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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff
Susan McCarthy placed a length of rope on the floor of the Sherborn Library as her audience of preschool children curiously looked on. The length of cord stretched from the stacks of books on one side of the library to the other. "A chipmunk can make tunnels that long," she said. "If you would like to start over there, you can crawl the length of a chipmunk tunnel."
"Really?!" interjected an excited tot, her mind thoroughly blown.
"You can! All the kids can do it. You can start over there and you can crawl all the way along and you can feel, you can imagine just how small that chipmunk is."
McCarthy, who had come to the library representing the National Audubon Society, Moose Hill, was present to shepherd the assembled toddlers through “Scurrying Chipmunks.” A half-hour of games and hands-on fun revolving around one of the more charismatic characters of New England’s woodlands, “Scurrying Chipmunks” aimed to shine a light on the little critters.
"We're going to be talking to the kids about the chipmunks that they're probably seeing around, running around this time of year. We have a story called 'Chipmunk Song' [by Joanne Ryder] that talks about what life is like for chipmunks throughout the year - what they eat and what they have to hide from,” said McCarthy. “The kids will hear the story and they get some different activities that go along with the story.”
Along with the story, the activities included the passing around of stocking-covered cups (used to simulate chipmunks’ search for food in the nonexistent light of their burrows), interacting with a life-sized plush chipmunk, and (of course) “chipping” (that is, speaking in chipmunk tongues).
For the kids who were present, it was an enthralling half hour that seemed to fly by extremely quickly.
"We want to have children appreciate nature and learn about nature and how to treat animals well,” commented Children's Librarian Cheryl Ouellette after the event. “It's good for them to know how animals live,” she added as the smiling kids returned to their daily routines, their imaginations filled with chipmunk fantasies. “We do try to have programming that's fun and educational. We like to have programs that are good for all ages. This is for preschool children."
Perhaps most impressively: the large handful of tots who had shown up were there in spite of unseasonably warm weather.
“It's such a beautiful day,” commented Ouellette. “I’m happy people did come today, because it's so nice outside to play. It's wonderful to have childhood educators from places like the Audubon Society."
For her part, Susan McCarthy could only deflect all plaudits to her subjects, the chipmunks themselves, who seem to hold a special place in the hearts of curious little ones everywhere.
"They're tiny, so they're not intimidating. They don't have too many legs (or too few legs),” she said with a laugh.
“Everybody likes a chipmunk."