Charley Book Premiere at Strawbery Banke Museum on Sept. 1, 2013
Portsmouth, New Hampshire (2013) -- Local author Donna Seim and illustrator Susan Spellman will launch their new historical children’s book, Charley with special activities, readings and book signings at Strawbery Banke Museum on Sunday, September 1, 2013 from 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm. This interactive living-history family event features costumed characters, wood-oven baked cookies, a children’s choir, and kids games including marbles and penny toss; plus they can try a hand at milking a “cow.” All are activities “Charley” experiences in the book. Donna Seim will offer readings and signings 1:00 and 3:00 along with sketch demonstrations by Susan. Admission to the event is free.
Based on true events told to author Donna Seim by the son of the real-life Charley, the book Charley, for young readers, addresses issues of rejection and belonging in a historically accurate story that is by turns humorous, touching, and exciting. When Boston street-kid Charley Ryan is abandoned by his father in 1910, he enters the world of urban orphanages and foster care. And although his beautiful singing voice entices a Maine farm family to take him in, the lead character in Charley finds that real acceptance requires a deeper commitment.
Abandoned in rough-and-tumble Boston, Charley and his brothers and sister have no option but to present themselves to the New England Home for Little Wanderers. This isn't the heartless orphanage of cliché, but a real institution that did its best to care for and find homes for its children. Singing in the orphanage's choir, Charley uses his stand-out voice to secure a place for himself in rural Maine, but this means a wrenching separation from his younger brother and sister, for whom he feels both affection and deep responsibility. Charley finds himself on a farm, expected to milk cows, cut ice, and perform other chores for which he has no training and little apparent aptitude. Fitting in with his foster family also proves difficult until Charley learns that he must adapt and meet them more than halfway to make a real and loving new home for himself.
Charley uses a sympathetic protagonist to expose young readers to institutions like orphanages and the foster care system, and details of country life such as ice-cutting, haying and milking. The book will inspire readers to absorb history in the best possible way: through a personal approach. Pencil drawings by Susan Spellman in every chapter add to the story's personality and humor.
After hearing the stories, Seim was inspired to learn more about early 20th century life in New England, including farm life and the plight of orphans. Her research has imbued Charley with colorful historical detail. Coincidentally, Seim met her husband Martin while working at the Home for Little Wanderers long after it ceased functioning as an orphanage and took on its current role providing social services for children with emotional disabilities.
Donna Seim is the author of two award-winning picture books, Where is Simon, Sandy? and Satchi and Little Star, and the middle grade reader Hurricane Mia. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Ohio State University and a Master’s in Special Education from Lesley University. She lives in Newbury, Massachusetts.
Strawbery Banke Museum, in the heart of historic downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is an authentic 10-acre outdoor history museum dedicated to bringing 300* years of American history to life. The Museum is a place for children, adults, multigenerational families and groups to gather to explore heritage gardens, historic buildings and crafts, preservation programs, hands-on activities, the stories told by costumed role-players and the changing exhibits that offer hours of fun and discovery. The Museum's restored buildings and open space invite visitors to immerse themselves in the past. Each year the Museum welcomes 75,000 visitors, members, schoolchildren and volunteers who love New Hampshire history for daily programs, exhibits and signature special events from May through December.
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