Inspiration for all ages

Singer Jamie O’Reilly is hosting a children’s story time this weekend — but the real story has been her life

Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune photo, edited

Singer and storyteller Jamie O’Reilly in the outdoor patio of the Tre Kronor restaurant on the North Side of Chicago, where she has performed over the summer. It’s across the street from the Sweden Shop.

Rick Kogan
Excerpts from The Chicago Tribune
Tuesday, Oct 11, 2022

Read the entire Tribune article

I don’t know how many kids will be in the audience when Jamie O’Reilly sits down at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sweden Shop, a charming store on Foster Avenue across the street from the Tre Kronor restaurant on the Northwest Side. “Children’s Storytime with Grandma Jamie” will be the first of what she and the shop’s owners hope will be an ongoing series of performances, the latest offering in what has been O’Reilly’s lifetime of entertaining.

I have no idea what stories she will be reading, though they are intended for children ages 3-6. The stories are from books she has read to her own grandchildren — she has three, Cosmo, Arlo and Olive — and though it is hardly my place to suggest material for the show, I think these little kids might be well served by listening to the story of O’Reilly’s life, for it is so imbued with art and music that it could inspire the children, and inspire those of any age.

I have known and admired O’Reilly for decades, shared a stage with her on occasion, and will be doing so again at an upcoming Chicago Literary Hall of Fame event. One of the most memorable stage-sharing events took place at a 2009 memorial service for our mutual friend Studs Terkel, who once called O’Reilly “especially gifted, with her vibrant voice and a passion for life.”

Smith’s death in 2020 combined with the ensuing pandemic’s closures and distancing made for some down days for O’Reilly and many other artists and performers. But she has been emerging with a renewed energy and sense of purpose.

Cosmo, Arlo, Olive
Nia O’Reilly Amandes photo

The Sweden Shop reading was born thusly: “I had been reading books I bought at the shop to my grandchildren for some time and it was my sister Dorothy’s suggestion that I expand into the community,” she says. “Just to be planning this has given me a fresh outlook and renewed excitement.”

It should give the kids, and the parents who hang around, a fine time.

“Grandma Jamie’s Children’s Storytime” will be 2 p.m. Saturday at Sweden Shop, 3304 W. Foster Ave.; free,