Bill Harley - Genuine, Irreverent, Universal, Ridiculous, Original

Spring 2016


Hello friends

The hummingbirds showed up two days ago, wondering where the sugar water was. They've got it now. It's spring, and the newest resident on our property is a pair of Cooper's Hawks who have made their nest in a white pine (thanks to my bird pal in Montana, Kate Davis, who helped from afar with the identification.) For some reason, the other birds aren't hanging around here as much this spring. So, it's eventful, in a very nice way around here. As long as you're not hawk bait. 



While I've been visiting schools, Debbie was back in Japan for two weeks with an old college friend. She had a great time but may be permanently jet-lagged.

Now we're looking towards summer. I'm wrapping up work on the opera Weedpatch, being written with my friend Paul Phillips, and starting work on a couple of new projects, including a new recording of more stories from the Town Around the Bend.  

One highlight for me this spring was being inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. There was an induction ceremony and concert (for me, two - one adult, one family), and I'm very humbled to be included among this growing cast of amazing musicians. I especially appreciate the Hall recognizing me for my work with children and families - still kind of can't believe it. Hanging around has its benefits. If you're visiting the Hope Artiste Village complex in Pawtucket, you can see my display in the halls. Wow.


photo by Moto Photography
  Winning Song  

One of the first things I have to do though is write a song based on the winning title in our Name That Song contest – Well,...I’m Sorry. Still thinking about that. It sounds like it’s going to have to be pretty snarky. It’s not my fault, you voted. We’ll let you know when it’s done.

  Further Adventures of Charlie Bumpers  

Last week I recorded the audio version of Charlie Bumpers vs the Puny Pirates, which will be out this fall. The questions we asked at the beginning of this venture were, “Will Charlie have a life? Will the books have legs?” The answer, apparently, is yes. We’re hearing from more and more schools who are using it as a One School, One Book read, and getting a lot of notes from happy kids, teachers and parents. (see below) Charlie, in short, has a life that’s separate from mine. Most recently it won the Great Kids Can Read Award from the Kansas City School Librarians for book of the year, and the Beverly Cleary Children’s Choice Award from the Oregon School Library Association. In both cases, it was children choosing the winner, and that feels right to me. The Beverly Cleary award especially touches me since I’ve felt from the beginning that I was drawing on Cleary’s work in creating Charlie.

Thanks to all of you who have brought Charlie into your homes and schools.

  New Fans  

Dear Bill,

I am writing in regards to your books, Charlie Bumpers. My son Christian (9yrs old 3rd grade) happened to grab your book off the shelf at his school library for us to read together. We like to read for homework and we read while sitting at the curbside at his school to be dropped off everyday. And I must say, we couldn't wait to get our hands on the other books of Charlie Bumpers! 

We have read many books and I believe your books won his heart and mine as well! We had such a good time not only having time reading together but laughing and learning by reading your great books! Yes, we read all 3 Charlie Bumpers books! We were wondering if you will have any more of Charlie Bumpers stories/books?? Please don't tell me, "I DON'T THINK SO". LOL  Which by the way, are his favorite words he says now!! I believe he has the whole class saying those exact words!

Thank you for your amazing stories (I love humor) and for making our day full of giggles and more laughs because we both say, "I DON'T THINK SO"!

Thank you,

Kelly & Christian

  Around Our House  

We live in an old farmhouse. Before we moved in, they took down the barn, so we don’t know what it looked like, though for the first fifteen years we would find bridles, horseshoes, and other barn-like detritus that had been buried. Last year, my dad passed away and left us something (thanks, Max!). This year, we decided to take down the crumbling old garage (seventy years old, and not in good shape) and build a barn/garage/performance space – a post and beam beauty. If you’ve built something, you know it takes longer than it’s supposed to. But we’re getting close, and I thought you’d like to see a picture of where we are. We’re planning on doing a party/concert this summer to celebrate. And Debbie is looking forward to keeping her car out of the cold and snow for the first time in thirty-five years. There’s a barn at 301 Jacob St. again.

  Bilingual household? Read this  

In November of 2014, Debbie and I spent a month touring ten cities in Japan – telling stories, singing songs, and talking about literacy. This was largely because of the interest and kindness of Adam Beck, who has used my stories in his work for years. Now, in addition to his great website on bilingual children (, Adam has published a book on raising children in a bilingual household, Maximizing Your Child’s Bilingual Abilities. I’m happy to say both of my sons are bilingual (er, maybe tri-, or something for one of them), and I wish I had this book when they were growing up. It’s a big world, and the more people you can talk to, the better. You can check it out here -


Roller Girl  - The book for Read Across Rhode Island


I am honored and delighted to be the Honorary Chairperson for the Rhode Island Center for the Books “Kids Reading Across Rhode Island" (KRARI) this year. The book is Victoria Jamieson’s graphic novel Roller Girl. It’s a great read that addresses issues of identity and community in a wonderful way. And now I know how roller derby works. There was a great event at the RI State House by the RI Center For the Book where Victoria spoke. Here’s a picture of me with some real roller girls.

  And what are we reading?  

I really enjoyed Colm Toibin’s book Nora Webster. I’m re-reading some of P.D. James mysteries, looking to see if I’ve missed any of Adam Dalgliesh’s adventures. More than once, though, I’ve gotten part-way through the book and it begins to seem vaguely familiar. This seems to be happening more often.

Also really enjoyed David McCollough’s The Wright Brothers, and thanks to my son Noah, The Silence and the Roar, by Nahid Sirees, a Syrian (exiled, now) writer who tells of a mid-Eastern country ruled by a despot. It’s a disturbing book about tyranny, and humanizes a people we now tend to objectify.

  From Debbie – Bill and I are reading the same books right now (which is very unusual) – I read Nora Webster while in Japan and The Wright Brothers before leaving. I’m about to start Jo Jo Moyes – One Plus One having really enjoyed Me Before You and After You.  When I read her first books I was expecting a fast/light read but was surprised at the depth and range of issues raised.  

And let us know what you're reading. We always love to hear from you!

From the Office


  Our friends at Tales2Go just released the results of a comprehensive study that makes it very clear that listening to stories/books (in their case audiobooks) increases literacy... something many storytellers and educators have known for a long time. It's great to see that the numbers affirm this. Check their work out here:  

On Sale


Now that we've made the argument that listening to stories makes you smarter, here are a few of Bill's recordings to help with that!

All Charlie Bumpers Audiobooks on sale for $14!


These titles on sale for $10 each!

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