My 10-year-old son would read a lot even without the summer reading program at the library, but he participates anyway – why turn down prizes for what he would do anyway? Besides, the librarians who run the program do something kind of crazy if the kids meet the reading goal set for them. Last year it was eating some insects. This year, they let the children offer suggestions of what they should do.
My son suggested they do the chicken dance while dressed in chicken suits, and his idea apparently received serious consideration. But the winning idea was to try to cross the pond at the local park in a cardboard boat. Apparently the kids in town read a grand total of over 15,000 books in the last several weeks, because this evening a crowd gathered in the park to watch the grand launch.
I don’t know whose idea it was to get some high school trumpet players to play taps for the occasion, but it was fairly appropriate. The librarians apparently hadn’t used their research skills to study the engineering involved in the construction of cardboard boats. Their boat looked like a refrigerator box with one of the long narrow sides removed. It was covered with various colors of duct tape (the kids had the opportunity to help decorate it today), which kept the cardboard from disintegrating too quickly. But the shape of the boat gave it no chance ride properly in the water.
At the water’s edge, the two wetsuit-clad librarians (also equipped with flippers, facemasks, and inflated rubber ducky rings around their middles) climbed into the box. Helpers pushed it into the water, while the kids watched and their parents snapped pictures on digital cameras. I had time to get one picture of the boat in the water before it fell over on its right side.
The librarians dragged themselves out of the water, dragged the boat out, and prepared to try again. The fallen “mast” and its decorative sails were removed, some errant flippers and duckies were retrieved from the water, and the boat was launched again. This time the women had their paddles ready from the first moment, trying to achieve some balance.
It didn’t work. This time the boat fell on its left side. But our intrepid librarians, refusing to give up, decided to cross the pond with their boat anyway. Using the box as a shared kickboard, they began kicking their way across the pond. About halfway across, they were either too tired to continue to the farther side, or were advised that there was no good landing spot over there (I doubt anyone ever expected the boat to actually last long enough to get there), because they turned left toward the closer side of the pond.
Some of us walked around to meet them there. They struggled the last several yards, clearly very tired. Finally, now lying on top of the collapsed box, they managed to grasp a hand extended from a helper on shore. (Actually, it was the husband of one of the librarians, who had worn boots that let him step into the water.) The whole crowd burst into applause as they made it to shore.
As a bonus, someone had brought a Model T to the park, and let children climb in as they love to do with any kind of vehicle. After the grand cardboard boat adventure was over, he gave rides to children and their parents (an accompanying parent was required). My son was fascinated by the unusual-looking car, and asked why people don’t drive them anymore. I pointed out a few disadvantages – too slow, no heat in the winter, no side windows to block the rain, very little space to store luggage.
He also asked if we had cars like that when I was a girl. No, I explained, they had cars like that when my grandfather was a young man. Maybe on one of our trips to the library, we’ll look for a book showing the history of cars.