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the story behind the book | kate tuttle

‘Arthur’ creator Marc Brown connects with kids


With its roots in the 19th century, Boston Public Library’s Lowell Lecture series has hosted writers from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie, and in recent years Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust and Supreme Court Justice Stephen A. Breyer. In other words, grown-up stuff.

This year is different, said Beth Prindle, the BPL’s manager of exhibitions and programming, who oversees the series. Its theme, Gateway to Reading, speaks to the youngest readers, their parents and teachers, and to all of us who remember our favorite childhood books.

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Today’s speaker is Marc Brown, whose books include the beloved Arthur series, upon which the PBS television series is based. A mild-mannered, bespectacled aardvark, Arthur faces the same joys and challenges his readers confront, from annoying little siblings to bossy friends.

Young fans have already begun compiling questions to ask Brown, Prindle said.

Brown, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 by the Associates of the Boston Public Library, wants to avoid delivering a standard lecture.

“Kids ask the best questions,” Brown said. “Kids want to know where the characters come from. They want to know about my personal life, about my family. They want to know how I write my stories, and where I live. How much I weigh. How old I am. All sorts of things!”

Traditionally the Lowell Lectures are held at 6 p.m. on weeknights, Prindle said, “but for this particular series it seemed important to allow kids and caregivers to attend together. We thought a Sunday afternoon would be really appealing to them.”

And, she went on, “because kids sometimes feel wiggly,” a video feed of the talk will be streamed into an adjacent room, equipped with crayons and paper and space to move around.

“We were the first children’s library in the country,” she said. “This whole series is really intended to think about what reading and children’s literary mean now, and how do we connect children and writers.”

As the central library undergoes major renovation, she added, one of its goals is to expand its services for children and teens.

Marc Brown speaks today at 2 p.m. in the Rabb Lecture Hall at the Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St.

Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at
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