October 13, 2013

Maine Observer: Mainers don’t just buy local, they can ‘read local,’ too

With so many good local authors, a reader can stay busy with books that could carry the label ‘made in Maine.’

By Stephanie Eglinton

I can browse for hours in a good bookstore, like Longfellow Books. I touch the glossy covers and stick my nose deep in the fresh binding of new releases, catch up on staff reviews, wander over to the used section to visit old friends, check out the latest in children’s picture books.


Stephanie Eglinton lives and reads in Portland.

It must be how my high school friends felt at Jim’s Record Stop in the Connecticut suburb where I grew up. While they thumbed through album after album, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. After all, you can’t hear the music when you pick up an album and look it over. And now there is the Apple store at the mall. People go under those pulsing bright lights by choice to play with gadgets. I have to take a deep breath to enter that foreign land and try to leave before I feel dizzy.

So, if writers are my rock stars, how cool is it to live in Portland? We share home with more than our share of nationally respected novelists, journalists, poets, young adult and children’s book writers. And don’t forget the comic strip writers. To our great relief, it was Lincoln Peirce’s “Big Nate” series that finally triggered our younger daughter to devour books. (“It’s reading; it counts,” the kind librarian at the Burbank branch assured me.)

As for me, I’ve spent the last few months devouring the latest books by Monica Wood, Michael Paterniti, Susan Conley and Sara Corbett – and in turn traveled literarily to Mexico (Maine), Spain, Paris (France), and Somalia. Each story is completely different, but each left this reader satiated by the excellence of the reading experience.

I’m not the only one in the family proud of my Maine author collection. The kids’ bookshelf records our daughters’ growth as much as the markings on the pantry door record their changing heights.

From Cathryn Falwell’s “Turtle Splash!” to Chris Van Dusen’s “The Circus Ship” to Anne Sibley O’Brien’s “The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea,” local authors have accompanied their developing literacy. “Oh, I’ve met him” or “She came to my school,” my daughter says as she opens book covers to reveal signatures from the authors.

As much as I appreciate a good book, it has been a true pleasure to meet the people behind the words. The writers whom I’ve gotten to know through our kids’ schools, serving on nonprofit boards and their agreeing to come to my book club seem so generous about sharing their talents and embracing their Maine communities.

Conley, Paterniti and Corbett are founders of the Telling Room, a writing center for children and youths that is one of Portland’s most innovative and exciting nonprofits. Encouraging young writers from a variety of backgrounds to tell their stories has enriched the understanding of our community for all of us. The Telling Room’s annual anthologies of student work are local best-sellers.

So, don’t just buy local. Read local. How cool is that?

– Special to the Telegram

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