Friday, November 23, 2007

A Rat Writes a Book!!

For almost two years Roosevelt Rat has been working on his book and has finally finished the arduous process. The story is very loosely tied to the show he does called "Top Secret" which is a fun reading program about World Geography.

The book is actually like two books in one.

The first half is the story of Roosevelt's missing friend and how they use the library media center to unlock the clues they find. Invisible ink, secret ciphers, and mysterious maps all lead to a fun and rewarding conclusion.

The second half of the book is a collection of magic tricks that young readers can learn and perform to amaze their friends and family.

Roosevelt did a great job on the illustrations as well. The artwork is beautiful.

But that crazy little rat sometimes believes the audiences' praise of him. His ego might have caused him to order a few too many copies of the book from the publisher. We now have a garage FULL of books that I would really like to share with all my friends out there.

So, if you order a copy before the end of the year, I'll pay all the shipping costs and I even back the taxes out and pay them from my pocket. You just pay the $10 for the book. (Be sure to select "No Shipping" when the secure shopping cart asks for your shipping zone).

Don't feel guilty, it's a small price to pay to be able to park the truck in the garage again.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Used Books Part 2

The reason I wrote about used books last week was because I felt guilty about buying a great one. I love to get a good deal, but there are limits. For example, if I found an elderly widow selling “an old clunker” that her husband left her and I knew it was actually a valuable antique, I don’t know how good I would feel “hauling it away for her” after paying her only the $100 she was asking.

Some might argue with me, others might relish the good deal, some might slip her an extra C-note to ease their conscience, but I wouldn’t feel good about it, no matter what.

That’s sort of how I feel now because I bought an old book by humorist Dave Barry and paid only ONE DOLLAR!

Now, I know that $1 is about the going rate for used books, and actually might be a little bit high since this was a soft cover book. When you figure that the book was published in the early 1990s and had a cover price of only $4.95 you would think my conscious would be clear.

But Dave Barry is such an amazing writer. He has an amazing gift and I simply can’t read his stuff without laughing out loud. So anytime I see his books at a used sale I grab them up. If I already have a copy of the book, I give the second copy to a friend. Everyone like to laugh and Dave’s articles are short enough that even those who don’t read as much as I do can still get through one of his books without too much commitment.

In fact (and I’m sure Dave would beam with pride if he ever knew I said this) Dave Barry’s books are the PERFECT reading material to set on the back of the toilet. Each little article only takes about a minute or two to read. You get a good laugh and by that time you are ready to move on anyway.

I read Dave Barry and I study his words. I think to myself, Now how in the world can he say something so simple and make me laugh out loud? What are the tools that he uses? What pattern or repetitive technique does he use to so consistently produce great humor?

I haven’t unlocked the secret yet. But I don’t mind continuing the research.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Used Books

As an author of almost 20 books, some of which are a compilation of some of the 100+ magazine articles I’ve had published, I can tell you that I am not particularly excited when I see my work sold second hand.

First there is the emotional let down of wondering “Why would anyone not cherish that book on their shelf forever, passing it down from generation to generation with the veneration of a family heirloom?”

But as a writer who has had far more rejection slips than acceptance letters I am pretty quick to get over the emotional let down. Writers, if they ever want to be published, have to develop pretty thick skin.

No, the real pain comes when I think about how every second hand copy of the book cuts into my profits from writing the book. I only get money when the book is sold the first time. I don’t make money when people borrow it from a friend. I don’t make money when people sell it in a garage sale. I don’t make money when people check it out from the library.

But the truth is that I get past this too because I know what REALLY happens when books are sold second hand.

The readers of the world (and I’m talking here about people who read more than 4-5 books per year which is, according to some studies a VERY small portion of the people in the US), the readers of the world are a small population, but they are responsible for MOST of the book sales. It’s like the old “80/20 Rule” on steroids. I’d bet 5% of the people are responsible for more than 95% of the book sales.

That is a lot of responsibility for us and there is just no way that we can look at ALL the books published every year. So we usually recommend the same books to more than one person. We buy several copies of ONE book and give them as gifts. We follow certain authors and buy whatever they write because we learn to trust them to create great stories.

So, when my book gets handed off second-hand I know that I am being introduced to someone who would not have purchased the book otherwise. The potential benefit was not worth the combined risk of the jacket price AND the time needed to actually read the book.

But if a Reader gets their hands on one of my books and LIKES it, then they might be willing to buy one of my books the next time they get the chance.

And if they like THAT book, they might add me to their list of authors to follow.

And if I continue to deliver on the promise I’ve made with my writing, then the Reader might grace a few of his friends with copies of one of my books as a recommendation or even a gift, and thus a new crowd of people are introduced to my work, who might otherwise never have found me.

In a few days I'll share with you why I am thinking about this topic.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Raving Fans

I have a lot of testimonials from past clients on my web site, but I wanted to share this from Charity Munoz, a librarian in Lyford ISD in Texas.

Julian Franklin is a class act all the way! Communication and program preparation were a breeze. On the day of the presentation he shows up early, changes performance level to match the grade level of the audience, and manages student behavior like a teacher. All the while the students are thoroughly engaged, lauging and learning!

Thank you, Charity for the kind words and for allowing me to share them with others.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lucky or UN-lucky?

So much of life is about perspective; about attitude.

My wife’s favorite comment to me is “Everything always works out for you, doesn’t it?” She thinks I’m a Golden Boy who, no matter what happens, always comes out smelling like roses.

What she is starting to see is that it is my perspective that makes it seem this way. Here are two very recent and very severe examples.

Less than a month ago I was driving at about 70 miles an hour on a freeway in Houston and was rear-ended by a driver who was traveling at a speed police estimated to be at least 100 MPH. The damage was so severe that all the estimates to have it fixed came in at MORE than the vehicle is worth. In other words, my truck was totaled.

But all the damage was in the back where the bed of the truck is. I wasn’t hurt and none of my props were damaged. The truck still runs like a dream, it just has dented panels, a damaged tailgate that won’t open without prying it with a screwdriver, and a bent frame which doesn’t really affect anything other than re-sell value. Because he hit me from the rear the air bags didn’t deploy (that’s GOOD, they cost a LOT to replace!). But it turns out that the driver (Nicholas Drew Estes, TX DL#01514293) has no insurance.

Now this last little fact might not be as bad as it first seems. I carry insurance, but I do NOT carry full coverage since my vehicle has a very low replacement value. In fact, with over 210,000 miles on it, my truck is worth only about $3,000 according to Kelly Blue Book. But it runs GREAT since I take very good care of it. I plan on getting another 50,000 miles out of her at least before I sell her and buy a new one.

But if Estes would have had insurance his company would have totaled the truck, written me a check for $3,000, then taken the truck to sell at auction and then I would have had to go out and buy a NEW truck. Now, regardless of how affordable I can get the payments, I don’t WANT a new truck right now. I want to get another 50K out of this one and THEN buy a new one. So I was actually feeling pretty lucky that I was going to get to keep my truck, even if I was upset that it had been pretty badly damaged.

SEVERE EXAMPLE #2: The night before last, while staying in a hotel in San Antonio, Texas, my truck was broken into. They smashed the driver’s side window and searched the cab for valuables, then smashed the back window of my camper to search among my props in the bed for valuables.

I suppose they were looking for high value items that pack small. Things like cameras, lap tops, cell phones, or GPS units. But I always take these things inside with me.

So they took NOTHING from the cab. They didn’t even try to steal the radio or even take the money in the center console, which I would have thought would be a no-brainer. They took NOTHING.

(As a curious side note, I had two books in the car on entreprenuership and two audio CD programs by Jim Rohn, all of which would have benefited these hoodlums if they would have stolen them and listened to them or read them, but I guess thieves are not into self-improvement)

When they busted out the back window they couldn’t get the tail gate down because of the damage from the wreck last month. So they looked around a little bit and thought it was all a bunch of puppets and worthless books (Eeewww! Books.)

Because the tail gate didn’t open they were unable to pull out the stuff I store at the back of the truck and access the $600 wireless microphone system, the $300 wireless mic that goes with it, the $1,100 sound system, the $200 speaker stands, or the $200 worth of tools I use in the show I do about Simple Machines. All this stuff was back there, but it was so cluttered with other props that couldn't be moved without opening the tail gate that they didn't even know they were there.

So, again, they took NOTHING. They could have taken some props and left me out cold since those props are very valuable to me (even if you couldn’t get $2 for them at the pawn shop). The props are how I make my living.

So, was I unlucky to get my car windows smashed? Or was I lucky because the thieves took NOTHING.

Was I unlucky because I got rear ended and had my truck totaled by a guy with no insurance? Or was I lucky that I got to keep my truck for another year? Lucky that the damage caused rendered the thieves unable to gain access to my more valuable items? Lucky that I was driving a junky truck that got broken into rather than a brand new one?

I guess it is all about perspective.

But just in case it really IS good luck, I bought five lottery tickets.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Power of a Child

I just finished a week of performing "Work Smarter" in San Antonio, Texas, and I'm looking forward to getting back home to my family. But I have been really excited this week as I perform this show.

I've always love the concept, but this week the real power in this show was revealed to me through the children of North East ISD in San Antonio.

As a magician, I am used to performing feats that children find amazing. But this week I did a series of shows that teach science using hands-on demonstrations. So we explore the six simple machines (wheel and axle, pulley, incline plane, wedge, lever, and screw).

It was quite inspiring to me to witness first hand just how powerful hands-on education can be for today's youth. I am tempted to say "In spite of all the constant stimulation they experience from video and audio feeds" but after today I think that the truth is, they respond to this sort of educational process BECAUSE of all the constant video and audio stimulation they experience.

Today's children are screaming for real-world experience. They crave to SEE a chrystalis transform into a butterfly, not just READ about it. They want to SEE a 5 lb. weight lift a 50 lb. bucket of rocks using a lever, they don't want to watch a video about it. They want to get a scale and MEASURE the effort it takes to drag a 50 lb. bucket of rocks across the floor and then compare that to measurements they took to see what it took to pull the same bucket in a wagon.

Do wheels really reduce friction? If so, by how much? What other factors are involved? These are no longer abstractions in the minds of these children. These are REAL world questions that they can answer in a real world way.

So today, when I had two first graders up on stage helping me to split a 2X4 using a wedge and a 3 pound mallet, when the pieces finally separated and the kids both grabbed one half of the piece of lumber, it had all the teachers grinning widely and me beaming with pride as the kids held their respective piece of lumber triumphantly over their heads as their classmates cheered and clapped for them, all with no provocation other than the excitement of personal accomplishment.

It was quite a day for me.

It was like a magic show...with no magic. Well, no magic TRICKS. I guess there was plenty of REAL magic!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Reading to a DOG?!

Some weird ideas just work.

Hindsight is 20/20 but if you are honest with yourself you have to look at some really good ideas and think "That's crazy!"

Case in point: Reading to dogs. I heard about this idea about a year or two ago and saw a program in a public library this summer. Who would have thought that having reluctant readers read to dogs would actually inspire them to WANT to read more?

I mean, I've seen the results and I can assure you that it works. And in hind sight I can even speculate as to why it is so effective (it gives purpose to the reading without fear of embarrassment) , but I have to admit that if someone asked me if I thought the idea might work I'm afraid I would have to liken it to reading to a cricket or reading to a brick wall.

Why does reading to a dog work so well?

Who cares, really? It works for some crazy reason and to me, that's about all that matters.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Books and Movies

Here is a simple idea we started in our family this summer that really encourages reading in a very fun way. I encourage you to give it a try as well, and to recommend it to your patrons as they check out videos and books.

The new rule in our house is that no one is allowed to see the movie (whatever the movie happens to be) until AFTER they have read the book or had the book read to them. I started the rule this summer after a string of revelations that occured during my performances at libraries all across the state celebrating the Summer Reading Club in Texas.

Virtually all the children were familiar with both the movie and book versions of Chris Van Allsburg's "The Polar Express" as well as both the book and movie versions of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But almost no one knew that Shrek was a book written by Caldecott winner William Steig. Similarly not many children were familiar with the fact that Caldecott winner "Jumanji" (also by Chris Van Allsburg), "Zathura" (Van Allsburg), Katherine Paterson's Newberry winning "Bridge to Terabithia" (1977), and a host of other very popular movie titles began as great books.

As an added bonus, this new rule has actually created a sort of family ritual that we all hope will continue for some time. With all the hype about the last book in the Harry Potter series coming out as well as the fifth movie in the series so close in conjunction, even my 5-year-old daughter has caught the bug.

She was interested, but could tell that the movie was probably a bit scary for her. So when she asked about seeing it, she seemed a little bit relieved when we told her that she would have to start with the first movie which wasn't as scary. So we began reading a chapter per night in book one with occasional "bonus" chapters read during the day if she finishes tasks we've assigned her.

My wife has been listening in as I read and tells me she is very excited about starting book 2, and I will admit that I don't read enough fiction and it was good to force myself to enjoy something just for fun, even if I "had" to do it for my daughter.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Great SRC Ideas!

WOW! Two whole months without a single post!

What do you expect? It's summer. This is my busiest season. As the summer comes to a close I have most of summer 2008 already booked and four shows booked for summer of 2009! This is getting a little bit crazy, but I love it. Word keeps spreading which is great.

But here's the gist of this post. I got some great ideas over the summer as I toured the state and decided to bring back some "best practices" to share with all of you. The first idea is one for my professional public librarians, though I'll bet my school librarians could apply it, too. Within the next few days I'll be posting an idea that can be used by anyone who has children, so you'll want to come back soon and check it out. I promise it won't be another two months before I post!

Many of you know that in my previous life I was a behavior specialist for a school district here in Texas. In my training and experience I have learned that while there is some very real value to external motivation (e.g. rewards and prizes for participating in SRC, the AR point system, etc.) there are some real drawbacks, primarily the lack of INTRINSIC motivation (e.g. reading because you love the story).
I don't want to start a huge debate here (although, this IS a blog and you are welcome to comment on any post, even if you choose to do so autonomously). I do however want to share an idea that I think is a near perfect blend of external and internal motivation. It also has the added benefits of being cheap to implement and inspiring for even the lowest-level reader.
This idea came from Linda Youngblood of Harker Heights Public Library in Killeen, Texas. Thank you Linda for daring to try this idea in the current wake of "prizes! prizes! prizes!" only to prove that this idea is every bit as motivating, and in many ways, more so. Linda might have gotten this idea from somewhere else, but it was beyond brave to try it out given the pervasive history of "bribing" children to read with McDonald's coupons and dollar store crap.
Total cost to the library: $35.00 (MAX!) If you are wondering what to do with the rest of your SRC budget call me, but I probably won't be available until 2009 and even that is booking fast but I'll do my best to help you spend it all if you need the help .
Concept Overview: No prize distribution, but rather a TEAM effort to build the longest paperclip chain possible.
Concept Details: For every book read (or every 10 minutes, or every 20 pages, or however you decide to break up the units) the child gets to contribute a paperclip to the paperclip chain. The chain will be hung around the library for everyone to see.
Because there are no tangible prizes involved there is little, if any, incentive to fudge the reading log as we all know happens (but not in MY library). One of the problems with the AR program is that children can take a test as many times as they want and guess at the answers and many times pass the test without reading the book at all. With this program I'm going to share there is virtually no incentive to lie because there are no prizes and no "easy points".
Using this program even the lowest level readers will be inspired to participate. Many times reluctant readers learn that they have to read ten books (or so many pages, or X number of minutes) in order to get a prize and they disqualify themselves before even starting. But with this program EVERY SINGLE book/page/minute counts. If the reader turns in a log with only one book on it, then by golly, they get to add one paperclip to the chain. Which reminds me of the most brilliant aspect of this idea.
Because it is a group effort, there is never a sense of "Well, I won't be the top reader so there's no use trying now." Rather, everyone sees the chain growing and is inspired to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Each effort, rather than discouraging others, inspires others.
In fact, Linda was telling me that they started a concurrent contest among the adult patrons. Do you have competitive adults in your library? Do you have patrons who get upset at the sound level of your summer programs? Encourage them to compete against the children by reading as many books as they can. There are many variations: Staff vs. Children vs. Adults vs. Seniors.
I tell you I get so riled up just thinking about this idea! Don't get me wrong, I love the SRC and all that it has done and all that it continues to do. But as a behavior specialist, I can tell you that I am really excited about the possibility that this concept holds for our overall objective.
Of course, you can still use the paperclips after the SRC has ended, so this really doesn't cost you anything!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Signing Up for Summer Reading Club

Yesterday, after the first swim lesson of the summer we went to our local library and registered Madeleine for the summer reading club. She checked out three books while she was there. My wife got two and I got one.

Unfortunately I haven't had time to flip through it yet because I've been running mad with last minute changes to my show for this summer. The show debuts tomorrow morning in Magnolia. I'm looking forward to how it comes off in front of a live audience. You can practice as much as you want when you are alone. You can practice in front of your wife and daughter, but nothing really shakes a show out quite like getting in front of real people.

Of course, I'm very curious to see what the show becomes over the next two weeks. I've found that the show changes a LOT during my first 20 presentations. Then it changes a little bit more over the rest of the summer (about another 60 shows or so) and from then on it remains pretty solid, with only minor changes such as new jokes added and old ones removed or pop culture references replaced as they become dated. These changes occur when I perform the show at elementary schools during the school year.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Madeleine's Lemonade Stand

My daughter had her first lemonade stand on Sunday, May 6. Prepared for Life, an organization dedicated to improving opportunity for middle school children, created the idea of "Lemonade Day". You could register your lemonade stand and some organizations and schools went all out.

We just did a little stand in the shade by the park.

We did create several signs which we posted around area intersections directing people to the stand. We also had a larger sign that my daughter and I took turns hold up for passing traffic to see.

Over all we brought in about $12. Not bad for 3 hours. Okay, it probably wasn't the best investment of my time from a financial stand point, but the look on her face when she made her first dollar was worth more than I could possibly make in a month of hard work.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Interview with my Staff: Andrea

Julian: So, what do you like best about working here?

Andrea: I'll tell you what I like least: That picture of me on the web site "Faculty" page!

JF: I'll change it today. [ed: I have no intention of changing that picture, but I will admit that it doesn't do her justice. She looks good in the picture but in real life she's even more gorgeous]

AV: I like being able to stay at home with Madeleine. I like the friendships we've made with so many of the people we serve.

JF: Do you like "Naked Wednesday" as the new office policy?

AV: Why do you say dumb things like that?

JF: I'm serious.

AV: Please tell me you're kidding. I know you aren't stupid enough to post that question on the blog.

JF: Of course not! [ed: Of course so!]

AV: I'll go back to the only real question you've asked so far. I like being able to see you perform and sit at the back where I can see the reactions of the children and also to hear the comments from the adults. It is great to know that we are really making such a major difference in the lives of so many young readers and I like being a part of that.

JF: That's great. Now, seriously, do you think we should have "Naked Wednesday" as the new office policy? I mean, you work out of the house, so it wouldn't be that hard to coordinate.

AV: This is why you shouldn't work for your spouse. It makes harassment lawsuits much more difficult to prosecute.

JF: Right. Now, you mentioned the joy you get being a part of inspiring children to read. I know the answer to this, but for our readers, please tell us about you desire to learn one of the shows and perform it on stage.

AV: It will NEVER happen. We each have our strengths and mine is keeping you organized enough so that you never miss a show.

JF: I would never be able to run this business without you, that's for sure.

AV: And I would never be able to get on stage and do what you do. We make a good team.

JF: Yeah. Let's pretend it's Wednesday.

AV: Dream on.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Interview with my Staff: Jack

I was at S.C. Garza Elementary several weeks ago and Mrs. Carlson, the media specialist suggested that I do some interviews with my various staff members and post them on my blog. Liking this idea, I immediately went to work on the project. This is the first interview I've conducted. This is an interview with Jack, the largest of all my puppets.

Julian Franklin: Jack, and I'm just going to call you Jack for this interview and it would be WAY too weird for me to call you "Mr. Rabbit"…

Jack Rabbit (interrupting): You could call me "Fredrick".

JF: Is that your middle name?

JR: No, but if you're trying to come up with other names to call me then I wanted to offer a suggestion.

JF: Whatever. Look, you really only perform in one production at this time.

JR: That's right. I'm the star of "Sport of Champions", it's a show about me and how fast I am.

JF: No. It's an educational school assembly program that promotes reading while also teaching about math and basic math concepts.

JR: Yes, right. It's about reading, math, and about how fast I am.

JF: It's NOT about how fast you are. In fact, we go into pretty good detail about how you lost a race with a TURTLE!

JR: Actually, I won second place in that race!

JF: Jack, when there are two people in a race and you come in second place that's called "LOSING"!

JR: Hmmph. That's a very pessimistic way of looking at things, isn't it?

JF: JACK!! Please. Let's try to get back to this interview.

JR: Of course. I forgot. I know that all the regular readers of your blog will want to find out more about me.

JF: You really think so highly of yourself that you think all the regular readers will want to know more about you?

JR: Yes. I'm sure they all will. All two of them.

JF: I have a LOT more than two readers of this blog!!

JR: Sorry, I forgot to include your mother.

JF: You leave my mother out of this !!

JR: Whoa! Too much caffeine for YOU! No more trips to Starbuck's.

JF: Please, let's just do the interview.

JR: Ask a question, then! We only have time for one more, then I have to leave.

JF: Really, what time is it?

JR: Time to go!

JF: Wait! What about my last question?

JR: You just asked two.


JR: Too much caffeine for YOU!

Thank you Johanna, for the idea for the interview!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bad Assembly Ideas...

As a professional school show performer, I have lots of fun school assembly programs that are educational and entertaining. But sometimes I'll have an idea that just doesn't pan out the way I first thought it might.

For example, here are a few school assembly programs that I created that never really caught on.

My motivational program called "At Least Care Enough to Cheat"

I wanted to combine a study on Language Arts with Ethics and came up with "Words We Shouldn't Say and How to Pronounce Them"

When that didn't take off, I focused just on the Language Arts program and created "Learn Where to Put Prepositions At"

I knew Red Ribbon Month was a good time to do programs so I wrote "Don't Smoke Much Marijuana"

For the younger kids I created "Don't Steal from Your Friends"

My very first reading program was titled "Be Smart: Reed"

Finally, I wanted to create a program that took advantage of my training as a behavior specialist so I wrote "Behave You Little Brats"

Have fun!

--Julian Franklin

P.S. Most of these humorous ideas are not my own. I am fortunate to have friends as funny as Matt Fore (quite possibly the funniest human being I have ever met). He's an amazingly talented school show presenter from Tennessee and if you ever have the good fortune of seeing him, he'll have you and your students rolling on the floor. I'm glad to be able to call him a friend.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Because I perform school assembly programs and motivational reading programs for a living people assume I am an extrovert. It's a logical conclusion. I mean, when you see one of my summer library reading programs I'm running around in costume, singing songs, arguing with puppets, screaming feigned shock at magic tricks, and laughing harder than the kids at all the funny stuff that happens while we talk about books and the power of reading.

But I'll tell you a little secret about me…that's not what I'm really like.

I love to eat lunch with the librarians that hire me because most librarians and media specialists seem to relate to me pretty well. We talk about favorite books, favorite authors, and sometimes we don't really talk much at all.

I remember sitting in on a lunch conversation that consisted of other performing artists including some professional speakers. Someone asked the members of the group to raise their hand if they felt they were introverts. Everyone raised their hand.

Now, that's not always true. I know some performers who really NEED to be on stage. They thrive there and WANT to be there. And I guess I do, too. But it's a little bit different for me.
One of the guys at the lunch table that day made a comment that stuck in my mind. "Extroverts spend time with others to gain the strength they need to get through the times they are alone. Introverts spend time alone to gain the strength they need to get through the times with others."

While I don't think I need to psyche myself up to get on stage, or even have any reservations or trouble doing what I do, I also am very comfortable spending an entire day (or two or three, though I don't remember having that luxury since my college days) doing nothing but sitting alone, reading, writing, and dreaming.

I remember early in my career someone filled in my feedback form with the suggestion that I should be more friendly before the show. They very logically concluded that since I was so dynamic on stage and NOT at all dynamic beforehand that I must have seemed rather "stand-off-ish" or aloof. The truth is that I would always be as dynamic and personable and funny off-stage as I am on-stage if they would give me a script four months before hand and then follow their lines.

But alas, conversations don't work this way unless all your friends are puppets (most of mine are). So I do the best I can. I really like people and enjoy talking to them and listening to them. I just don't do it with the same vigor and excitement that happens on stage.

So, if you catch me off-stage, don't be afraid to grab me by the arm and say hello. I'd love to sit and talk about your favorite author. Just don't expect me to come up with something witty to say.

--Julian Franklin

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What's on Your Bookshelf?

I was recently talking to a librarian friend of mine about what books we were currently reading and I mentioned to her that when I first go into someone's home, I am drawn like a vouyer to their bookshelf.

"The eyes are the windows to the soul" the old saying goes. But I disagree.

Give me ten minutes to peruse your book collection and I'll be able to tell more about you than anyone can tell by looking at your eyes. Paperbacks or hardcover? How worn are the books? Any classics or is it all pop fiction?

Favorite authors, favorite genres, favorite characters, favorite themes: these all reveal, at some level, our own aspirations, dreams, and fears.

And when it comes to non-fiction and how-to type books the number and type can reveal quite a lot. The aspirations, dreams, and fears are in no way hidden with these books. They were bought specifically to learn something that can be applied. So what, really are you doing with Stories Guide to Raising Beef Cattle? And doesn't that copy of Surviving Infidelity tell a little bit more than you really want the neighbors to know? Why is that copy of the Karma Sutra so well worn? (Maybe that's covered in one of the chapters of Surviving Infidelity?)

Are your books displayed out in the open or are they on shelves in private rooms? How many books do you own? How does your book collection compare to your video collection?

Some of you may be asking questions such as I asked once I first realized how revealing books can be. I know someone who has more televisions in his house than he has books. How do I view into his soul?

The answer is obvious: those without books, have no soul.

Or maybe they just keep them hidden from nosey people like you and me.

--Julian Franklin

Monday, February 19, 2007

Frozen Bubbles

My daughter was watching a Curious George marathon on PBS today. They were running the "monkey marathon" to celebrate President's day and I'm not sure if 6 episodes back-to-back of a meddlesome monkey named George was a political statement or not, but that's a topic of another post at another time.

This post is about the episode where George was blowing bubbles one cold winter day only to look down and see one of his friends "pop" the bubble which actually caused it to shatter. Apparently the bubble got so cold that it froze.

Living in south Texas, I've never heard of such a thing and almost dismissed it as cartoon silliness when I decided to e-mail one of the world's leading authorities on bubbles. Yes, I have some pretty interesting people in my list of acquaintances.

So the guy I contacted is Geoff Akins of He not only verified that bubbles CAN freeze, he even sent me a picture of a few that he was able to capture on film. I'm sharing them with you now.

By the way, Geoff will be visiting Texas next fall. If you are interested in getting a totally unique, educationally significant school or library program from a world renowned "bubbleologist", and NOT have to pay his travel from Chicago, contact me ASAP as we are setting up a tour now. He'll only be here one week (September 24-28, 2007) so act fast or you miss out!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Romance Novels are Real?

Romance novels account for 40% of the sales of popular fiction.

That's a fairly interesting fact in itself. But then a study in press at the Journal of Research in Personality showed that those who read fiction scored higher on tests of empathy and social acumen than readers of non-fiction.

As I guy who reads about 100 books each year, almost all of which are non-fiction, this study bothered me when I first read it.

Raymond Mar (a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Toronto) says "Stories often force us to empathize with characters who are quite different from us, and this ability could help us better understand the many kinds of people we come across in the real world."

In fact, Mar suggests that the correlation between reading fiction and being more empathetic and having better social acumen is causal. That is, that reading fiction actually INCREASES our ability to understand others and to get along better socially.

There is a great book on the subject called "Why We Read Fiction" by Lisa Zunshine. Jackie Stanley wrote "Reading to Heal" about the topic of bibliotherapy. And Victor Nell penned "Lost in a Book" about the psychological and even physical benefits of reading fiction. But I won't read ANY of these books because I've made a commitment to read more fiction and all these books are non-fiction. I'm starting the new year with "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini.

I resisted the urge to read non-fiction and forced myself to browse new sections of my local Barnes and Nobles. I am a non-fiction junkie and it has been difficult for me to break my habit and indulge in reading something PURELY for pleasure. But I felt that I really NEED to do this in order to keep my social awareness in shape.

Until my new social acumen picks up though, I wonder if I will be less caring and empathetic about my fellow members of society. I wonder what other people might think of me if I seem boorish or somehow anti-social. Will others begin to think of me as some sort of non-fiction reading monster?

But then I realized that as a non-fiction reader, I couldn't care less what everyone else thinks.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

July 21st is the day that bookstores will begin selling "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", book 7 in the Harry Potter series.

As a performer with a strong background in presenting magic tricks, I must admit that I like the Harry Potter books and have been at almost every mid-night party the night before the book was allowed to be sold.

Most of the time I went as a paid performer, dressed like a wizard doing magic tricks for all the other Harry Potter lunatics who have to be the FIRST ones to get their hands on the book.

I'm sure this year will be no different. I even have a web page just for promoting the new Harry Potter Book 7. Check it out, if you want.

By the way, the picture at the left is of me performing at Rice University for the children of the alumni before their homecoming game. I always enjoy performing for the Rice University Alumni.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I just read the the #1 shoplifted book is The Bible.


I've been to several library conventions and conferences and I've spoken to many of the vendors. I can't walk through the exhibit area without feeling the overwhealming urge to buy something.

Books call to me like an addiction. I have shelves and shelves of them and I only keep the ones that I plan on reading again. But it is clearly impossible since I still have stacks of books that I haven't gotten into yet and regularly buy more. I can't walk into Barnes & Noble without buying at LEAST one or two things.

I read about 100 books a year but I buy at least twice that many. In addition to one entire bedroom of our home that has been converted into a library (see photo at left), I have boxes of books stored in closets and the attic that I may never see again because there are so many new books coming out that command my attention.

So I thought, surely, these book sellers who have tables and tables of lovely books on all manner of things, and display them so temptingly in a bustling, confusing room filled with thousands of people who love books as much as I do; these vendors must lose quite a bit to the old "Five Finger Discount".

Consistently the vendors told me that this was not the case. None that I spoke to ever had a single book stolen.

"I guess thieves don't read much" one told me.

--Julian Franklin