PORTLAND, Maine — Tim Sample stands alone in the recording booth, with no one else in sight as he reads a story he first heard more than 60 years ago.
“'Well, look who’s here,' said Mr. Condon who kept store. 'I have a tooth out,' said Sal, who showed where the tooth had been,” Sample read.
It's one short scene from “One Morning in Maine” by Robert McCloskey— one of a series of classic children’s stories written by McCloskey many years ago and now being brought out as audiobooks, thanks to Ethan Warren.
“I grew up on these,” Warren explains. “Probably my favorite author, and 'A Time of Wonder' my favorite book.”
It’s a love Warren is trying to pass on to his own young children.
“I've been reading it to my kids since the time they were born. It's part of our family," Warren said.
That love for the McCloskey books is shared by Sample, best known as a Maine humorist and storyteller, who has also recorded multiple audiobooks.
“I had read all the books, I grew up with them … The work is so evocative of my own childhood, and my life growing up on the coast of Maine,” Sample explained.
Warren took on the project because he wanted to add music to the timeless stories of childhood. He said a close friend wrote and recorded the music tracks for three of the stories: "Blueberries for Sal," "One Morning in Maine," and "A Time of Wonder."
"The stories provoke an emotional response in me,” Warren explained. "And I wanted a way to transfer that to other people. And I thought music would be a better way than me just telling people, 'Don’t you know how wonderful this is?'”
Sample said the project is especially meaningful to him because he had known McCloskey, and visited him on his Penobscot Bay island home.
"I have [a] great fondness for Bob McCloskey as a human being. He was a mentor, a friend, a wonderful guy. But the work is extraordinary. He's a brilliant illustrator, but he’s a wonderful storyteller,” Sample said.
The narration by Sample was recorded in a Portland studio. Warren said he will take that and combine it with the music, then add some sounds from nature, such as waves breaking and seagulls calling. Then, he plans to release the finished versions of the stories this summer.
"My kids really like 'Peter and the Wolf,'" Warren explained, referring to the famous work combining Prokofiev’s music with the old Russian story. “And that’s the model for this, where you can listen to it in the car and keep your kids entertained and get a little bit of good music in there, too.”
And the hope, he and Sample both expressed, that it will help connect more young people and parents with McCloskey’s timeless stories of childhood on the Maine coast.