NAAV Carved Logo

It was early 1970's when Dave Miller commissioned an Oregon wood carver to carve this large Mahogoney likeness of what was at that time the current NAAV logo. (This is the same logo that is engraved on the reverse side of the TWO CENT coins which most of you reading this now own. If you do not have one of these TWO CENT ventriloquist collector coins, just let me know - I'll send you a couple - Free!).

This NAAV carving was displayed above our fireplace mantel in the Maher Studios office for many years, but today I will pack it, and ship it back to Dave Miller, my token gift of appreciation to him for his four decades of artistic genius and service provided on behalf of both the NAAV and Maher Studios!


Finished and For Sale Now!

You've watched some of this fellow's progress on this blog - now he's completed and it's time for his "adoption!" While this Lovik figure is not new, it has never been used and is fully reconditioned and comes with a new warranty. The head turns smoothly and quietly as a result of its newly installed ball/socket neck (leather lined neck opening - see auction photos). Hardwood control levers make the manipulation of the side-to-side moving eyes and RAISING EYEBROWS (which I added just last week!) simple and easy. 39 inches tall full size figure, dressed as pictured. Lightweight for ease of handling. Head and hands made of durable rigid latex. Head newly painted. Comes with ventriloquist instruction book, full two year new figure warranty, and certificate of authenticity.


For Sale:

This 1967 "Little Ricky" has the original (never used)head, arms, hands, and legs, but his torso had been discarded for some reason. So I've mounted his head on a headpost (with spring return for the mouth), and built a new hollow body, slightly larger than the original stuffed body. The result is very attractive 26" figure for beginner or youth, with head that turns, tilts, and nods, and lever controlled mouth. For sale on eBay auction now:


Shoeless math

Monty Crisco (right) says, "Being shoeless has its advantages, you know. Now I can count up to twenty."

Monty resides with Bob Albano. His digits were designed by Mike Brose. to who he gives "two thumbs up"!

And I have a pretty certain idea where he got that case he's sitting on, too. Nice!


Sunday helpers

Rev. Dr. Walt Ratzell's ministry is at New Brooklyn United Methodist Church. He does a children's time sermon with the puppets each Sunday and then the children leave the combined service for their own children's church. As you might expect, the adults are reported to enjoy the puppets as much as the kids. Mrs. Ratzell is not a ventriloquist herself, but was willing to lend a hand for this photo and Walt tells me she is very tolerant of a house full of puppets and figures.


Thank you, Marvin!

It was not until the mid-'70s I decided I would like to have a rounded base on the necks of all doll conversions. Until then, we simply fitted the neck with a plug drilled for a headpost.

So I purchased a very nice 36" wood lathe and chisels with the goal of turning my own headposts. On the same day I set the lathe up in my shop a friend dropped by, and as I told him what I had in mind, he said he was looking for some side work to do in his own wood shop and asked if we could work something out where he could make the headposts for me. That was the start of a long partnership.

So today, some 35 years and I-don't-know-how-many-thousands of headposts (which my friend called "dummy sticks") later, I realized I was holding the final three headposts from my inventory made by Marvin Tevebaugh. And I have yet to turn the first one on my wood lathe. In fact, it will never happen, because I no longer own a wood lathe!


Shop talk

Yesterday I mentioned the Storyteller figure currently undergoing restoration in my shop. Restoration includes conversion of the base of the neck so it has the "ball/socket" feature. That work has been completed. See "before" photo at left, and "after" photo above. A PVC end cap provided the perfect ball base to the neck.


This fellow I know!

Question: I bought this figure about 40 years ago from a figuremaker in the Los Angeles area, but I don't recall his name. I answered an ad in the Popular Mechanics and went to his house. He had me come back in a week and charged me $100.00. I would appreciate any information you could give me about my figure. MB

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From Mr. D: Your figure is among the first built by Craig Lovik. I know it is from early in his career of figuremaking for several reasons: 1) The return left eyes; 2) The leather lower lip; 3) The "drop through" style neck; 4) The hands (Lovik's first design); 5) Painted eyes.

Yours is also unique because it is one where Craig was experimenting with the idea of having no lever for opening the mouth. You just squeeze the string with your fingers!

This character was one of the early family of figures he called his "Storyteller" figures. I'm upgrading one of them in my shop now. Craig actually sold hundred's of figures through west coast dealers during the early '70s including Disneyland and many magic shops. It sounds like he even gave you the dealer price!


Who is this?

Question: I'm trying to find any information on the dummy I have. It was purchased about 4 years ago on eBay. I live in England, but it is not from this country although I believe it is European and quite old (50's?) If you could tell me anything about it, I'd be grateful. IP

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From Mr. D: While I've restored many vintage ventriloquist dolls, including several like yours, I am no expert on them. Because of this doll's monocle, I always thought it was originally sold as a Charlie McCarthy, probably in the '40's, and since I've worked on several, I assumed they were made in the USA. How about it, folks, anyone know the factual details on this little fellow?

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From Dan Willinger (Ventriloquist Central): Made by Regal Toys in Canada. NOT Charlie McCarthy but made to compete with the Effanbee Charlie McCarthy.


Bare Feet

Question: I'm looking for a pair of bare feet- different from Mike Brose's stuff - more of a goofy foot- if that is a description :^)
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From Mr. D: I don't make bare feet myself. Some 20 or so years ago we sold, through Maher Studios, flexible latex bare feet made by Craig Lovik. He made them in a couple sizes with the idea they could be slipped over the figure's foot (shoe off) when bare feet were desired. And then when shoes were more appropriate the bare feet could be removed from the foot and the shoes put back on. It was a great idea. Unfortunately, Craig left the figure making business about that same time and his son did not continue the production of this item. I have no idea if the molds even exist. So as I write this, sorry, but I do not know of a source for a "cartoonish" foot that could be used on a vent figure.


Ventriloquist books by William H. Andersen

For the record, here's a complete listing of the 27 books authored by the late William H. Andersen and published by Maher Ventriloquist Studios:

#210 Animal Sense and Nonsense - Humorous gospel routines for skunk, mouse, chicken, fish, monkey, dog, and bird. Adaptable to other animals as well.

#1194 From The Birds - Eight comedy dialogues for use with a bird puppet ot figure plus a collection of funny bird gags. Best seller.

#223 Short Routines - 45 short comedy routines 1-3 minutes in length. Wide variety of subjects.

#211 My Favorite Routines - Eight full length programs filled with tested lines; guaranteed laughs. Delightful family fun.

#1189 Ventriloquism For Little Children - How to entertain young children. Ideas, Tips, Cautions, participations, suggestions, plus eight kid-tested comedy dialogues.

#1328 Ventriloquism For Senior Citizens - Who are Seniors and why should you entertain them? Where can you find Senior audiences? What can you do for them? Plus TEN of Andersen's favorite dialogues for seniors.

#209 Tell Me A Story Gramps - Five complete dialogues written for use with a fun loving older puppet. Many lines useful when entertaining the senior audience with any puppet.

#106 School Talk For Dummies Vol 1 - Eight comedy dialogues with school subject themes.

#165 School Talk For Dummies Vol 2 - Five more school themed comedy dialogues.

#166 School Talk For Dummies Vol 3 - More classroom laughter. Four dialogues. Plus a Sunday School lesson (no serious message - just all fun).

#212 Silly Riddles and Fun Knock Knocks - Great collection of gags for small children, all written in vent dialogue format.

#851 Ventriloquist Safety Programs - Six entertaining routines with serious teaching complete with followup discussion material. Bike Safety, Fire Safety, Drug Prevention, 911, Gangs, Stranger Danger.

#1430 Know Your Character - Written to help the ventriloquist develop strong puppet character traits and personality. Lots of ideas and examples with actual dialogue. Excellent.

#861 Ventriloquism From A-V - If it's a subject that has anything to do with ventriloquism, it's probably discussed in this book! Professional secrets and advice gleaned from a lifetime of experience as well as interviews with active professional ventriloquists.

#862 Write Your Own Scripts - How to get ideas, what makes jokes funny, how to organize material, plus sample writings. Andersen even lists ways you can learn to be funny! This book can turn an average writer of vent material into an expert.

#845 Short Bible Routines Vol 1 - Old Testament stories (15 or more)

#846 Short Bible Routine Vol. 2 - More Old Testament Stories

#847 Short Bible Routines Vol 3 - New Testament Stories

#962 David and Goliath - A complete situation Bible story routine. The vent figure plays the part of the hero (David) with hilarious results. A full 30 minute program which could be divided or condensed as needed.

#961-A Bible Humor - A collection of nearly 250 jokes based on Bible characters, incidents, and ideas suggested by Bible Stories.

#961-B More Bible Humor - A continuation of "Bible Humor". All jokes scripted in dialogue form. For ventriloquists, storytellers, puppeteers, and even preachers and teachers.

#208 111 Ways To Use Ventriloquism In Church - An amazing variety of ways the ventriloquist may expand their services in churches and children's ministries.

#115 Make Your Own Dummy - A set of illustrated plans for building one's own ventriloquist figure. 40 pages. Includes diagrams for building a number of extra animations.

#125 Mental Magic For Vents - 35 amazing mental ventriloquist effects complete with the secrets for working. Present them with the vent figures as suggested, or present them yourself. Add variety to the ventriloquist show.

#901 Gospel Magic For Beginners Vol. 1 - Ten complete lessons, each with the scripture, the effect, the preparation, the presentation, and the secret. Easy-to-make props with instructions.

#903 Gospel Magic For Beginners Vol 2 - All the features of the above book. Ten more lessons.

#1438 Gospel Magic For Beginners Vol. 3 - Ten more ministry lessons.
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From Mr. D: What an amazing list! William Andersen was by far the most prolific writer we worked with at Maher Studios. I still have copies of many of his titles for sale. If you are interested in purchasing any of the above books, please email me a list and I will provide you with availability and prices. mahertalk@aol.com


Hurry up and wait!

I've been waiting for the Kindred's to return to their home in Ontario before shipping their new Granny figure (pictured here). Granny is excitedly anticipating joining the Wilson's on the road ministries (www.alivingwayministries.org) , but wouldn't you know it - now there's a postal worker's strike/lockout in Canada, and she may face further delay before she can meet her new family. Perhaps Fed Ex can come to her rescue...


"I was saddened ...

From WK: " ... I was saddened to read you will no longer be making the Ventrilo-etts. I was hoping to order one in the near future."

* * * * *

From Mr. D: The decision to drop the building of Ventrilo-etts was not easy - I love those puppets! But I have a storeroom collection of figures (30 or more at least) that need attention and I don't have time for all. The figure pictured here is one of them. I believe it is one of the very first slotted jaw Knee Pals by Lovik. It was built about 1972 or '73 when he was still doing "return left" eyes, drop through neck, and making levers from coat hangers. I hope to change the eyes to self-centering, install a new ball-base neck with headpost, new levers and strings, repaint, restyle the wig, fit with a new body. Once that is done (a couple weeks?), that will be one less in the storeroom - only 29 or so to go! Will I ever be able to return to building Ventrilo-etts? Only time will tell, I guess.

Vintage Ventoon

"Yes, Sam, I know Joey hasn't changed

since this picture was taken, but ..."


Only one remaining!

The Ventrilo-ett pictured here is the final remaining one I have for sale. 13" tall, one-of-a-kind. If you've followed this blog, you know those who use these handy vent-puppets love their practicality and ease of use. With very visible mouth movement that operates from a lever mounted on the head post, they require only second's of time from pick up to performance! $39.95 plus $5.00 shipping US ($17.50 International shipping) Signed and dated.

Today's prize

Bob Albano has provided today's prize. It is a beautiful copy of his HUGE 528 book: A Pictorial History of Ventriloquism, a combination of Vols. 1 & 2.

Ventriloquists of the 18th & 19th Centuries, Vaudeville Performers, Motion Picture and TV Era, Vents of the 21st Century, Dummy and Puppet Makers, Ventriloquist Toys, Comedy and Drama, Horror, Books, websites, Media, DVDs - just to name a few of the intriguing sections. There is also more than a dozen Special Tribute Chapters.

EBook versions of this book are available free at http://yorick.t15.org/download.htm but this one is being awarded to Scott Brekken. Congratulations, Scott, and thank you Bob!

For your collection showcase!

I only have the head of this Howdy Doody doll by Regal, produced sometime during the 50's and 60's. 5.75 inches tall. Open and close eyes (balance weighted). The unit stands nicely alone so while it is incomplete without the body, it still makes a nice historial conversation piece for the collector's showcase. For sale now on eBay auction with additional photos: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260802799768


Conversion of plastic doll

Question: I purchased a 5' foot plastic doll and I would like to convert it to a ventriloquist doll if it's possible. How do I go about doing that? Adrian
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Answer: Ahhh... You ask a very difficult question. Not only is the task itself a unique challenge, so are the materials dolls are made of. You say the doll is made of plastic. And the plastic children's toys are made of presents a special challenge because there are no glues readily available that bond securely and permanently with that type of plastic. When you cut out a mouth and build mechanics within such a head you'll find several situations where you need bonding agents rather than screws. Sometimes there are ways to do it, (every project is unique), but as I say, even when the project can be studied closeup, it can be difficult. A great deal of trial and error - and patience - will be required. I'm afraid trying to help you long distance would be next to impossible. You might get some ideas from my photo albums - see the photo album links in the margin of this blog.


"Shrunken Head"?

I honestly don't know what purpose Raymond Roseberry had in mind when he carved this small basswood head in 1948, but it is nicely carved and definitely unique! Perhaps a "Dummy's Dummy" or a "Pocket Dummy"? Regardless, it is one-of-a-kind. All original. Signed and dated inside the head. Now up for auction on eBay with several additional photos and details:



1967 JURO "Little Ricky" or "Ricky Little" - 24" tall - very nice condition. and mouth works perfectly. (My thanks to Tom Ladshaw for identifying this doll for me.)

I received this doll (without clothes) several years ago from Adelia's brother, Jay. It is in like new condition and the fact that he is still wearing his original felt shoes, also like new, indicates to me this doll was used very little, if at all. I've saved it thinking I might find an original vintage set of clothes for it at some point. But it hasn't happened, so I have now listed it for auction on eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290576979019


The end!

All of the handful of NAAV Collectible Spoons that remained from the '70's original order of 1,440 have now been claimed. Congratulations to David Wagner who contacted me in time to receive the very last spoon of the lot!


Collector alert

Auction alert: I'll be listing this tiny wood carved

head (1948) for sale Wednesday, 6/15/11

Additional photos and details to follow.
"I really like this picture because it reminds us of how much joy kids have and the joy ventriloquism brings. You don't have to be perfect (at ventriloquism), but willing. I just wanted to remind everyone that the joy of the Lord is our strength!" Kirk Rabe


Coin Comment

"The coins you've developed are very popular around here. I use them in a switch routine: I show the 'victim' a presidential dollar coin and a Kennedy half dollar. I tell them I'll drop the coins in their hand and they must immediately put them behind their back and put one coin in each hand, then I'll try to guess which coin is in which hand. Imagine the surprise we both encounter when the Van Buren and the Kennedy coin are gone and they discover a two cent and a five dollar coin in their place ... works every time and you get a lot of compliments on your coins." John Degel

Here's a shot of my vent mask routine. I was

trying to get the Boy Scout a date ... didn't work out ...


Lucky 7/11 Collector Coin Winners

It's the 11th day of the month, and the seven lucky winner's of one $7.00 2011 Ventriloquist Collector Coin each are:
1. Dan Batten
2. Bob Walsh
3. Meghan Casey
4. Andy Partington
5. Allan Pleaner
6. Tamara Mann
7. Rick Marlin


Wig Question

Question: I'm working on a project now and I was hoping you could assist me with sourcing where I could find a wig in this type (see photo). The character I'm working on is an old man and will need eyebrows and hair similar to this. Matthew

* * * * *

From Mr. D: I wigged the figure in the photo you sent. And I made the wig of long fake fur (found at Michaels, Joanns, etc.). The wig is two piece, the first wrapped around the sides and back of the head. The second covering the top. The fur material is glued in place with hot glue around the edges. I cut and fit as I glue the material to the head. After both pieces are in place, I comb, trim and style.

The fur purchased for this wig was solid color black. The silver/gray streaks in the black hair are actually acrylic paint which I applied using what I call a "dry brush" technique. And I do this to the fur before I start cutting out the wig.

Eyebrows are made of the same fur. I use clear Duco brand cement to hold the individual hairs of the eyebrows in place.


Uniformed Figure

From Brian Brolin

I love reenacting American History, and I love attending the modern Rendezvous camp events around the country. A few years ago in Atchison, Kansas, a friend was organizing the Memorial Day parade, and was looking for people in uniform to represent soldiers throughout America's past. I participated dressed in buckskins and represented the scouts and frontier militia of the early 1800's. It is a group that isn't often thought of on Memorial Day, but was a group of individuals that is quuite representative of our independent American spirit and tenacity. When you called for figures in uniform, I thought this would be a great opportunity for "Jedediah" to make his photo debut.

Jedediah is a Brose "Fred head". He is my first attempt at building, and has side-to-side eyes, blinkers, and raising/lowering eyebrows. And his trustworthy coonskin cap, "Roadkill", also has an animated mouth and slight sideways movement. I haven't performed with a vent figure in 35 years (last show was as a 12 year old at Vacation Bible School!), so I'm working on the skills and confidence to perform for audiences again. Your blog is an inspiration and encouragement to jump back in again! Thanks!


Custom Case Comments.

"I just got Dolan's case home from the post office as you can see (right). Dolan loves it already! G-R-E-A-T job! I didn't want to tell you which (color) to choose, but I was really hoping for the blue interior, so you KNOW I am happy! Thanks again." Bill S.

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"My new case arrived yesterday. It is beautiful, and I love the little strings that keep the lid from falling back. That was often a problem with the old one. Dear Wally has not yet met his new home but I'm sure he will be pleased. Thanks for the quality work." Charlie V.

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From Mr. D: Much of my early Summer will be spent filling the custom case orders received before the May 31st cut off deadline. I appreciate your comments. Happy to be of service.


Then: Swap & Sell; Now: Show & Tell

From Lee Cornell:
A couple weeks ago you posted a photo and story about the 40th anniversary of Maher Studios featured on the 1980 cover of Volume 37, Issue 1 of Newsy Vents. It made me want to dig out my copy to read through again and I realized there was something else special about that issue which I had forgotten.
In the "Swap and Sell" classified section was a listing for a Maher "Archie" figure. I ended up purchasing that figure and it was my first real "pro" dummy (1980's photo at right). I had been using one of your Danny 400's and a Pelham puppet for years before that purchase. I used the figure for several years before I eventually sold him.
Several years ago I did purchase another Archie (I think nostalgia got the best of me when you offered it for sale), only it was the basswood version you had completely restored (below left). I still have that dummy. I think Archie was one of the most popular Maher characters in its day.
Thanks again for your initial post - it brought back some great memories of my first professional dummy.

The Lee Cornell Show: http://www.leecornellshow.com/

Today's Prize

Okay, Peter Rich, it's your lucky day! You are the winner of today's drawing for this rare Charlie McCarthy Detective spoon!

Contact me within 14 days to claim your prize.


"Professional" models?

Question: I am interested in your African American vent figure. Are these professional models? I don't want one with the string out the back of the neck. I want a professional vent figure. How many inches are they? Geraldine

* * * * * *

From Mr. D: This is a 34" figure with all controls mounted on the head post inside the hollow body. But keep in mind that SIZE does not make a figure professional - if you have watched America's top vents today, you'll notice many of the figures and puppets they use are smaller than 40".

Incidentally, I'm building this same character now for another customer, but with the request that it be made with less of a smile on the face. This should be interesting...


All in good time

Here's the final head of my "big eyed" #500 series of figures. Click Here to see completed characters from this 1980's series.

The fellow pictured here was never completed because I lost the back to it's head and never wanted to take the time to rebuild it. And the head was not perfectly perpendicular with the neck. So, it lay unfinished in my shop bin for nearly 3 decades. ... until now. I've been working on him off and on and now have corrected the two aforementioned problems (photo right) and have him well on his way to completion...maybe the longest birth labor on record!


Danny Convention!

The Vent Haven ConVENTion this year (July 13-16)* will be certainly be one if the biggest and best. It will include a special "Jimmy Nelson celebration", honoring Jimmy for 70 years of laughter! Thanks to Jimmy's success, I've found myself surrounded by Danny O'Days for nearly 40 years! And I've been richer for it - well, perhaps not "richer", but they've certainly helped keep our family out of the poor house! Coming to know the gentleman who made Danny's character famous has certainly made my life richer, however. I was introduced to Jimmy Nelson in the 1950s and 1960s as I enjoyed his television commercials and later his on stage performances. And now, on a personal level, some 50+ years after first being introduced to Jimmy, I am blessed to call him my friend. What an amazing gift this gentleman has been to me and my family. (Danny, too, of course!)

* * * * * * For conVENTion details: http://www.venthavenconvention.com/

Today's Winners

Today our drawing has produced four winners, each of whom will receive one complete set of Great Ventriloquist Collector Cards:

Set #1: Abhijeet Deshpanda

Set #2: Mariann Martin

Set #3: Jane Pershing

Set #4: Tommy Curtin


Gluing on eyelashes

Question: My daughter is a ventriloquist and we have 2 vent figures that were actually bought through Dummy Works. She also has one that was bought through Maher. We are wanting to add eyelashes and some earrings to the girl figure. Can you tell me what kind of glue I could use that would make these stick and also not mess up the paint?

* * * *

From Mr. D: I use Duco brand household cement applied with a toothpick to glue on eyelashes. (Duco cement comes in a green tube. I purchase it at Ace hardware but Wal-Mart may carry it.) As for earrings, I suppose you could use the same glue to permanently glue them in place. It dries clear. But, I have never done that. I have drilled a hole in the earlobe so earrings can hang from the ear.


Funny But True

"After a show one time, I was doing a question and answer time with 'Dolan'. Someone asked, 'How does your voice change when you talk for the puppet?' Without me even thinking of it beforehand, Dolan shot back, 'Simple - He's going through puberty!' That got the biggest laugh of the day!" Bill Smith

Surprise Birthday Party

This is the month of Peter Rich's 90th birthday (June 17). Certainly an event, and person, worthy of celebration. There are two ways you can participate.

1. Check out the facebook page for information on the surprise birthday party to which all are welcome to attend: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=225024090842786 (If you do not have a facebook page, you can get all details from Bob Abdou whose email address is below.)

2. Send a card to be hand delivered to Peter on his birthday. Peter likes to scrapbook, so cards are better than any type of electronic message. Any appropriate photos, newspaper clippings, etc. sent with the card would be great.

Cards should be mailed to Bob Abdou who is organizing the Peter Rich party. Contact Bob for his mailing address: mr.puppet@mindspring.com


Mark Wade Writes


It pays to be current! That in itself was a great tip I got from a principal friend of mine years ago when I started building my kidshow business. And that statement is more true today than ever. Too many times we entertainers (ventriloquists) build shows and write routines WE want to do and want to address. We need to take a look at it from what our prospective clients want.

Every year I do a survey of some of my principal/librarian friends to see what hot topics are coming down the pipeline. Principals usually have a pretty good handle on this, as they go to district and state meetings on things of concern to elementary schools. Undoubtedly the one topic is always "bullying". With the rise of the so-called "reality" shows bad behavior seems to have spilled over even more into families and to kids. This is a hot topic that needs to be addressed. We can do the schools and kids in general a big favor by realizing this and writing shows to help alleviate the problem. Principals are receptive, and we in turn, can also profit from this, both in the integrity department and the money department. What a good feeling to do a great show on a topic that someone wants and you make some great money as well. It's truly a win-win situation.

Librarians always want topics to help book circulation and to enhance reading. Over the past few years there is a trend that many states have adopted. It is a multi-state summer reading club theme. What a great gift to entertainers!! We have a ready-made topic that automatically fits in with what libraries need! This summer the multi-state theme is "One World. Many Stories!", and it gives you enough latitude to work in just about anything. Also reading programs are a good sell to schools as they promote "Right to Read Week" as well as "National Children's Book Week", and other book-related themes.

If you are still doing the same show, the same way and are not getting the bookings with kids that you want, try using HOT TOPICS that are current and see if your business doesn't pick up. It's up to us to provide what our clients want. The time is now!