagine, endorphins are released into the bloodstream, much like a runner’s high. The cerebral cortex lights up like a fire, drawing on memories and feelings from deep inside, rather than stimulus from that social media cauldron beyond ourselves. It’s a creative act, and quite refreshing. Imagination in childhood becomes creativity in adulthood, and we live in times when creativity and adaptability are premium skills. If there’s one thing young people can count on in their futures these days, it’s rapid change. Unpredictable change.
For younger kids, fairytales operate in the same beneficial way. The Little Shepherd is one I just performed for three hundred K-2 public school kids last week. For twenty-five minutes they sat, still and quiet, for this longest story in the show, all of them lost in fantasy. What’s the value of that? Well, as Bruno Bettelheim wrote in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairytales, “While the fantasy is unreal, the good feelings it gives us about ourselves and our future are real, and these good feelings are what we need to sustain us.”
This post came in yesterday on Facebook from Valorie Gamer Osterman.
Forgive me while I faint. My daughter is home visiting, and I just told her you had written me. The house is ringing with her squeals of joy! We are a family who treats you as a rock star, stalking your schedule, pouncing upon new recordings, and checking the internet for news of you. Living in Seattle, we lived too far away to enjoy a live performance but now my eldest is at Eastman School of Music so once again, we are stalking your schedule to make it to a live performance.
I did not write the article but feel free to quote my comments about it. The article was written by Diane Levin of Wheelock College in Boston.
Music is important but humans fought to speak for a reason. Music may move the soul but stories create and shape the soul. Music moves the emotions but stories help us understand them. Storytelling is a rare skill these days with so much TV and radio being formulaic rather than original. Finding those who can still tell a story is a rare find. Finding those who can tell a good story AND make great music is priceless!
You are, indeed, an enduring legacy in my household. “Drip, drip, drip” is often used as the punchline in a family story to denote that it is one to remember and share. In the transition from audio cassette to CD, we had to forgo many of the stories because I could no longer find copies. When my then 16-year-old daughter saw a tape-to-mp3 converter, her first thought was to find your old stories so we could listen again. When I saw you were going to debut “Beowulf” on the East Coast, I encouraged all my NY/MA friends to come but when I said I was going to buy a copy, my kids insisted I had to wait until Christmas so we could all listen together. My eldest will be 25 so I think that means we’ve been listening to you for 22 years at this point!
We are a very plugged-in family and never far from electronics and screens. I credit our car rides filled with stories from you and Jim French Productions for a large reason why my kids never turned on their walkmans/ipods/laptops in the car. It wasn’t just the stories, it was the situations and characters you brought to life. Unlike most music, the stories you tell invite conversation, discussion, and analysis so as we drove from school to sports to drama to dinner to dance and finally home, we listened and, more importantly, we talked. As the kids got into the car, I’d ask “Talk, stories, or music?” If a kid had a long day, a few stories would rejuvenate them and they’d start to tell me about their day.
It’s those conversations that were the play in their minds. Not only did the stories engage their minds in ways books and screens didn’t, they presented the option of stopping the story, talking about some aspect of it – often in the context of something they’d learned or were experiencing – and then listening to the rest of the story. Given the wide range of stories you tell, we could always find connections between what was going on in our lives with some character or situation in one of your stories. Sometimes when a kid was wrestling with something, they’d pick a story they wanted to hear, stop the story somewhere, then talk about what was bothering them.
So, thank you. Thank you for years of stories and coming back to give us new ones. Thank you for writing about tough topics but remembering that humor is important, too. Thank you for being someone my kids could use to help explain the world but never told them what to think. Thank you for talking about doing the right thing, even if it is hard, but never beating anyone over the head with the morality. Most importantly, thank you for providing a role model for my kids that storytelling is just as important today in our era of smart screens as it was when we lived in caves. At one point when one of my kids and I were just irritated with each other, they suggested we go for a car ride and listen to some stories. An hour later, we came back talking again and laughing.
Mission accomplished, sir. Mission accomplished.
Artist’s Note: Valorie proceeded to purchase a $99 All Collections Bundle at our download store. Bless her heart. I hope to meet her someday. And her kids.
Little plastic dinosaurs. When I was a kid, I was in love with them. I loved T-Rex and what back then we called “Brontosaurus.” I had a spiky Ankylosaur that reminded me of a turtle and a Triceratops with its three horns. As kids do, I’d line them up on my windowsill. Sometimes they fought each other but mostly I marveled at their shapes and imagined how big they were in real life. Without a doubt I wanted one for myself. A Triceratops who knew me and would let me ride around on his neck as I held on to his bone frill. What would the kids in the neighborhood think when I rode my friend down the street?
If the film Land Before Time made dinos talkative and Jurassic Park made them scary, I figured a place for a third kind of dino story existed: very talkative, sometimes scary dinosaurs who existed not on screen and not on the windowsill, but in children’s imaginations.
So I set about creating my first dino story for young children. Since Apatasaurs had already been done and I wanted a little dino hero, I chose the Protoceratops, a little fellow about the size of a German Shepherd who sports a neck frill and chews plants. I named him Little Proto and set him in the Cretaceous Period about two million years before the asteroid strike and volcanoes that ended everything for the saurians. His voice came naturally and with it, lo and behold, a clever, warm-hearted personality. Proto is filled with joy at the beauty of life and dwells with his family in the Sea Forest.
Unashamedly anthropomorphic (these are children’s stories, after all), as are all the dino characters in the Proto tales, he sings a lot. So I ended up singing his songs in his character voice while playing my 12-string guitar in the studio, and enacting other characters, my favorites being King Geoffrey the One-Eye, a T-Rex, Old Wrinkles, a grandfatherly Triceratops, Ankles, an overweight Ankylosaur with a heart of gold, Plessy, a young girl Plesiosaur who lives in the river, and Bump, a Pachycephalosaurus with a bone dome on his head for bumping things.
To transport kids into Little Proto’s world I did some crazy things. Mimicked loon cries and flapping pteranodon wings, Maiasaura calls, crickets ringing––all sorts of sounds embedded in music to make it seem real. After The Adventures of Little Proto, the first recording, since one mom wrote me and told me her autistic daughter had listened to it and had suddenly spoken for the first time, I made two more, watching back stories emerge and having fun writing more songs. Little Proto’s T-Rex Adventure and Little Proto and the Volcano’s Fire follow Proto as he grows up, gets a little sister and narrowly escapes dangers while being faithful to his friends. Parents loved them and still tell me that their kids would often fall asleep listening to them, over and over again. Good stuff for an artist to hear.
Never been there in person, but I can imagine all those thousands of bedrooms with dinos on the windowsills and happy, sleeping kids.
Bradford, New Hampshire