August 13 – 19, 2021Vol. 23, No. 10

Books From Maine: A Raising Readers Collection

by Martha F. Barkley

Jared fished from the children's bookshelves at Belgrade Library one Saturday a very special book of books featuring five iconic stories for kids' Read Alouds. The special feature of Books From Maine: A Raising Readers Collection that impresses me is that each author wrote so many other great stories for your children's enjoyment.

A great guide for parents and a great read for the young from this one book of five literary achievements: Camping Day by Patricia Lakin, Dino Pets by Lynn Plourde, Little Beaver and The Echo by Amy Mac Donald, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, and Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney Porter are the FIVE!!!!!

Even though McCloskey and Barbara Cooney Porter are my favorites, your young reader will have you reread the ones they prefer. Reading and rereading the same good tale is what makes readers.

The author biographies are fascinating to me, because by now I thought I knew everything about Robert McCloskey and Barbara Cooney Porter. Not so.

Robert had a barn full of his paintings and illustrations out on the coast at Blue Hill which I shared with my elementary students in Maryland back in the day of teaching in public school. The film with the artist commentary kept my students riveted and then reading his many books followed.

According to this special book that Jared found for me, McCloskey did not start his art work until high school. Prior to that he was an avid musician playing piano, oboe, drums and harmonica. Homer Price stories and his harmonica come to mind immediately.

Machinery and taking things apart and reassembling was another early interest. Burt Dow and motor problems in his boat come to mind. One Christmas, young Robert invented a machine that turned their family Christmas tree. Wouldn't you like that for your tree?

Many of his stories take place on the coast because McCloskey moved from Ohio to Deer Isle, Maine. His two daughters, Sarah and Jane, are featured in his books. Sal is for Sally, as in Blueberries for Sal. One of his daughters collected all of her dad's works and published a book that I bought at Lithgow Library years ago when she presented and played her guitar, too. Musical talent from her famous writer/artist dad.

Caldecott Medals and Honors for Time of Wonder with a great storm description and, of course, Blueberries for Sal. Who doesn't like to pick blueberries?

Barbara Cooney's biography is an enlightening read, too, for the adult sharing these entertaining children's tales. Her favorite time as a kid was when she was sick and could stay at home from school to paint and draw all day. She used her mother's brushes and cleaned them when finished.

Barbara was raised in the New York City area like E.B. White, and she longed for Maine, like he did as a six-year-old. Every summer Barbara would spend time in Maine with her grandmother. E.B. White spent every summer from age six onward canoeing on Great Pond with his family and later with his son Joe. Childhood memories for both produced many works for children. Charlotte's Web is my favorite by White.

I found Cooney's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt at Lithgow Library in Augusta. What a joy to see that beautiful library addition with its grand enlargement, tripling its size. I sat and revelled in the children's large, sunny room, no longer in the basement that used to flood. Eleanor Roosevelt actually was thrown from the sinking Britannic and always feared heights and swimming.

Barbara eventually lived on the coast at Damariscotta after traveling to many foreign countries. Lupines left by Miss Rumphius are pictured beautifully in her paintings and story of planting seeds. We enjoy lupines here in Belgrade, not far from the coast.

Read some of the hundreds of good books for kids, many recommended and pictured in this one beautiful book that is in our Belgrade Public Library. It is part of "A Raising Readers Collection." Reading children's books is fun for all of us. Try a few.