Giving Thanks at the Talbot County Free Library

by Bill Peak

Someone is about to retire from the library. She has worked there, tirelessly, for 34 years. During that time, she has cared for generation after generation of Talbot County's children. Somehow, incredibly, she always seems to remember each and every child's name. But ironically, I am not permitted to reveal her name. In addition to all her other wonderful traits, this woman is modest to a fault. She doesn't want anyone to make a fuss over her. I am sworn to silence. But I have to tell you, I have known and admired this lady for years now. When it comes to children—how to treat children, how to listen to them, how to award them your complete and undivided attention-she is my role model. She should be the world's.

And so it seems fitting that, if I can't name her, if I can't write the column about her I would very much like to write, if, as a community, we cannot award her the honors she so richly deserves, then, perhaps, we can best pay tribute to her longtime devotion to our children by celebrating along with her this year's Chesapeake Children's Book Festival. Don't get me wrong, the festival wasn't her brainchild. That honor rightly belongs to Timothy Young, who has been the driving force (and I do mean “force”) behind the festival since its inception. But the day itself, its celebration of the sort of books this woman has been reading aloud to rapt, if pint-sized, audiences for years now, the sort of wonder such books generate in children, the children themselves, the unrestrained, unselfconscious way that little ones respond to a good story ... all of this serves as testimony to the values and virtues this woman has inspired and served for a little over a third of a century now.

The Second Annual Chesapeake Children's Book Festival will take place on Saturday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Talbot County Free Library's main branch at 100 West Dover Street, Easton. Thirty-two of the country's best children's book authors will be in attendance, to meet the little ones, to sell and sign their books. And I have to tell you, having worked with children's book authors for some time now, they all, in one way or another, remind me a bit of the lady I've been talking about. Pretty much by definition, like her, they know how to talk to children, know how to excite a child's sense of wonder. If you have children, you will be glad you gave them the opportunity to meet people like this. Just as, I am sure, you are glad you gave them the opportunity to meet her.

The festival will also serve as the kick-off event for this year's summer reading program. Each child who signs up for the program will receive (while supplies last) a voucher good for one free book from the author of their choice. The theme for this year's summer reading program is “Build a Better World”—and in keeping with that theme, each time a child in the program reads a book this summer, a donation will be made to Habitat for Humanity Choptank.

So please, if you can, come down to the library on the 17th. There will be free food and music, a blacksmith working his forge, 32 children's authors signing their books (including one, Roxie Munro, who has created 14 covers for The New Yorker), information on important area organizations that serve children, and much, much more. And if you get a chance to speak to the lady I have written about here, the woman who has so ably served the children of Talbot County for 34 years now, please take a moment to thank her for all she has done for our community ... and then thank her for me too. Every time I see her little figure bending down to a child's level, staring nearsightedly over the top over her glasses at his or her book or craft project, exclaiming with the child over it, my step grows a little lighter. I am a lucky man to have gotten to know and work with her.