Our friends from Raising Readers came to the opening of our new exhibit, “Down to the Sea: An Outdoor Adventure.” They enjoyed themselves so much, they wanted to write about it! Here’s their story…
Thanks to Maine author and illustrator, Chris Van Dusen, Maine families have learned to ski, joined camping sprees, and headed down to the sea with Mr. Magee and his little dog, Dee. They’ve also helped Jack build a house with a flying room and a car that can submerge, float, and fly. Oh, and they’ve journeyed on the circus ship with Mr. Paine and have laughed out loud at the circus animals getting, um, adjusted to their new home on an isle in Maine. Remember the ostrich in the outhouse and the monkey swinging in Miss Fannie Feeney’s bloomers?!
With his colorful, lovable, imaginative stories and illustrations, Chris Van Dusen has captivated the imaginations of children and adults alike. His work is so esteemed that in 2015, the Maine Library Association awarded Chris the Katahdin Award, a lifetime achievement award and the highest honor given by the organization.
Chris and his stories, If I Built a Car and The Circus Ship, have been featured in two Raising Readers anthologies (2006 and 2010) and other titles are also a part of our library of well-loved children’s books. So, it comes as no surprise to learn that the Raising Readers staff are some of his biggest fans. Our team was thrilled (like kids-on-Christmas-morning-thrilled) to be invited to the grand opening of Down to the Sea: An Outdoor Adventure exhibit at the Children’s Museum2`12 and Theater of Maine on June 18th.
When we walked through the door, to the museum’s outside space, Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee came alive with a whale fountain in one corner, a sandy “beach” in the playground’s center, pedal cars, a shipwreck to explore, a greenhouse and garden, and Mr. Magee and Dee’s presence throughout. To add to the sheer delight of experiencing a book outside of its pages, kiddos were having a ball interacting with the exhibit and the author himself. They ran around with dog ears on their heads, toy boats in their hands, and were pedaling pint-sized vintage cars as quickly as they could. Even the youngest tikes were pointing at the life-sized painting of Mr. Magee and Dee and screaming their names in delight, a true testament to the power of reading to children and the relationships their young minds build with their favorite characters in their most beloved books.
From an early childhood development stand point, exhibits like many of those found at the Children’s Museum are wonderful for a number of reasons: they promote gross motor play, sensory play with sand and water, and of course, early childhood literacy.
Take it from us, a team of avid children’s book readers, advocates, and lovers of all things Maine, visiting Chris Van Dusen’s Down to the Sea exhibit is worth experiencing, for children and adults alike.
We also encourage you to come check out Raising Readers standing exhibit on the second floor of the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine, our cozy and rustic Book Nook. It’s a great place to relax with a good book on a warm lap or cozy chair amongst the hustle and bustle of the museum.
To learn more about ways you can have fun engaging your child in early literacy opportunities, visit: http://www.raisingreaders.org/parents_and_families/
To see a list of Chris Van Dusen’s books and to get ideas of fun activities that you can do with your kiddos based on his stories, Raising Readers recommends visiting: http://www.chrisvandusen.com/books
Would you like to attend and participate in more activities with an early literacy focus in Maine? Check out the Portland Kids Calendar to see what activities are scheduled near you!