Special to Find It In Fondren

Before Emily Grossenbacher became kids’ manager at Lemuria Books in 2009, there were no children’s events going on. Since then, it’s become one of her biggest priorities. “One of greatest things a local independent book seller can do for their community is to put on events,” she says. “We have seen only good come from it.”

Things like June 17’s Stupid Smelly Bus Tour are Grossenbacher’s forte, bringing learning to life for children. The tour, celebrating its tenth year, follows the adventures of the Barbara Park Junie B. Jones book series and is presented by Lemuria, Fondren Renaissance and Random House Kids. “It’s my favorite part of the job, seeing them having those experiences and remembering my own,” she explains.

The bus has stopped in Fondren before – three years ago – but Lemuria wanted a larger audience this go around. “We are excited to get them back in Jackson,” Grossenbacher says. “That just doesn’t usually happen (having them back a second time.)”

To gather a crowd, Lemuria enlisted the help of Fondren Renaissance and Executive Director Jim Wilkirson. “When everyone works together, it’s a cool thing, Grossenbacher says. “I love working with them. Every time I get something big like this, I call Jim and ask if can we work together. He is always up for the challenge, figuring out how to get the community involved and make it great for Fondren.”

Last spring’s Magic Tree House bus tour was the first large scale event of its kind for book seller. Fondren Renaissance’s connections with Boyd Elementary School exposed the series to a wider audience. Random House donated books and both Lemuria and Wilkirson used their “friends in other places” to get the Mississippi Children’s Museum and The Jackson Zoo involved for the afternoon show at The Cedars. Grossenbacher says “We still have kids come in mentioning that event.”

Chances are they’ll be talking about this one on Monday at Duling Hall, too. Junie B. and her teacher Mr. Woo weave stories together so kids who have read the books can recognize different parts. If they haven’t read them, Grossenbacher says the tour is a great introduction to the series. “You get a feel of how precocious Junie is,” she explains. “She has a huge trunk that she pulls things out of and she really gets the audience involved.”

Children will have the chance to have their books stamped and meet the characters at the end. The bus will be parked on Duling, there will be snacks and coloring sheets and you’ll even get the chance to take photos.

Events like the Stupid Smelly Bus Tour add a different element, much like when children go to New Stage to see a show. “It gives them a different perspective from what they see on TV,” Grossenbacher says. “It helps them see the human aspect of books and connect to real life.” She explains one of the great things about reading is you can experience things you never have before. “Watching them meet Junie B.: it’s like this book has come to life. Last time we had her here, kids came back saying they are re-reading all of the books because of the tour.”

Tickets for Monday’s Junie B. Jones Stupid Smelly Bus Tour are $10 and available at Lemuria or at the door at Duling Hall. Doors open at 1:30pm and the performance begins at 2pm. Each ticket is good for one child and one adult admission and a specially selected book.

Footnote: Groosenbacher revealed a middle grade tour coming this this fall: Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Among the Hidden series with Lisa McMann . She says “A double author tour is a big deal.”

Special thanks to Fondren Renaissance for this report

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