‘Storybook trails’ popping up across Franklin County, North Quabbin region

  • The storybook trail at Green Karma Farm in Orange for the month of April features “When, Grandpa, When?” by Orange resident Terry Bouchard. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The storybook trail at Green Karma Farm in Orange for the month of April features “When, Grandpa, When?” by Orange resident Terry Bouchard. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • A storybook walk is set up on a trail next to Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. The story is changed on a weekly basis. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Mary Mayshark-Stavely and Debra Wood set up a new book on the storybook walk next to Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Mary Mayshark-Stavely and Debra Wood at the storybook walk next to Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Children’s book authors hold their books on the storybook trail at Green Karma Farm in Orange. From left are Clare Green of Warwick, Diane Kane of Phillipston, Sharon Harmon of Royalston and Marsha LaCroix of Hubbardston. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 4/2/2021 3:20:24 PM

Using their combined talents to help small businesses and create fun, safe and free ways for their neighbors to get outside and read, area authors and community groups have been organizing “storybook trails” across the county, displaying their original children’s books titles.

The storybook trail that started it all came in January in Orange, on a 1-mile trail connected to Green Karma Farm on Wheeler Avenue. The group of authors behind the effort includes Diane Kane of Phillipston, Clare Green of Warwick, Sharon Harmon of Royalston, Marsha LaCroix of Hubbardston and Phyllis Cochran of Winchendon.

Kane said the authors share an interest in writing children’s books, and began to meet together to help market and publish their books. After seeing a story trail set up by the Athol Public Library in the fall, Kane said they became inspired to start their own. They laminated pages with the help of Debbie Allain-Thomas, owner of Else Where in Athol, and set up the storybook trail at Green Karma Farm.

Kane said the project was especially popular in the winter, with many families and adults taking the trek.

“It’s been great, because through the winter families were looking for something to get their kids out,” Kane said.

Since then, the group has been posting a different one of their original books along the path every month. The book featured for April is “When, Grandpa, When?” by Orange resident Terry Bouchard. Bouchard is the owner of the Corner Cafe, and wrote the book about maple sugaring with her grandfather.

After the first trail became popular, Kane wrote to other area libraries, small businesses and trail stewards to ask about setting up different story trails, which have spanned from Hardwick to Warwick. Additional trails will be set up at The Kitchen Garden in Templeton this summer in coordination with the opening of its ice cream window. The Pelham Free Public Library, Wheeler Memorial Library and the Phinehas S. Newton Library in Royalston have all inquired about setting up their own story trails.

“Since February, Valuing Our Children in Athol has been pleased to use our book boards for inside storybook trails at the Athol library, and they plan to have us at day events for children in the local parks this summer,” Kane continued. “Parents and grandparents are looking for things like this to entertain children and keep them active. Story walks bring people together safely in small groups. Story pages work on an outside trail or even a small property to help attract patrons.”

Between the group’s authors, Kane said they have six original books out in rotation on different trails. She said she hopes the effort provides entertainment for families, and spreads awareness about the large number of authors who live locally.

“Hopefully people like and buy the books,” she said. “Children’s book authors, we do it for the love of writing. There’s not a lot of money unless you’re really famous. We really just love getting our stories out there and having kids reading them.”

Other books published by the local children’s book authors include “Horatio Mortimer Loved Music” by Sharon Harmon, “The Little Pine” by Clare Green, “Whose Cat is That?” by Phyliss Cochran, “Nowey Discovers” by Marsha LaCroix, and “Don Gateau: The Three-Legged Cat of Seborga” by Diane Kane and illustrated by Linda McCluskey, who’s real-life three-legged cat in Italy inspired the story.

Similarly, Pioneer Valley Regional School District’s Coordinated Family & Community Engagement (CFCE) Coordinator Debra Wood has been organizing another storybook trail in Northfield, supported by a grant from the Department of Early Education and Care. Wood said this grant provides families with young children with resources, literacy development and programming within the four Pioneer school district towns.

Before COVID-19 health safety restrictions were in place, Wood said the school district’s grant and Dickinson Memorial Library supported a weekly in-person story time for families with young children at the library. Once pandemic-related restrictions took effect, however, all in-person CFCE programming shifted to the virtual realm.

“We had to become creative with family programming,” Wood said. “Why not move from screens to outdoors?”

Through collaboration with Dickinson Memorial Library, Snow & Sons Landscaping in Greenfield and the Northfield Golf Club, the trail near the library was selected to host a story walk. It has been up since October, following approval from the Northfield Board of Health. The story is changed on a weekly basis by Wood and Northfield resident Mary Mayshark-Stavely.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.



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