By Beth Gorr Director of Staten Island OutLOUD
You heard me right: The boy from Hannibal, Missouri lives and breathes here on the Isle of Staten – and Mark Twain himself strolls our neighborhoods.
What are we talking about? The Big Read!
What’s The Big Read? It’s a celebration of classic literature, a community party – And YOU’RE invited!
Actually, The Big Read is a lot like what Staten Island OutLOUD has been doing for the past 10 years – We gather neighbors of all ages and backgrounds to read aloud together and share ideas. Many of you have participated in OutLOUD events: Our annual Moby Dick celebration on the spectacular bluffs of Fort Wadsworth, overlooking New York Harbor, the Narrows and the great Atlantic beyond. Our community readings from Huckleberry Finn (by a pond at High Rock Park), Sojourner Truth at Historic Richmond Town, Don Quixote in a historic church, haiku poetry in Staten Island branch libraries, and historic texts like the Declaration of Independence at the Conference House & Fort Wadsworth.
When the National Endowment for the Arts chose Staten Island OutLOUD to host The Big Read, we wanted to celebrate The Adventures of Tom Sawyer! After all, Tom grew up in a waterfront town, downstream from a big metropolis. Doesn’t that remind you of Staten Island, just a little bit? And Tom’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri has some colorful characters. Sound familiar?
OutLOUD kicked off our Tom Sawyer/Mark Twain series just a week ago on Jan 28, at the Richmondtown branch library. We had a fun event with great music, fun readings, lots of laughter – and a chance to Paint Tom’s Fence. You know that Tom played a wily trick on some of the neighborhood boys: He got them to do a big chore for him – paint his Aunt Polly’s fence. Well, we had a long picket fence set up, and lots of happy kids decorated that big ole fence with drawings and paintings of their favorite places on Staten Island, their ideas about Tom Sawyer, and their favorite quotes from Mark Twain. Lots of photos are posted on our Facebook Page – Take a look! www.facebook.com/StatenIslandOutLOUD.
The next day, students from Staten Island Academy helped co-host another OutLOUD event. This gathering took a more serious, thoughtful approach as we discussed “Race Issues In Mark Twain” at the Staten Island Community Charter School. On Friday, Feb 3, families gathered at ETG Book CafÃ© to read a short story by Mark Twain, with parts of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain’s Autobiography, and more music. Then on Saturday, Feb 4, we met at New Dorp Library for a screening of a Tom Sawyer film – And a personal appearance by Mark Twain, Tom’s Aunt Polly and other ladies of Hannibal, Missouri. We were thrilled that so many kids had already read Tom Sawyer and really loved the book!
Staten Island OutLOUD has more fun Tom Sawyer events for kids and families, from now through March 31. Our full schedule is on our website: www.statenislandoutloud.org, and on our Facebook Page, plus regular updates on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SIOutLOUD .
Here are just a few things coming up in the next few weeks that kids & families would especially enjoy:
Sunday, Feb 12, 3pm at Great Kills Park Education Station: Make a Raft & Make Valentines with Tom & Becky! We’ll read the “Pirates” chapter from Tom Sawyer as we gaze out at the Marina and the ocean. You can make a miniature raft, and you can create Valentines (we supply the materials). If weather permits, you can even put your raft into the water – dress warm and wear waterproof boots! AND, we have a surprise for you. Hint: Riverboats!
Tuesday, Feb 21, 2pm at the Conference House: Tom & Becky Lost In a Cave! Readings, songs & games for Winter Break.
Sunday, Feb 26, 2pm at the Greenbelt Nature Center: Tom & Huck’s Treasure Hunt. Join us for a short & easy hike where you may find some treasure on the trails near the Nature Center. Then come inside, sit by the fireplace and read of Tom & Huck’s lost treasure.
Sunday, March 4, 3pm at the Conference House: Tom & Huck In a Haunted House! People say the Conference House is haunted. Do you think it’s true?
Sunday, March 11, 3pm in historic Lake Cemetery: Tom & Huck went to the cemetery late one night to find a cure for warts. But what they found there, they’ll never forget!
Sunday, March 18 at 2pm at the Greenbelt Nature Center: A Tom-Becky-Huck Lookalike Contest! Music by the Mighty String Demons. Here’s your chance to dress up as your favorite character in Tom Sawyer. And adults can get into the act too! Let’s see kids as Tom, Becky Thatcher & Huck Finn. And let’s see their parents & grandparents as Aunt Polly, Judge Thatcher, Muff Potter, Doc Robinson and other citizens of Hannibal, Missouri. Fun for all ages!