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Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Surprising History of the Beatle's Song "Blackbird," Why Children Need Books that Address "Dark" Issues, Celebrate Martin Luther King Day with Free Admission for Youth at the NY Historical Society.

Michael Kronk
“He was visiting America. It is said that he was sitting, resting, when he heard a woman screaming. He looked up to see a black woman being surrounded by the police. The police had her handcuffed, and were beating her. He thought the woman had committed a terrible crime. He found out "the crime" she committed was to sit in a section reserved for whites.
Paul McCartney was shocked. There was no segregation in England. But, here in America, the land of freedom, this is how blacks were being treated. McCartney and the Beatles went back home to England, but he would remember what he saw, how he felt, the unfairness of it all.
He also remembered watching television and following the news in America, the race riots and what was happening in Little Rock, Arkansas, what was going on in the Civil Rights movement. He saw the picture of 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford attempt to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School as an angry mob followed her, yelling, "Drag her over this tree! Let's take care of that n**ger!'" and “Lynch her! Lynch her!” “No n**ger b*tch is going to get in our school!”
McCartney couldn't believe this was happening in America. He thought of these women being mistreated, simply because of the color of her skin. He sat down and started writing.
Last year at a concert, he would meet two of the women who inspired him to write one of his most memorable songs, Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford, members of the Little Rock Nine (pictured here).
McCartney would tell the audience he was inspired by the courage of these women: "Way back in the Sixties, there was a lot of trouble going on over civil rights, particularly in Little Rock. We would notice this on the news back in England, so it's a really important place for us, because to me, this is where civil rights started. We would see what was going on and sympathize with the people going through those troubles, and it made me want to write a song that, if it ever got back to the people going through those troubles, it might just help them a little bit, and that's this next one."
He explained that when he started writing the song, he had in mind a black woman, but in England, "girls" were referred to as "birds." And, so the song started:
"Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting
for this moment to arise."
McCartney added that he and the Beatles cared passionately about the Civil Rights movement, "so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: ‘Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.’ "
"Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting
for this moment to be free."
- as told by Valgeir Sveinsson
Why We Shouldn't Shield Our Children From Darkness -- a Time.com essay

Matt de la Peña is the Newbery Medal-winning author of Last Stop on Market Street and, most recently, Love. 
Editor’s note: On Jan. 12, Kate DiCamillo responded to de la Peña’s questions. Read her essay here.
Twice this past fall I was left speechless by a child.
The first time happened at an elementary school in Huntington, New York. I was standing on their auditorium stage, in front of a hundred or so students, and after talking to them about books and writing and the power of story, I fielded questions. The first five or six were the usual fare. Where do I get my ideas? How long does it take to write a book? Am I rich? (Hahahahaha!) But then a fifth-grade girl wearing bright green glasses stood and asked something different. “If you had the chance to meet an author you admire,” she said, “what would you ask?”
For whatever reason this girl’s question, on this morning, cut through any pretense that might ordinarily sneak into an author presentation. The day before, a man in Las Vegas had opened fire on concertgoers from his Mandalay Bay hotel room. Tensions between America and North Korea were reaching a boiling point. Puerto Ricans continued to suffer the nightmarish aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. I studied all the fresh-faced young people staring up at me, trying to square the light of childhood with the darkness in our current world.
All of this, of course, was wildly inappropriate for such a young audience — and had little to do with the question — so I just stood there in awkward silence, the seconds ticking by.
Eventually I gave the girl some pre-packaged sound bite about dealing with rejection, or the importance of revision, and then our time was up. But hours later, as I sat in a crowded airport, waiting for a delayed flight, I was still thinking about that girl’s question. What would I ask an author I admire? Writers like Kate DiCamillo came to mind. Sandra Cisneros. Christopher Paul Curtis.
Now I wanted a do-over.
A thoughtful question like that deserved a more thoughtful response.
Just as my plane reached its cruising altitude, it came to me. If I had the chance to ask Kate DiCamillo anything, it would be this: How honest can an author be with an auditorium full of elementary school kids? How honest should we be with our readers? Is the job of the writer for the very young to tell the truth or preserve innocence?
A few weeks ago, illustrator Loren Long and I learned that a major gatekeeper would not support our forthcoming picture book, Love, an exploration of love in a child’s life, unless we “softened” a certain illustration. In the scene, a despondent young boy hides beneath a piano with his dog, while his parents argue across the living room. There is an empty Old Fashioned glass resting on top of the piano. The feedback our publisher received was that the moment was a little too heavy for children. And it might make parents uncomfortable. This discouraging news led me to really examine, maybe for the first time in my career, the purpose of my picture book manuscripts. What was I trying to accomplish with these stories? What thoughts and feelings did I hope to evoke in children?
This particular project began innocently enough. Finding myself overwhelmed by the current divisiveness in our country, I set out to write a comforting poem about love. It was going to be something I could share with my own young daughter as well as every kid I met in every state I visited, red or blue. But when I read over one of the early drafts, something didn’t ring true. It was reassuring, uplifting even, but I had failed to acknowledge any notion of adversity.
So I started over.
A few weeks into the revision process, my wife and I received some bad news, and my daughter saw my wife openly cry for the first time. This rocked her little world and she began sobbing and clinging to my wife’s leg, begging to know what was happening. We settled her down and talked to her and eventually got her ready for bed. And as my wife read her a story about two turtles who stumble across a single hat, I studied my daughter’s tear-stained face. I couldn’t help thinking a fraction of her innocence had been lost that day. But maybe these minor episodes of loss are just as vital to the well-adjusted child’s development as moments of joy. Maybe instead of anxiously trying to protect our children from every little hurt and heartache, our job is to simply support them through such experiences. To talk to them. To hold them.
And maybe this idea also applied to the manuscript I was working on.
Loren and I ultimately fought to keep the “heavy” illustration. Aside from being an essential story beat, there’s also the issue of representation. In the book world, we often talk about the power of racial inclusion — and in this respect we’re beginning to see a real shift in the field — but many other facets of diversity remain in the shadows. For instance, an uncomfortable number of children out there right now are crouched beneath a metaphorical piano. There’s a power to seeing this largely unspoken part of our interior lives represented, too. And for those who’ve yet to experience that kind of sadness, I can’t think of a safer place to explore complex emotions for the first time than inside the pages of a book, while sitting in the lap of a loved one.
We are currently in a golden age of picture books, with a tremendous range to choose from. Some of the best are funny. Or silly. Or informative. Or socially aware. Or just plain reassuring. But I’d like to think there’s a place for the emotionally complex picture book, too. Jacqueline Woodson’s amazing Each Kindness comes to mind, in which the protagonist misses the opportunity to be kind to a classmate. Margaret Wise Brown’s The Dead Bird is a beautiful exploration of mourning from the point of view of children.
Which brings me to the second child who left me speechless last fall.
I was visiting an elementary school in Rome, Georgia, where I read and discussed one of my older books, Last Stop on Market Street, as I usually do. But at the end of the presentation I decided, on a whim, to read Love to them, too, even though it wasn’t out yet. I projected Loren’s illustrations as I recited the poem from memory, and after I finished, something remarkable happened. A boy immediately raised his hand, and I called on him, and he told me in front of the entire group, “When you just read that to us I got this feeling. In my heart. And I thought of my ancestors. Mostly my grandma, though … because she always gave us so much love. And she’s gone now.”
And then he started quietly crying.
And a handful of the teachers started crying, too.
I nearly lost it myself. Right there in front of 150 third graders. It took me several minutes to compose myself and thank him for his comment.
On the way back to my hotel, I was still thinking about that boy, and his raw emotional response. I felt so lucky to have been there to witness it. I thought of all the boys growing up in working-class neighborhoods around the country who are terrified to show any emotion. Because that’s how I grew up, too — terrified. Yet this young guy was brave enough to raise his hand, in front of everyone, and share how he felt after listening to me read a book. And when he began to cry a few of his classmates patted his little shoulders in a show of support. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so moved inside the walls of a school.
I hope one day I’ll have the chance to formally ask Kate DiCamillo my questions about innocence and truth. But I do know this: My experience in Rome, Georgia? That’s why I write books. Because the little story I’m working on alone in a room, day after day, might one day give some kid out there an opportunity to “feel.” And if I’m ever there to see it in person again, next time hopefully I’ll be brave enough to let myself cry, too.
Read Kate DiCamillo's wonderful response (citing Charlotte's Web) here:  http://time.com/5099463/kate-dicamillo-kids-books-sad/
SPEAKING OF "DARKNESS" -- Share the inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther Kind with Your Children this Weekend for FREE...

Free Museum Admission for ages 17 and under
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, January 13–15

Join us for a weekend of family activities!
SATURDAY, JAN 13–MONDAY, JAN 15Celebrate the legacy of Dr. King with us at the Museum! Enjoy fun, interactive, and thought-provoking activities throughout the weekend, including Living History each day. The Museum is open on Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Breaking Silence: Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam" Speech
SATURDAY, JAN 13, 2 PMIn 1967, Dr. King gave a speech about the Vietnam War that made huge waves in the civil rights movement. Speech organizer Reverend Richard Fernandez and author Tonya Bolden discuss this landmark moment, plus we'll watch a clip from the Oscar-nominated PBS series Eyes on the Prize.
 RSVP Here >
Family Book Club
Vietnam: A History of the War

SUNDAY, JAN 14, 2 PMWhat was it like to serve during the Vietnam War? Join Vietnam War veterans Herbert Sweat and Barbara Chiminello to learn about the war and discuss Russell Freedman's Vietnam: A History of the War, which contextualizes one of America’s most controversial wars for middle grade readers.
 Learn More >
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Special Story Time
MONDAY, JAN 15, 2 PMCome listen to a read-aloud of Walter Dean Myers’ children’s book Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam, which tells the story of a black soldier in Vietnam encountering, and rethinking, his enemy. Then, pick up a Family Guide and visit our exhibition The Vietnam War: 1945–1975.
 Learn More >

DCHM-Family-Benefit-Party_MLK.jpgFamily Benefit Party:
We the People 

Join us for this year's Family Benefit Party as we celebrate "We, the people" from America's past who have shaped our country! Families will have a blast enjoying hands-on historical activities, meeting figures from history, and eating tons of yummy food. Kids 4 to 14 and their families
 Buy Tickets >

New-York Historical Society
DiMenna Children's History Museum
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th St)
New York, NY 10024

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Farewell from Carol Simon Levin

Dear Bridgewater Library Patrons and Friends,

After 25 years at the Bridgewater Library, I have decided to accept an early retirement offer and have left the Somerset County Library System -- an action that is scheduled to be finalized at the Library Commission meeting  at Bridgewater Library on Wednesday January 10th at 7 p.m.

It has been my great pleasure during these last 25 years to share a kaleidoscope of programs with your wonderful children – introducing them to my favorite books (and through them to stories, people and ideas to expand their minds and horizons), time-traveling from Pompeii to Picasso, inspiring them to create art and architecture, to explore engineering, science, and mathematics, to write their own books, and use their imagination and creativity to the fullest.

I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing stories, songs, and activities with a quarter-century of preschoolers as well as being able to help you, your children, and your students at the reference desk.


I will miss you all.

I have a busy future ahead – I plan to become a freelance librarian, doing programs for adults and children in various venues in area communities (if you know of any in particular who might want to have me, please have them get in touch with me), writing about “fascinating women history forgot,” and doing my best to make this world a little better. You can find my upcoming programs at tellingherstories.com and children's program details at carolsimonlevin.blogspot.com

Feel free to stay in touch. I plan to stay active in the community so may see many of you around the area. I would be delighted to hear from you and am always happy to help with questions or reading suggestions. My email is cslevin59 (at) gmail.com. 

It has been a wonderful journey together. A special thank you to the Muslim Community of Middlesex County for your "Everyday Heroes" award, to the Library Commission for the commendation for my book Remembering the Ladies and, most of all, to all of you who have made my working days an absolute delight.

Wishing you all a happy & healthy 2018!  Carol Simon Levin

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Mead, anthropologist.

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” ~ Helen Keller

"The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day." ~ Gloria Steinem

"I figure if a girl wants to be a legend, she should go ahead and be one." ~ Calamity Jane (1852-1903), American frontierswoman



A walk down memory lane --  a few of the programs from the past few years (you can see more pictures by clicking on the titles)
Celebrating The Great American Eclipse 2017


Fairytale Engineering "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" -- Building a Better Bridge




STEM Playgrounds:






Falling for Rapunzel -- Egg Dropping:




Cardboard Construction Challenge:

Pencil  & Rocket                                                         Train & Doghouse

Exploring Mathematics from a Perfect Square to Pi Day!



Hands Across the World



Tut Tut: Visiting Ancient Egypt:

Picture This: Keith Haring: Characters at Play


Imagine the Possibilities!
 Squiggle Pictures:


Halloween Fun:


Halloween Hootenany 011image

Building Our Own Monsters:


Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Curious George:

And Madeline:


Literary Field Day with The Tortoise & the Hare:


Celebrating Young Authors and Illustrators:



Playing with Poetry:


Heart of Art–Drawing Lessons with the BRRHS Art Honors Club


Making a “Recycled Orchestra” inspired by the book “Ada’s Violin”


Tap Those Shoes!


Celebrating Friendship and Making Animals with Hearts on Valentine's Day:

Chinese New Year: Celebrating the Year of the Chicken:



Seussapalooza!! Read Across America Day


It has been tremendously rewarding and fun – thanks to all of you! – Carol (aka “The Cat in the Hat”)