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Raising the Future at the Talbot County Free Library

by Bill Peak

Do you ever feel as if your later years have become haunted by your first? I hear a cardinal singing from the branches overhead and, for a moment, I'm a little boy again, sitting with my mother on the stone steps that led down to Mr. Bowman's garden, sunlight dappling the ground.

The scent of Dentyne gum works for me too (my father chewed Dentyne), a bonnet similar to those my sister wore at Easter, even an I.V. needle stuck in the back of my hand like the one they put there when I had croup can work the trick. Every day a connection like these snaps into place, elicits a memory, then colors my day.

All of which makes me wonder if the psychiatrists have it right, that our adult lives merely recapitulate our childhoods. Perhaps in response to different stimuli, and hopefully exercising a little more maturity, don't we all, from time to time, run up against the same fears, feel joy in the same way, seek to be loved as we were as children?

If true, this would explain why so much art finds its source in childhood: Marc Chagall's Shtetel, Virginia Woolf's Cornwall, Marcel Pagnol's Provence, Willa Cather's Nebraska. To write, to paint, to create a new reality from scratch, one must feel a little playful—and playing, of course, is the province of childhood.

But in truth, doesn't each of us create a new reality from scratch every day? Certainly many of the best solutions I've come up with in my personal and professional lives came about because, as I considered whatever challenge I faced, I gave myself permission to think outside the box: to invent, be creative, childlike.

All of which should convince us, if there was ever any reason to doubt it, that the lives and experiences of our children's earliest days portend those of their adulthood, that even as we direct them toward maturity, we must do everything in our power to give their first years a happy, playful tenor.

The Talbot County Free Library's 9th Annual Chesapeake Children's Book Festival will take place come rain or shine on Saturday, June 22nd, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., in the library's Easton branch. This year's festival will feature 22 children's book authors and illustrators, all of whom underwent a rigorous vetting process before being selected to participate.

Children who sign up at the Festival for the library's Summer Reading Program will receive a voucher good for one free book (while supplies last) from the attending author of their choice. It's always fun to see the pride children take in asking the author they've selected to sign the book they've received.

This year's authors include Andi Diehn, author of the beautifully illustrated Mama's Days, the Finnish-American author and illustrator Mirka Hokkanen, best known for her Kitty and Cat picture books, and acclaimed children's book author and illustrator Timothy Young, who designed and built Muppets for Jim Henson and created the very first Simpsons toys. Young's latest work is a middle-grade chapter book Mac and the Millstone of Time, set in Talbot County's Old Wye Mill.

Traditionally, the festival resembles a small, library-sized carnival, designed to create a special day of fun for little ones. This year, for the first time, the Maryland State Opera Bears will perform. The Opera Bears, Grizzelina and Grizzelino, are large puppets who, along with their puppeteers, show children how opera can tell magical stories.

In addition to the warbling bears, the Imagination Library, Flying Cloud Bookstore, and the Daughters of the American Revolution will offer crafts, the Judy Center will have their Make-A-Book table set up, and the Pickering Creek Audubon Center and the Master Gardeners will make sure that Mother Nature provides an important part of the day's excitement.

All in all, the 9th Annual Chesapeake Children's Book Festival should be another great day for children at the Talbot County Free Library, the place where their futures grow bright.

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