The Suitcase Lady


October 15, 2013, 9:39 pm

Judy’s story came to an end on October 7, 2013. My lovely friend, the amazingly gifted storyteller, writer  and children’s librarian, Judy Farrow Busack, has died.

I met Judy over 25 years ago. She brought her storytelling programs to schools and libraries all over our state and beyond.

I am not a storyteller. I’m the nonfiction lady, doing educational programs on art and natural science topics. But Judy and I were frequently booked at the same events and a lasting friendship bloomed.

Here are two stories that I hope will convey this woman’s exceptional gifts.

When Judy was a children’s librarian, she ran theater workshops as her teen summer reading programs. Every children’s librarian knows that attracting teens to library programs is difficult; an event with 12 kids is considered a resounding success.

One summer morning I was scheduled to do a program for the younger children at her library. I arrived early to find fifty teenagers eagerly waiting for the library doors to open so they could work on their play. Judy had them fully engaged, allowing them to be creative, make mistakes, learn from their mistakes and ultimately take pride in their productions. Her theater programs continued for many summers, and some of “her” kids went on to careers in the theater.

Judy was a spellbinding storyteller. I was once asked by a school where I did frequent art programs if I could suggest a presenter for a middle school assembly. I knew this group of kids well. Sadly, many of them made the school’s anti-bullying program a dismal failure. I recommended Judy and candidly told her, “If you take this job the most charitable thing I can say is that it will be challenging.”

Judy arrived with no costumes or props to face 100 kids sitting in the bleachers with their usual “I dare you to make me interested in anything” attitudes. Judy had every one of them captivated in three minutes. She only told one story, a folk tale about brothers that were turned into swans. The story lasted more than a half hour. I am still in awe, a word I seldom use.

Magicians and trained dog acts now have become the hottest bookings for children’s library programs. If storytellers are hired, they often are not advertised as such for fear no audience will show up. I know few things with certainty, but I know this: we all, young and old, need our stories and our storytellers. And if you have been touched by a storyteller as gifted as Judy, you indeed are blessed.


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