Book Power for Kids and Tor Lundvall Presents Witness Marks: The Works of John B. Mclemore

Our favourite podcast this week is made for kids, by kids, but as adults we absolutely love it! And one of the podcast world’s most interesting characters releases a posthumous album that’s as curious as he was.

Book Power for Kids

This podcast review should probably come with a sweetness warning. It’s almost too cute for words. If you’re not ready for the most adorable podcast you’ve ever heard, consider watching some videos of babies playing with puppies before you proceed.

Book Power for Kids is a podcast by kids for kids. Chaska, Leilani and Mirabel Power review new books for kids. And these kids understand the power of audio and the theatre of the mind. So, after reviewing the book, they choose a part of the book to act out. They really bring the book to life.

This is not a recording of children reading a book at the kitchen table.

It’s highly produced (and presumably highly edited) with all the hallmarks of the best podcasts from NPR and others. The most recent episode, ‘Cat and Mouse’, was released on Valentine’s Day and begins with a blogroll of recommendations about Chaska’s other favourite podcasts. He was just sharing the love.

The hosts of Book Power for Kids, Chaska, Leilani and Mirabel also make guest appearances on other podcasts.

As they are children, their release schedule is a little sporadic, thanks to the inconvenience of school. Their personal information is also protected, so their profile pictures see them peeking out from behind their favourite book. Judging by their voices and the limited amount of information available in the photos, they seem to be aged between 8 and 12 years old.

They review the books like typical kids, with some honest opinions on the content and story. They also have a great sense of humour. Mirabel says she loves the book ‘Cat and Mouse’ because, “it tells you how to eat your friends… just kidding”.

Book Power for Kids really comes alive when the kids read/act out their favourite section from the book. There’s nothing quite like hearing a book read well and if you want a kid’s book read well, put it in the hands of children.

Possibly the strongest asset of this podcast is their relationship to time. Many people ask how long a podcast should be. Many people answer – as long as it needs to be. Book Power for Kids episodes come in somewhere between 3 and 6 minutes. Is this the ideal length for a podcast for kids?

There’s something very Sesame Street about the sound of this podcast – is that showing my age? It’s not often you hear kids speaking authentically in the media, but Book Power for Kids really captures the Power family kids as they sound, not how somebody wants them to sound.

Since discovering this podcast last week we’ve recommended it to several people who don’t have children. We’ve also recommended it to plenty of parents too!

Tor Lundvall Presents Witness Marks: The Works of John B. Mclemore

If you’ve heard the S-Town podcast, just the name John B. Mclemore is probably enough to make you feel uncomfortable. If you haven’t heard the S-Town podcast, here’s a quick and rough synopsis with a spoiler alert.

The S-Town podcast evolved as Brian Reed (producer for Serial and This American Life) exchanged emails and phone calls with John B.Mclemore about an alleged murder in Woodstock, Alabama. Over years Brian talked to John, visited him, investigated the possible murder and recorded interviews. (Spoiler alert!) Then John died in very unusual circumstances, which seems to be when Reed realised he had a podcast. S-Town was delivered as a real-life talking book. Its appeal was that if you scratch the surface of the veneer we all hold up to society, you’re likely to find some very interesting stories.

John B. Mclemore’s death left many questions around inheritance, possible buried treasure and connections that went around the globe.

Tor Lundvall was one of those connections.

Like Reed, Lundvall first heard from Mclemore when he reached out to express an appreciation of his work. Mclemore asked if he could upload to Youtube some remixes of Lundvall’s work. After that the pair stayed in touch and exchanged music and field recordings.

Lundvall discovered that John was dead through comments on that Youtube video. The comments were about the podcast S-Town. It’s probably safe to assume that Tor isn’t the only one of John’s connections who learned of his death this way.

Lundvall listened to the podcast and decided to make Mclemore’s work from 2003 public. So, as we listen to this album after S-Town, it’s interesting to remember that the music was composed 15 years earlier.

The album begins as fans of S-Town might expect, with the sounds of clocks. The opening track runs almost 20 minutes and begins with a mildly malevolent mood which is slightly unsettling. Half-way through a synthesiser rhythm breaks in, giving the whole experience a very David Lynch feel.

This is an album that’s safe for work and could almost be classed as new age relaxation music. There are some unusual and interesting sounds that will make you wonder, but overall, the long tracks just wash over you.

So now the question has to be asked. What more has John B. Mclemore left behind. And what was the purpose of his initial contact with Brian Reed. Could it be that the whole S-Town story was an elaborate set up for Mclemore’s musical career? Or was it his final masterful marketing campaign to bring all of his projects into the limelight.

No doubt we’ll be hearing more from Mclemore, despite his shuffling off this mortal coil. I’m hoping somebody does discover his buried treasure, and that his nature maze grows to fruition in a few decades time.

Whatever you think of the man, he has left one of the most curious legacies of our times.

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