Portsmouth StoryWalk opens, stars ‘Lemon the Duck’

Project combines literacy with the great outdoors

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Local author Laura Backman saw her children’s book, “Lemon the Duck,” come to life at Glen Park Saturday.

The occasion was the opening of the town’s first StoryWalk at the town-owned property. Portsmouth High School student Eve Lowrimore conceived the idea and led the installation for her senior project.

A StoryWalk is an outdoor path featuring wooden stakes that hold laminated, oversized pages from a children’s book. Visitors stroll along the trail to view each page or pages, then are directed to the next reading station.

The project supports not only children’s literacy but outdoor activity, said Miss. Lowrimore, who has taken child development classes at PHS and hopes the StoryWalk will spark children’s interest in reading. Valerie Seveney, a first-grade teacher at Melville Elementary School whom once had Miss Lowrimore as a student, was her mentor for the project.

Ms. Backman was one of the first to view the walk Saturday morning and brought along her granddaughter, Serenity Backman, 9, and her niece, Myra DeLanoy, 13. (Myra was quick to point out that she’s a character in the book.)

“It’s great,” said Ms. Backman, whose children’s book “Lemon the Duck” is the first story to be featured in the StoryWalk. “I like how they spread it out so much, too, because we’re getting our walking in.”

The walk, which is located in a sloping, rectangular-shaped shady grove on the south end of the park, also serves as a tribute to her book’s subject.

“Lemon passed away in September; this is a nice little reminder,” said Ms. Backman, noting that the 10-year-old duck suffered from respiratory distress. “But she lived a good long life.”

The crested Pekin duck, which hatched in April 2006, was born with neurological issues which affected her coordination and balance. Although unable to stand or walk on her own, a homemade scooter made from PVC pipes — the “Lemobile” — helped her lead a happy life full of adventure.

The duck was well-known to local school children who, through the book or their interactions with Lemon directly, learned about accepting people for who they are.

Miss Lowrimore sought and received permission from the Town Council in February to install the StoryWalk. The PHS cheerleader, who plans on studying business next fall at the Community College of Rhode Island, said her dad and several friends helped install the StoryWalk.

“Lemon the Duck” is the featured story for now, but a new one is expected to take its place in 2018. “They usually last about a year,” said Miss Lowrimore. “The library said they’d help with switching out the books.”

Ms. Backman said it would nice to see another local author’s work featured in the StoryWalk. 

“Eve did a nice job, and she didn’t even really need my help with anything. This was her project and she took charge of it. Everything looks so professional,” she said.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.