PARIS – Outside around town early Saturday afternoon, Paris was bustling with people going about weekend activities, such as forming lines at car washes, waiting to blast away winter’s grime or mud season’s mess.

But inside Paris Public Library and downstairs in the Children’s Room, three young South Paris siblings and their grandmother were the only ones interested in Saturday’s “One Book: One Community” program.

The event, “Pandas, Tigers and the Year of the Pig,” was one of several similar-themed programs offered in the Oxford Hills area during an extended, weeks-long celebration of last month’s Chinese New Year.

Regarding the sparse turnout, children’s librarian Ann McDonald said, “This is the last of a series of programs on China, and I think people just got all China-ed out.”

During the first several minutes, McDonald animatedly read aloud from two children’s Chinese storybooks while Alexis Berry and Nathan and Tegan Wheeler listened raptly while sprawled together on a comfy-looking floor chair in front of their storyteller.

Nearby, dangling from a doorway frame, hung a red Chinese paper lantern and a string of authentic-looking, colorfully wrapped firecrackers.

This delicate cultural touch clashed sharply with an adjacent large wall poster for the movie “Charlotte’s Web.” But since 2007 – 4705 in Chinese lunar years – is the Year of the Boar, Wilbur’s prominently featured porcine portrait was a deft touch, whether intentional or not.

The children, uninterested in the decor, said they enjoyed the second activity most, that of learning about the Chinese Zodiac and coloring each month’s different animal.

More than once McDonald fielded inquisitive questions from perplexed faces about why the ornate art the children colored didn’t resemble their ingrained images of live animals.

Once they made the connection between their birth year and their Chinese month animal sign, Berry, Nathan and Tegan, respectively, each also took or colored a sheep, dragon or ox. Tegan also wanted a complete set.

And then they headed upstairs to the checkout desk, after selecting a few non-Chinese books to take home and read.

“This has all been fascinating to me, because I didn’t know much about China. So I’ve learned a lot about Chinese culture and Chinese stories, because we’ve added some books to our collection about China,” McDonald said.

And that is essentially what One Book: One Community is about, according to the Maine Humanities Council Web site and a quote therein by Maine’s first lady, Karen Baldacci.

“One Book: One Community programs are such effective ways to build community spirit, to encourage reading across generations and to have fun,” the governor’s wife stated.

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