Children's Features

Bodett Brings Kids' Books to the Airwaves
Shannon Maughan -- 12/20/99

Tom Bodett, the radio personality long known for his commentary on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, as well as advertisements for Motel 6, has fallen hard for children's books. Earlier this year he published his first title for kids, the adventure novel Williwaw! (Knopf). And now, he is championing a new radio program about children's books called The Loose Leaf Book Company, which is slated to debut on public radio stations across the country next month.

Bodett hosts the weekly hour-long program for adults, which will include author interviews, book reviews, book discussions and dramatizations. Each episode will be inspired by a particular theme and suitable books will be selected accordingly. Titles will span an age range from toddlers through teens. In formulating the idea, Bodett met with his literary agents, Jeff Dwyer and Elizabeth O'Grady, radio producer Ben Manilla as well as Children's Book Council president Paula Quint and several children's book publishers. As a result, Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, Little, Brown, Random House, Winslow Press and Sterling Lord Literistic provided financing and became co-production partners with Ben Manilla Productions for the pilot episode.

Attendees at the Public Radio Program Directors Conference in Memphis last September were first to hear the pilot of Loose Leaf, and based on their response, more than 17 stations have agreed to carry the program so far. The first six episodes will cover the topics Time, Music, Prejudice, Winter, Superstition and Courage, and a full season of 52 shows will soon go into production with continuing financial support from Random House, Winslow Press and Sterling Lord.

Though Loose Leaf is still assembling an official book-selection panel, for now publishers may send books for consideration to Ben Manilla Productions, 576 Sacramento St., 4th floor, San Francisco, Calif. 94111. The show's producers ideally plan to notify publishers, booksellers and librarians about featured books well in advance of their air date. A transcript and audio recording of each week's episode will be available at the Web site:, where the pilot episode is currently being showcased.

The weekly pace of Loose Leaf is sure to keep Bodett busy in the coming months, but happily he'll be taking time away from the airwaves to make an important personal appearance this June. It's just been announced that Bodett will serve as emcee for the Audio Publishers Association's Audie Awards program during this year's BEA convention in Chicago.