Escaping the Drawer with Sammy and Annisha

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Show Notes

A fun discussion about puppets, children’s literature, libraries, and the age-old cat vs. dog debate? Toucan play at that game—namely, our two special guests Sammy and Annisha!

First, we partnered with the Indiana Center for the Book to chat with our friend Sammy, a corduroy puppet in the shape of a toucan who has interviewed Indiana authors for more than a decade. Sammy lives in a drawer but does not want to talk about it! Sammy is a very good reader! Sammy thinks Garfield is a killjoy! Sammy does not know who Jonathan Franzen is! Sammy’s sassiness increases with age! Sammy sees puppets as friends! Although really, what even IS a puppet, anyway?

We’re also joined by Annisha Jeffries, the Manager of the Youth Services Department at Cleveland Public Library. Annisha discusses her love of cats, why puppets are helpful for young readers, why libraries matter, and more. She also shares her enthusiasm for Bill Cotter’s books, including Don’t Push the Button and Don’t Touch This Book. Sammy, meanwhile, offers enthusiastic bird praise for author April Pulley Sayre and shares Sayre’s delightful book, Bird, Bird, Bird!

Find Sammy’s amazing interviews on the Indiana State Library’s Toucan Tuesdays YouTube playlist, or check out a few of our favorites:

In this episode:


Annisha Jeffries is the Manager of the Youth Services Department at Cleveland Public Library. She was the Chair of the 2021 Caldecott Selection Committee, and she is the Chair of the Norma A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award. She has worked at Cleveland Public Library for 26 years.

Sammy is a corduroy puppet in the shape of a toucan who lives in a drawer but honestly, what is a puppet anyway? Why is that important? Moving on. Sammy has been interviewing literary folks like librarians, authors, and writers for over 10 years now! That is a very long time in the life of a bird and sometimes it seems like a bit too much. Sammy LOVES Indiana and will fly to great lengths to profess Indiana’s superiority over other states. Really, it’s one of Sammy’s very worst qualities. Sometimes Sammy can be seen with Suzanne Walker but why are we talking about her?! SHE IS NOT IMPORTANT. Sammy thinks it’s important to read local, so why are you reading this bio? Go check out a book by a local author. Go! NOW!

Mystery Person Included for Unknown Reasons
Suzanne Walker received her Master of Library Science from Indiana University. She is currently the Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian and Director of the Indiana Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress. She coordinates Indiana’s Letters About Literature competition annually. Suzanne judged the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards in 2013 and 2014 and the Indiana Poetry Out Loud competition in 2017. Most recently she was a judge for the 2020 Indiana Authors Awards and the 2021 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. She has presented numerous times at Indiana Library Federation’s District conferences, annual conferences, and youth conferences and is proud to have been interviewed about Indiana authors by NPR.



Sammy (00:00):
The best part of my day is when I get to chat with folks like you. The worst part of my day is when I'm just in a dusty drawer sitting in the back with a bunch of junk in front of it and I'm just laying there. So, I mean, we can talk more about it if you want.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:15):
Welcome to Page Count, presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. This podcast celebrates authors, illustrators, librarians, book sellers, literary advocates and readers in and from the state of Ohio.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:34):
I'm your host, Laura Maylene Walter, the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow and author of the novel Body of Stars. And I'm so excited because we have a very, very special episode today. We're joined by two guests who will discuss a few children's books, but also shed light on what it's like to be a Hoosier toucan. But more on that in a second. We are going to start by introducing Annisha Jeffries who is the manager of the Youth Services department right here at Cleveland Public Library. Annisha was the chair of the 2021 Caldecott Selection Committee, and she is the chair of the Norman A. Sugarman Children's Biography Award. She has worked here at Cleveland Public Library for 26 years and we're so lucky to have her. Annisha, welcome to the podcast.

Annisha Jeffries (01:20):
Oh, wonderful. Thank you Laura. Thank you for having me. I'm so happy to be here.

Laura Maylene Walter (01:26):

Annisha Jeffries (01:26):

Laura Maylene Walter (01:27):
<laugh>. Well, our next guest, this is pretty groundbreaking for us everyone. We have not only our first ever non-human guest, but also our first guest from another state Center for the Book. The Library of Congress has an affiliate Center for the Book in every state. And today I'd like to introduce you to Sammy, who joins us from the Indiana Center for the Book, specifically the Indiana Young Reader Center, which is at the Indiana State Library. Sammy, hello. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Sammy (01:55):
Hi Laura. It was so nice to hear you say Indiana so many times. <laugh>, it's like my favorite word.

Laura Maylene Walter (02:00):
You got it, Sammy, anything for you. Now this is an audio only podcast, which means we might need to help out our listeners who can't see Sammy right now, like Annisha and I can. So I'm gonna share a little bit about Sammy. Here it goes. Sammy is a corduroy puppet in the shape of a toucan who lives in a drawer. Sammy has been interviewing literary folks like librarians, authors, and writers for over 10 years now for the Indiana Young Readers Center. You can find some of these amazing videos on YouTube, which I'll link to in the show notes. Sammy loves Indiana and encouraging everyone to read books by local authors. All right, Sammy, how'd I do? And what else would you like to share about yourself to help listeners get to know you?

Sammy (02:44):
Well, I think you did pretty well. I always struggle with that word puppet because I don't really actually know what it means, <laugh>. I mean, I don't think it's really that important so people could just gloss over that if they want. Um, I am a toucan. I'm a North American toucan, which doesn't really exist in the real world, but I definitely exist, don't you think?

Laura Maylene Walter (03:03):
Oh, a hundred percent. We see you and <laugh> and we appreciate you. So welcome.

Sammy (03:09):
Yeah, so well, I appreciate you. I'm very excited to chat with Annisha and with you Laura, all about books and reading. It's my favorite thing. So thanks so much for having me on the pod today.

Laura Maylene Walter (03:19):
Well, we will get into some more discussion about North American birds a little bit later in the podcast, but before we dive into the books that we're here to discuss, I have some questions for both of you just to let everyone get to know you and get to hear more about the wonderful things that you all do for books and reading and young readers specifically. So Annisha, I'd like to start with you. I would love it if you could introduce our listeners and Sammy to our Youth Services Department here at Cleveland Public Library. Let's say Sammy could be here in person, which would be amazing.

Sammy (03:54):
I would be there in bird <laugh>.

Laura Maylene Walter (03:57):
But if Sammy did show up and you were to give Sammy a tour of either the youth services department here downtown, or maybe more broadly discussing just what all of our wonderful children's librarians do throughout the library system here, you know, what would you share with Sammy? How would you introduce this institution and your work to Sammy?

Annisha Jeffries (04:16):
When You walk into either a branch or main library, which is where the Youth Services Department is, you will always be welcomed. We will always welcome you and we will help you find that perfect book or CD or magazine that you will love and you will cherish. And we will also ask you if you have a library card. So Sammy, do you have a library card?

Sammy (04:39):
Oh Gosh. You know, I do. I think I have two library cards because I'm such a special bird, you know?

Annisha Jeffries (04:45):
Okay, that's wonderful. That's one of the goals that we have when we have our smallest visitors come with their parents. We want to make sure that they know that, you know, they can borrow the books because we usually have little people asking us, how much are these books? Like it's a store. And we're like, Oh, no, no, no. You can borrow these, you can take them home, but you must bring them back for everyone else so we can just share them. And that's the unique part about the library. It's the best part about it too, that everything that you can use is free. Everything that you check out is free: videos, audio books, magazines. It's wonderful. And so, being that the Cleveland Public Library was founded 152 years ago, we really are in the business of helping our patrons and making sure that we encourage literacy. You know, we have so many other library systems as well as Cleveland Public. But um, we are the best

Laura Maylene Walter (05:42):
<laugh>, no arguments here.

Annisha Jeffries (05:45):
And when you go and visit, just know that each of our library staff will always welcome you and always help you to find that perfect book. You're never bothering us. You can always approach us. Just know that. Don't hesitate because that's, that's our job.

Sammy (06:00):
Hey Annisha, can I tell you a secret? What? I've actually been to the Cleveland Public Library.

Annisha Jeffries (06:07):
Oh, you have?

Sammy (06:08):
I did. I went there one, it was like a Thanksgiving weekend and I just happened to be in town and I went ahead and stopped by and you have like a Center for the Book room there I think.

Laura Maylene Walter (06:20):

Sammy (06:20):
And I got to see it. And it's a beautiful, beautiful building. It's very like historic, kind of in a historic area of town.

Laura Maylene Walter (06:28):
It is a beautiful building, our main library downtown. And Sammy, I actually didn't know you were here. I thought maybe one of your colleagues was here.

Sammy (06:36):
Oh, Well <laugh>, that's interesting. I don't really have colleagues, So.

Laura Maylene Walter (06:40):
Oh, you don't have colleagues. Oh, okay.

Sammy (06:42):
I mean, I'm the only bird in the biz, so it was me.

Laura Maylene Walter (06:45):
I'm totally, I was mistaken. Okay.

Sammy (06:48):
You were, you were. It's, it's a common mistake. It's fine.

Laura Maylene Walter (06:51):
Well, we would love to see you back here again someday for sure. Well, Annisha, I had another question, but now I'm not sure. I thought Sammy might like this question, but maybe it's confusing. I don't know. But we have a big history with puppetry here at the library. And in the past, especially before the pandemic, we've done a lot of things World Puppetry Day. We had a puppetry exhibit at the library, which was super fun. So I was wondering if you could just tell everyone a bit about what we've done with puppets and also why puppets are such a great tool for kids.

Annisha Jeffries (07:22):
Well, you can always incorporate puppets with story time. A lot of our librarians do that when they're conducting a story time program. Puppets also free children who might be a little shy in a story time to open up. And sometimes the puppet is like near and dear friend, like Sammy, you know, they can relax and then they can, you know, enjoy the story time and with the World Puppetry Day this year was virtual. We could not have it face to face but can make puppets and we have puppeteers with hands-on crafts and we partner with the puppetry guild of Northeastern Ohio. If you go to our YouTube channel, you'll be able to see on demand performances of Jack and the Beanstalk and other events that we had. Oh, and you mentioned Laura, the exhibit that we had. And I was going to scream because when I was a little girl, they had a show called Hickory Hideout. And Hickory Hideout had Nutso and Shirley and Know-It-Owl. And joke bird it just really brought me back to my childhood days and I love that. And so with puppets, it encourages just bringing out the kid in you or just bringing out like the fun person in you, puppets are just awesome to have. I mean, I actually have a puppet I know no one can see, but I have one that I use.

Laura Maylene Walter (08:45):
Who is this?

Annisha Jeffries (08:47):
I have a little bunny rabbit coming out of a magic hat and I use this for story time, so we can just always engage.

Sammy (08:56):
Aw, that looks so cute. So it's like a little toy bunny.

Laura Maylene Walter (09:00):
Yes. That likes to hide and then sometimes likes to pop up and say "hello".

Sammy (09:03):
Its very cute and furry! Hi little guy.

Annisha Jeffries (09:03):
Oh, wait a minute.

Laura Maylene Walter (09:03):
Oh no! <laugh>.

Annisha Jeffries (09:03):
Put you away

Sammy (09:14):
Listening audience that was slightly violent. <laugh>

Laura Maylene Walter (09:17):
The bunny lunged at Annisha a bit, but I think it was a play fighting thing. I think. Annisha's fine. Annisha's fine.

Annisha Jeffries (09:23):
She's Play.

Laura Maylene Walter (09:24):
She's good.

Annisha Jeffries (09:25):
I think I woke him up. So.

Sammy (09:27):
Um, Laura, can I make a little comment?

Laura Maylene Walter (09:28):
Yes, please.

Sammy (09:30):
Okay. So I just wanted to make a little comment about some of what Annisha said. Yeah, I seem to have some sort of a mental block as far as what is a puppet. You know, like I, I just don't get it. But when she was talking, I just substituted the word friend and then it all made sense. You know, like a puppet slash a friend, it's the kind of friend that can help a kid open up, right. And it's the kind of friend that can help tell a story and it's the kind of friend that can stand in maybe if you don't have another friend. So puppets are great because they can be friends. That's how I understood it.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:03):
That is so beautiful and very wise, Sammy, very wise. And if I may, I think you're a great friend. Everyone who meets you is lucky.

Sammy (10:12):
Well, unless I'm an enemy,

Annisha Jeffries (10:15):

Sammy (10:15):
You know let be real. Sometimes, sometimes folks out there, you know, they get afraid of my big beak and Oh well that's okay to each his own or her own or their.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:23):
That's their loss.

Sammy (10:24):
Yeah, totally.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:25):
I bet you have a lot more friends than enemies in the world. That's my guess.

Sammy (10:29):
Well, you know, I think crocodile, I don't don't know who eats toucans.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:33):
Oh, okay.

Sammy (10:34):
Definitely. I'm somewhere on that food chain.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:36):
So we'll keep you away from them. Definitely.

Sammy (10:37):
You're kind of lucky to be a human. You know, people don't eat you generally.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:41):
One thing I'm grateful for is, you know, Sammy, I've watched a lot of your videos because I'm such a fan of yours and I've noticed in a couple of your interviews,

Sammy (10:50):
Are you gonna talk about hands?

Laura Maylene Walter (10:51):
Do you wanna talk about that or is that a sore subject?

Sammy (10:54):
I can talk about hands and how I don't.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:56):
Cause you have beautiful wings.

Sammy (10:57):
I do have beautiful wings, but uh, no hands and y'all just have these hands and you just don't really appreciate them. You can type. Oh, I saw that Annisha Annisha was just showing her her very mobile fingers to all of us.

Laura Maylene Walter (11:15):
Yeah, opposable thumbs.

Sammy (11:16):
Yeah. Don't even get me started on thumbs <laugh>. Yeah, so I don't know. Um, I make do with my beak, but you guys are very lucky with your hands. You can do jazz hands. I can only do jazz beak.

Laura Maylene Walter (11:29):
We just took a little jazz hand break everyone, but we're back now. Jazz beak. Oh my goodness. Well, we'll make sure to post some pictures. Um, of course links to Sammy's video so that everyone can see how glorious Sammy is. Wings and all. Okay, well Sammy, you are in Indiana, just our neighbor to the West. What would you like to share about the Indiana Center for the Book or the Indiana Young Reader Center? Just anything about what you love about Indiana?

Sammy (11:57):
Oh gosh. Well one thing I love about Indiana is actually going out in nature in our state, because I'm sure we're similar to Ohio where we have, you know, beaches up on Lake Michigan. And then if you get to the southern part of Indiana, we have amazing hills and hiking and forests. We have a national forest in Indiana. We also have amazing, even ancient type of structures. We have mounds that were built by ancient peoples. And you know, Indiana means the land of the Indians. But that's a really kind of a difficult subject to grapple with because you always wanna think about the people that lived on your land before you did. And it's something that we, I think don't talk about enough. So I always like to just give a shout out to indigenous peoples who used to live in all of our lands. Right,

Laura Maylene Walter (12:45):

Sammy (12:47):
So question for you. What's your state bird?

Laura Maylene Walter (12:50):
The cardinal.

Sammy (12:51):
Yeah, same here. I mean, why, why do so many states have the cardinal as their state bird?

Laura Maylene Walter (12:55):
I never thought about that. I've never thought about that. I'll have to look up all the state birds now and see.

Sammy (13:00):
There's like 12 of them that pick the cardinal and I'm just sitting here, you know, like talking to all these Hoosier authors and why don't I get some love, you know? Anyway, I mean, I guess the last thing I'll say about Indiana is that I'm very lucky to live in a state with so many wonderful authors. I know that Ohio has gazillion wonderful authors too, but you know, we have some characters that everybody recognizes. Clifford the big red dog, is from Kokomo, Indiana and Garfield, you know, the cat is from Grant County, Indiana. Jim Davis is from Indiana. We have John Green, we have Meg Cabot, we have Kekla Magoon who now lives in Vermont, but she grew up in Indiana. I mean we just have a plethora and we have emerging authors, Leah Johnson and Jay Coles. We have so many wonderful authors in Indiana and I just feel so lucky that I get to talk to them all the time. It's the best part of my day to talk to an author. And Laura, I didn't even know that you were an author, so hello author.

Laura Maylene Walter (13:57):
Yes I am. I write for adults and I know you like to interview a lot of children's book authors at the Young Reader Center, which is fantastic. And you know, we need to get all young people and hopefully instill that love of reading in them.

Sammy (14:10):
Yes, for sure. And I should mention that the Indiana Young Reader Center is located in the Indiana State Library. We focus on authors that write for children Indiana authors that write for kids. We have a very big beautiful collection. We have Clifford's doghouse. You could come and hang out. Lots of little alcoves with like a, magnetic map and a story prompt and all kinds of things. We also talk about the importance of knowing how to do cursive writing, which you have to have hands for of course. But you know, cursive writing is so important to read old documents, you know, maybe you can't write it, but you should learn to read it.

Laura Maylene Walter (14:46):
Well you're doing great work there and I would like to talk about some of your interviews. Sammy, you have have been interviewing authors and librarians for such a long time. You're very good at it. And by the way, I really like that you're such an active listener. You're always nodding and emoting and showing people that you're really taking everything in. It's a delight to watch. So I'm just wondering, out of all your years of interviewing Indiana authors, what have you learned or discovered along the way that you'd like to share with us?

Sammy (15:14):
Wow, what a great question. I think the biggest thing that I have learned is really to listen. If you watch some of my early, early interviews, I wasn't as picky in the early days. I would interview, you know, librarians and authors from other parts of the country. I actually got to interview Jeff Kinney, who writes The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. That was pretty exciting. He was a really big author at the time. And it took me a long time to really learn that the best way to do an interview is to listen. And I think that we can apply that in lots of areas of life too, right,

Laura Maylene Walter (15:45):
Definitely. Well I will take that advice too, as this podcast is still fairly new and getting to talk to so many exciting people like you and Annisha and everyone always has such interesting things to say and worth taking the time and focus to listen. So I appreciate that. Okay, a few more quick questions before we get to our books today. I still have some questions for you Sammy, cause you're such a unique guest for us. And you know, your bio says that you live in a drawer. Can you talk about that? What is that like? Is it, is it cozy? Is it lonely? You know, is everything okay? How often do you get to leave the drawer? What can you tell us about your living arrangements?

Sammy (16:24):
Um, I don't really wanna talk about that.

Laura Maylene Walter (16:26):
Oh no. Okay. Okay.

Sammy (16:28):
I mean, would you wanna talk about it if you lived in a drawer? I bet you wouldn't, you know, I mean, what do you want me to say? Like it's, it's kind of a challenge. Like the light goes out and I just lay there and then, you know, weeks go by. So I don't think your listeners really wanna hear about that. Like I said, the best part of my day is when I get to chat with folks like you. The worst part of my day is when I'm just in a dusty drawer sitting in the back with a bunch of junk in front of it and I'm just laying there. So, I mean, we can talk more about it if you want. It's a dark gray, I would say sometimes there's like glimpses of light.

Laura Maylene Walter (17:04):
Oh see, I mean, okay, I wasn't sure if it was cozy in there. Um, but we'll move on. We'll move on. We'll move on.

Sammy (17:09):
You try a drawer and tell me if it's cozy.

Laura Maylene Walter (17:12):
All right. Well, onto some maybe happier questions. These questions are for both of you. So Sammy, you've mentioned animals a few times, so I'm just curious, do you prefer cats or dogs? And Annisha the same question to you.

Sammy (17:24):
I guess I would prefer a dog, maybe. They don't climb trees as well as cats so they, I think they'd be less likely to eat me and my toucan you know, brethren? So I guess I would prefer a dog. And you know, Clifford is a dog and Clifford is more fun than Garfield. Garfield is just a killjoy if you ask me. Oh, I, I think I offended Annisha. What do you think Annisha?

Annisha Jeffries (17:46):
<laugh> Well I prefer cats. You know, I grew up with both dogs and cats but I actually have one, I have a pet cat, his name is Oliver and he's 16 years old. He's a little bit up in age, but I think cats are misunderstood. The first cat that I had, I was 19 years old and it was a Maine Coon cat and his name was Bronte. And he would fetch paper, I would crumple up a ball of paper and throw it across the room and he would run and grab it and bring it back. I had never seen anything like that before. And when I read about that, you know, certain cats can fetch like a dog and they're so loving. I mean they really are. And if you treat them very well, they will uh, love you right back. And I'm not saying dogs don't do that, but I don't wanna walk a dog in the middle of the night and I don't feel like doing all that. The cats can go to their litter box. You know they have their own way. If they don't wanna be bothered with you, they won't. And I kind of like that independent. I like that too. They're different. But I prefer cats. I just love their personalities cause they all have personalities. Dogs too. But cats are hilarious.

Sammy (18:53):
Yeah, it's so hilarious when they go out and kill all the birds in their neighborhood.

Laura Maylene Walter (18:57):
<laugh> Well <laugh>. Well I have cats as well. I agree with everything you said Annisha about the joys of cats. But Sammy, but Sammy, hear me out. My cats are indoor cats.

Annisha Jeffries (19:08):
Yes, mine too.

Sammy (19:09):
That's better.

Laura Maylene Walter (19:10):
I would never let them catch a bird.

Annisha Jeffries (19:12):

Laura Maylene Walter (19:12):
So I have two cats. One is Cirrus, he's getting older so I don't think he'd be too much of a threat to you. My younger cat is named Crème Brûlée and I have to be honest, her favorite toy is that toy called Da Bird where it's a feather on a stick. So we would keep her away from you. We would keep her away from you.

Sammy (19:29):
I mean I'm corduroy, I don't have feathers, but I really feel for all of my feathered friends, you know, just public service announcement, birds aren't doing well in general. Yeah. Now you know, with climate change and things like that, our migration is just a mess and all of our habitats are getting messed up. So, you know, I think a responsible cat owner is really gonna keep an eye out for the feathered friends because you know, people don't go to bat for birds as much as they maybe should. And I have the platform today, so I'm just gonna talk about that.

Laura Maylene Walter (20:01):
I agree. I think that's wise. Cat owners, keep your cats indoors. It's also safer for the cat. Right? You wanna keep your cat safe. Right. So Sammy, are you a Jonathan Franzen fan? I know he cares about the plight of the birds as well.

Sammy (20:13):
Is he an Indiana author?

Laura Maylene Walter (20:15):
<laugh> No.

Annisha Jeffries (20:17):

Sammy (20:17):
Maybe I'm unfamiliar.

Laura Maylene Walter (20:19):
Okay, great answer. All right, let's move on. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you like to go? And this is for both of you.

Annisha Jeffries (20:28):
I really would like to go to Africa. Yeah, Africa. Because I really want to be able to see like the pyramids. I would like that. I wish I could just snap my fingers and just go there without having to get on an airplane.

Sammy (20:43):
I don't know if you guys could fly then...

Laura Maylene Walter (20:47):

Sammy (20:48):

Annisha Jeffries (20:48):
That's right. I'm jealous. See you, you were talking about us not having hands, Sammy, I mean you not having hands. Mm-hmm. But we can't fly. Well and I would love to fly. I would trade in a heartbeat.

Sammy (20:59):
I don't know what's the deal is with me, but I have these wings but they don't work. But back to Laura's question. So if I could travel anywhere, I would certainly go to the rainforest in South America and visit some of my toucan cousins down there.

Laura Maylene Walter (21:14):
That would be great. I would love to get a postcard from you in the rainforest with your bird friends.

Sammy (21:19):
Well if it ever happens I'll send you one. We can be pen pals.

Laura Maylene Walter (21:23):
<laugh>. Excellent.

Sammy (21:24):

Annisha Jeffries (21:25):
Sammy, I have a question for you.

Sammy (21:27):

Annisha Jeffries (21:27):
Do you know Toucan Sam?

Sammy (21:28):
We don't talk about that.

Laura Maylene Walter (21:31):

Annisha Jeffries (21:34):
Follow your nose.

Sammy (21:35):
Um, what's the next question, Laura?

Laura Maylene Walter (21:37):
<laugh> You know, one thing I also appreciate, Sammy, you're very good at setting a boundary and I think that's something all of us, no matter how old or young we are, could all learn how to set boundaries. So that is great.

Sammy (21:49):
I mean it's not hard you just say no. You just say move on. So,

Laura Maylene Walter (21:54):
Yep. And we love direction like that as well. Sammy, since you're such a master interviewer, um, I don't know, is there anything you'd like to ask Annisha while she's here?

Sammy (22:02):
Let's see, Annisha. So what is your position there at the Cleveland Public Library?

Annisha Jeffries (22:07):
I am the Youth Services Manager. Now maybe 20 years ago, our department was called Children's Literature and it had been called Children's Literature since we opened our doors in this building in 1925. And then we incorporated a young adult area. And so with that in mind, we changed the name from children's literature to youth services. We conduct programs, we have our Summer Lit League programs, we have story times and then we do outreach. We visit schools, we give tours of our historic building and we do so much where you cannot believe that you know this is a profession because it's so much fun.

Sammy (22:50):
I love that.

Annisha Jeffries (22:51):
Another thing that we do, not just downtown, but in all of our 27 locations, we have a summer feeding program and we have that in the summer and then we have that in the fall for after school. So if you want a quick lunch or a quick meal, we offer that. So we offer a lot. Some people don't know that we offer so many things at the library. It's not the library that I grew up with, right. It's not the library that, you know, my mother and grandparents grew up with. It's different. And we want to stay relevant. You know, we wanna stay current to come in and you need wi-fi service, we have wi-fi. That free wi-fi, it helps because sometimes, you know, people don't have that access. But you come to the library, you sit in one of our branches or departments and you can use that. So my main job is to just manage the department, make sure we have all the resources for our young people and just make sure that everybody has a wonderful experience. That's very important cause I had that as a little girl when I visited the library some years ago.

Sammy (23:54):
I love that. And I love that it used to be called Children's Literature. You know, I think some people think that writing a kid's book is like an easy thing or that producing children's materials is like less than an adult thing. But really I think it's more important because if you don't start reading as a young person, you know you'll be a lot less likely to read when you're a grownup. So if anybody wants people to read grownup books, by golly, they've really gotta start by encouraging kids to read when they're little, Right? When they're just little hatchlings, they need to start reading right away. And it sounds like you do so much.

Annisha Jeffries (24:30):
Well we try and I tell parents that modeling is the best thing to do.

Sammy (24:35):

Laura Maylene Walter (24:35):
Like I grew up in a house with my grandparents reading the paper. My aunts, they were doing their homework so they were always reading books. My mother was always reading and I would see that there were books, encyclopedias, dictionaries all throughout the house. And I sometimes I think I was born with a book in my hand because I loved reading so much. I was just encouraged by my family and I don't even think they knew about that <laugh>, I don't think they knew what they were doing. But modeling help, you know? And we tried to tell parents like, even if you don't love reading, you still can encourage your child to read for fun, you know, for entertainment. It's wonderful. I love non-fiction books. I love fiction books. All types of books. And you know, we were talking about if you wanna travel somewhere, well sometimes books can transport you to other places. And so if you can't travel you can always read about them. And that's the great thing about books. They take you places that you may not have been before.

Sammy (25:30):
Absolutely. I love that.

Laura Maylene Walter (25:32):
Very well said. Well, it's time for us to quickly cover a few books. You each brought a book today from an author from your respective state. So Annisha, would you like to go first and tell us what book you chose and why did you choose it?

Annisha Jeffries (25:48):
I have, Don't Touch This Book. It's by Bill Cotter. And Bill Cotter is from Cleveland. He actually went to St. Ignatius High School. Yay. But he was a art teacher as well. And his books are real popular. So Don't Push the Button is like one of our staples in story time, meaning it's interactive, you're reading the story, you have this cute little purple monster leading you through the story and telling you don't press this button or you know, don't touch this book. And so you are engaging your audience like should we touch it? Should we not touch it? If you touch it, you could touch it on the side, you can touch it upside down, you can shake the book. It's interactive, but it's a lot of fun. And the experience of that makes this book so worthwhile. All his books. I really enjoy his books because not only are they funny, but the illustrations, he does the illustrations too.

Annisha Jeffries (26:39):
He, um, illustrates the book. He writes the book and it's a laugh out loud, side splitting, fun, entertaining book that everyone all ages will enjoy. I will say this, even if you're an adult, even if you're a teenager, you will love picture books. It doesn't have an age, right? This is for all ages. It starts off like, "Oh hey, how's it going. Now by know you're probably looking at my cool new book, but don't touch this book. Don't even try it bub. See my picture in the front? That means Larry decides who gets to play, tell you what <laugh> you can play, but you can only use one finger and drag it like this." So it engages. You can follow along and you can participate. And participation is so much fun. And so Sammy, when you mentioned a friend, that's another thing. You can always have a friend either read the story or read along or help turn the pages of the book. Now I don't think you would be able to help turn the page maybe with your beak.

Sammy (27:40):
Oh, just rub it in. Why don't you.

Laura Maylene Walter (27:42):
No. With your beak. With your beak <laugh>.

Annisha Jeffries (27:44):
Yeah, with your beak, but not with your, you know, <laugh>

Sammy (27:48):
My useless wings. Just say it.

Annisha Jeffries (27:51):
Yes. I mean, you know, but you'll still help. I I didn't mean to insult you.

Sammy (27:56):
I can read, you know.

Annisha Jeffries (27:59):
I know, I know. You can Sammy. I think that. Come on.

Sammy (28:04):
Oh, I'm sorry. Sometimes I can be sensitive. You know, though, Annisha, I wanted to say that I love Don't Push the Button. Don't Push the Button. As actually a winner of the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award. So it was the very first book to win that award and that's a special award in Indiana that's voted on by children ages zero to five. So who's your children? You know, children from Indiana, But it can be any book, any book can win even if it's, you know, a subpar Ohio author or something like that. <laugh>. You know, like that book could still win. And it did. So congratulations to Bill Cotter for winning that award. I think it was about seven or eight years ago when Bill won that award for us. But again, voted on by children ages zero to five. And you know, sometimes it takes a lot to really entertain that crowd. It's got to be exactly the right kind of book. And that's a great book like you said for all ages, including the littlest ones.

Annisha Jeffries (28:56):
You're right. And it's so much fun because you can really get animated, you know, as you're reading the book. And so you know that anticipation and everyone loves that. I do.

Laura Maylene Walter (29:05):
Well Sammy, it looks like you are raring to go.

Sammy (29:08):
<muffled> Well the book I got in my beak...

Sammy (29:10):
Sorry. Um, the book that I have in my beat right now is called Bird Bird Bird, A Chirping Chant by April Pulley Sayre. And I love this book so much only because it's about birds, right? And she has a whole series of books that are these chants. And I have to say before I say anything else that can we just take a, a quick moment of silence because April Pulley Sayre passed away. I think it was in the last year. So can we just be quiet for a second? Thank you guys. I love April Pulley Sayre books. She writes a lot about nature and she's just fantastic. Do you think I could read just a couple of pages of Bird, Bird, Bird?

Laura Maylene Walter (29:51):
Yes, absolutely.

Sammy (29:52):
Because like I said, I can read. I'm a good reader. Okay, so this is Bird, Bird, Bird, A Chirping Chant written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Gary Locke. Here's how it goes. It's kind of just a list of birds, but they're fantastic. Listen to all these bird names. "Wandering tattler, timberdoodle teal, nutcracker, nuthatches are these real? Yellow belly sap sucker, picture that. Chakalaka chickadee, chat, chat, chat." And all of the pictures are very silly. I mean I think it's silly that a lot of the birds have teeth, but I think that makes it funny, you know, instead of just, I don't know, it's not a real serious book, but I love that it exposes kids to all kinds of birds from America too. You know, American birds and it's got that lilting, driving, rhythm that goes through and Annisha, I know that you know that rhythm is very important in children's books because it helps kids play with words and it helps them understand the rhythms of words and then it helps them learn to read, which is so great.

Annisha Jeffries (30:58):
And there's a tongue twister too, and children love that.

Sammy (31:01):
That's true. And I do have a tongue.

Laura Maylene Walter (31:04):
Yeah <laugh>

Laura Maylene Walter (31:05):
Point of pride. Um, I noticed the teeth too. The illustrations are very whimsical and the birds have like big square teeth, which is fun. Maybe a little unsettling, I don't know. But do you have thoughts on the teeth? Sammy? Do you wish you had teeth?

Sammy (31:19):
Oh no.

Laura Maylene Walter (31:20):
No. Okay.

Sammy (31:21):
No. You know, you'd have to floss and you'd have to brush 'em and oh you guys really, there's a lot to taking care of teeth. So you know, another public service message definitely brush those choppers if you've got 'em and you only get the ones set right and if they fall out then you gotta get fake ones and that just seems like a ton of trouble. So no, I don't want 'em. And I think whimsical is exactly the right word. Good job Laura. That's a great word to describe those illustrations. They're whimsical and they're funny and they really keep your attention all the way through. Another one I love is Go, Go, Grapes! And Rah, Rah, Radishes! Those are both wonderful books by April Pulley Sayre that have that same driving rhythm. And I also mention April Pulley Sayre actually wrote a special chant for Indiana for our bicentennial. I don't have it in front of me, but it's wonderful. It talks about all kinds of things that are unique to Indiana, different kinds of rocks that we have. The schools in Indiana, we have IU and Purdue and Butler and Notre Dame, and also things like the Indy 500, Go Racers and all of our sports and things. Clearly we're doing an interview, so I'll just say the word basketball, you know, you gotta say it when you're talking about the Hoosier State. So: basketball.

Laura Maylene Walter (32:35):
Well thank you for sharing that book with us. If any of our listeners aren't familiar with April Pulley Sayre, now they know of her great work. And so I will link to all of these books in the show notes so that people can learn more. I'll also link to her Indiana chant as well.

Sammy (32:52):
That would be great.

Laura Maylene Walter (32:53):
Okay, well before we wrap up, do both of you have something you'd like to share that you're grateful for? It could be related to your job or to reading or to authors, or it could be about whatever you would like. What are you grateful for?

Sammy (33:07):
I'm grateful for librarians. I'm always grateful for them because I think that they sort of, they know about the new books right away and they're ready to share them with you right away. And it's so important to read new books, not just old books. Old books are great too, you know, all books. But I think it's very important for people, you know, you people with hands, to have a reading journey where you're reading newer authors too. That way people like Laura, you know, could make a living writing. And it's important to purchase books and to be an active library patron because that's good for authors too. And you know, everybody has a story, right? And librarians help share those stories.

Laura Maylene Walter (33:47):
Well, that's lovely. And Annisha, what about you?

Annisha Jeffries (33:50):
I am thankful for family and friends like Sammy. I'm so grateful for that. And also I'm just grateful to have a profession where I can promote books and literature and programs and so many services that are free. I feel so good when people come in and they want materials and we can help them. And I don't have to say, yeah, okay, your total will be, uh, no, it's just zero. That's your total zero total. I'm also grateful for publishers because they send us free books and so we can give those books to families and our young people and I do that every time they come in. I give them free brand new books, so they can incorporate those to their library, their own little library board books, picture books, graphic novels. So I'm thankful for a lot of things, but those are the things I'm grateful for.

Laura Maylene Walter (34:42):
Wonderful. Thank you both so much. And speaking of being grateful, before we sign off, I have one last thing. Sammy actually asked me off air not to do this, but I'm, I'm sorry Sammy. I have to thank Suzanne Walker for all her work and her creativity and for helping make this interview happen.

Laura Maylene Walter (35:02):
Well, I don't know who that is, but good job, whoever that is.

Laura Maylene Walter (35:06):
<laugh> I can tell you Suzanne Walker is the Indiana Young Reader Center librarian and Director of the Indiana Center for the Book.

Sammy (35:13):
Oh her. Okay, go ahead, go ahead.

Laura Maylene Walter (35:16):
She coordinates Indiana's Letters about Literature competition annually and was a judge for the 2020 Indiana Authors Awards and the 2021 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Awards. She's presented at many library and youth conferences and is also proud to have been interviewed about Indiana authors by NPR. So we thank the mysterious Suzanne, whoever she might be. Is that okay Sammy?

Sammy (35:40):
Oh, sure, sure. Yeah. I mean, you've already done it, so.

Laura Maylene Walter (35:44):
<laugh> Sammy, you've got some sass today, but, but we like it. We like it.

Sammy (35:48):
I don't know, it seems like as the years go by, the sassiness increases. Do you think that's bad for my image?

Laura Maylene Walter (35:53):
No, you gotta be yourself, Sammy. You gotta be yourself and stand up for yourself and you know,

Annisha Jeffries (35:59):
Be honest.

Laura Maylene Walter (36:00):
Yes, be honest. So, be honest.

Sammy (36:01):
I mean, I know that's sort of unprofessional to be like, Oh, by the way, let's talk more about me and, and how I portray myself. But <laugh>, I dunno.

Laura Maylene Walter (36:09):
Well, we think it's great and we are wrapping up. We'll let you, um, well, we'll let you move on to whatever you're doing next, not the drawer I hope. So. Sammy and Annisha, thank you so much for sharing those books with us and for your wonderful work with libraries and young readers and just for being here today. Thank you both so much.

Annisha Jeffries (36:27):
Thank You.

Sammy (36:28):
Oh, you're welcome so much. Can I do my sign off that I normally do?

Laura Maylene Walter (36:31):

Sammy (36:32):
This is your favorite Hoosier toucan, encouraging you to read local, so long! Bye Annisha.

Annisha Jeffries (36:37):
Bye Sammy. Thank You Laura.

Laura Maylene Walter (36:38):
Thank you both. Page Count is presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. Learn more online at Follow us on Twitter @CPLOCFB or find us on Facebook. If you'd like to get in touch, email and put podcast in the subject line. Finally, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Lauramaylene. Thanks for listening. And we'll be back in two weeks for another chapter of Page Count.

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