Library receives 1,000 new children’s books

LOVELL – Children sat on the floor Friday morning in Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library with gaily wrapped boxes of books stacked in front of them. They listened quietly while a donor of all those books spoke of his grandmother and the importance of books in her life.

Speaker Doug Hall told them he shared a birthday and a love of books with his grandmother, Hazel Emerson Hall, who died in Bridgton in February at 95. He headed a family effort to donate 1,000 new children’s books in her memory to the library where she’d been a patron for several years. She had commented on the library’s vitality, he said, and its importance as the hub of the community.

Some of Hazel Hall’s other descendants joined Doug Hall at the library to celebrate his grandmother’s life – cousins, aunts, uncles, kids and Doug Hall’s parents. Ninety-six balloons, each embossed with storybook characters, announced the celebration from every available post and pillar outside the library.

A balloon for each year

His grandmother, Hall said, was in her 96th year and it had been a birthday tradition to bring her balloons in the number of her years. The children present each received a balloon to take home after the festivities ended.

Hall kept his talk brief, saying Hazel had graduated from the University of Maine in 1929 when it was unusual for women to go to college. She’d also been a teacher for 40 years in Livermore, Lewiston and Jay schools. Some of her most memorable teachings are on bookplates in front of each of the new books, he said, such as, “Be kind,” “Don’t be afraid to think for yourself,” and “Be courageous in standing up for what you believe to be right.”

Then the excitement of unwrapping 500 of the new books began: “Mike Mulligan,” “Where’s Waldo?”, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Beyond the Western Sea,” “Almost Home,” “Blueberries for Sal” and more.

500 now, 500 later

Library Director Anna Romer said the staff used several book lists for children and young adults to select the first 500 books, which are catalogued and ready to sign out. The remaining 500 titles are to be chosen based on nominations from children and their parents, and they will be in the library by fall.

Among the books were three copies of the newest Harry Potter book, much to the excitement of the kids. Romer asked them to guess a number between 1 and 40 to decide who the first three kids would be to sign out “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Matt Fox, 11, of Stoneham, one of the lucky three, had a big smile as he held the big book.

Some kids then drifted outside to eat snacks and listen to Marty Hamlin, “Mr. Moose,” play his fiddle and tell stories against the backdrop of the life-sized moose on his truck. Many children and adults continued looking over this huge selection of new books.

Romer said a record number of books were signed out Friday, and also a record number of children have signed up for the summer reading program.

Hall said it is reassuring that a thing like books can get people excited.

“That was some scene with the kids opening the boxes of books. Unreal! I was not prepared for that.”

Hall lives in Cincinnati now, but he, his parents and many siblings all graduated from the University of Maine, just as his grandmother did.

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