Reviewed by Gregory Keer
I used to tell my eldest child these stories about a group of heroes called the Black Robots, who teamed up with my son to save the neighborhood and the world from evil dinosaurs and invading aliens. As I got older, my patience for making up these kinds of stories got thinner and, regrettably, my middle child only got a few tales of a character called the Red Pirate (my wife originated the character). My youngest got a couple of hackneyed stories that aren’t memorable at all as I ran out of gas for original yarns.
I still read books to my littlest son, but there’s just something so darn engaging and imagination stirring about a story told orally, without pages and with plenty of gusto. Thankfully, I found Bill Harley to be my surrogate storyteller. Here’s a guy who seemingly never runs out of patience and happiness in telling tales, as his latest recording, High Dive and other things that could have happened…, proves in its four narratives.
In his folksy manner, and with plenty of musical accompaniment, Harley unspools the dramatic threads of life between the ages of eight and eleven. “It Could Have Happened” speaks of the very act of telling stories that may be hard to believe, yet that’s part of the magic of the storytelling act. “High Dive” is a nearly 12-minute rhyming tale with a jazzy vibe about negotiating a big jump into a pool and puppy love. “Field Trip” is an epic 30-plus minutes that delves into friendship and the antics (including water balloons) of grade schoolers. Lastly, “Monster Valentine” brings to life the innocent feelings involved in giving cards on that lovely holiday.
While the content level of these stories is most suited for elementary school-aged kids, Harley’s warm voice and character-filled inflections can hold the attention of younger – and, frankly, grown up – audience members.
www.billharley.com – $15 (CD) – Ages 2 to 11