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Caribou Public Library invites community to take part in historical picture book project

CARIBOU, Maine – Did you know that during Caribou’s 1942 Winter Carnival, a man rode up and down the streets in a moose-drawn carriage?

That tale is just one of many that Caribou residents have the opportunity to write and illustrate thanks to the public library’s newest endeavor.

The History of Caribou Picture Book Project invites children ages 10 and over and adults to choose one of 20 story options that includes a photo and fun facts from the library’s archives. Once they choose their photo, people can then write a five to 20-page story with hand-drawn pictures.

Library director Peter Baldwin said that the project began as a way to involve more community members with the library and teach them some of the lesser known stories of Caribou’s history.

Some of those stories and images include the opening of the former Teague Park school, Sweden Street in the 1890s and the heated winter “buses” pulled by horses that brought children to school during the winters.

Baldwin hopes that anyone who writes a story is able to learn Caribou’s history in a more interactive way.

These old-fashioned “school buses” were used in many Aroostook County towns, including Caribou, to transport rural children to school during winter in the earlier days of the region’s history. (Courtesy of Caribou Public Library)

“When you write a story instead of just reading one, you get into the perspective of people who were there,” Baldwin said. “Instead of just saying that a man rode a pair of moose down Main Street, you have to ask ‘What was he doing there?’ and ‘What was he thinking?'”

Anyone contributing to the book has until March 15 to bring their finished stories to the library. After that date, staff will begin putting the book together in hopes of printing copies for contributors, local schools and the library this spring.

If enough people contribute stories, Baldwin and his staff hope to have multiple versions of the same stories to show different community members’ perspectives.

“We want to see people’s perspectives on history [with this book] instead of just putting together historical images and facts,” Baldwin said.

Through the project, the library also wants to help educate Caribou children about their city’s history.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff would visit local schools with a history presentation. Now, they have sent that presentation and the picture book instructions to the schools, hoping that teachers will use the project as a new learning tool.

Once the book is completed, those same children can have a fun, age-appropriate way to learn about Caribou, Baldwin said.

“Some families have been here for years, but the kids might not know all of these stories,” Baldwin said. “[This book] gives them a chance to know about where they’re growing up and why that history is important.”

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