Animal instincts

In March 2011, internationally bestselling author Sy Montgomery met a friend who changed her life. Six years later, speaking to a full auditorium at Glen Allen High School on April 5, Montgomery painted a picture of this friend, Athena, for the audience.

“She had a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and ink like an old-fashioned pen,” Montgomery said. “She could change color and shape and pull her baggy, boneless body through an opening the size of a walnut.”

Athena, a giant Pacific octopus, was central to the researching and writing of Montgomery’s book The Soul of an Octopus. She was the “someone” that Montgomery first introduced to the students, families and library patrons who sat in the audience at the annual All Henrico Reads program last Wednesday.

“This morning, more than 500 Henrico County high school students heard Sy Montgomery speak,” said Mindy Ward, Friends of Henrico County Public Library President. “Now all of us are gathered here tonight for a celebration of literacy and learning in Henrico.”

After speaking with Henrico County high school students during their school day, Montgomery addressed the larger community and held a book signing at the free evening program that was open to the public. She talked about the unique physical and mental capabilities of octopuses, including the impressive strength of the suckers on their tentacles and their ability to build with legos. But most of her remarks focused on her encounters and personal connections with several octopuses.

“You would have to go to outer space or science fiction to find an animal more different than us than an octopus,” she said. “It was unlike any other friendship that I’ve had in my life, but what struck me was how it was like other friendships. It was clear that we cared about each other.”

All Henrico Reads is an annual reading program sponsored by Henrico County Public Library, Henrico County Public Schools and Friends of the Henrico County Public Library. The program's goal is to encourage shared reading experiences and open exchange of ideas. Annually, a committee selects a book and arranges an author visit. Teachers, school librarians, and public library staff work together almost year-round to create and implement curriculum and library programs based on the chosen book and author.

This is the ninth year of the program, but it was the first time a nonfiction book was selected.

“We had quite a few requests over the last few years for a nonfiction title,” said Assistant Library Director Barbara Weedman. “We want a title that is appealing to students at a high school level, maybe middle school and the general public. Everyone wanted this as our top choice.”

Erica Basnight-Johnson, wducational apecialist of aecondary English, reading and language arts for Henrico Public Schools, has been involved with All Henrico Reads for six years.

“We needed something to bring more boys in,” she said. “This was the perfect choice this year.”

Last summer, Basnight-Johnson designed lessons and activities based on The Soul of an Octopus for high school English teachers to use. Students read and analyzed the text in preparation for Montgomery’s visit. During the school day April 5, students were bused from different Henrico high schools to Glen Allen High School to participate in a question-and-answer session with Montgomery and learn about the writing process from a professional.

“It’s not just me saying to students you have to write more than one draft,” said Basnight-Johnson. “Sy today talked about how she started in 2011 doing research and didn’t actually get the writing done until 2014.”

The evening program gave community members who are not high school students the opportunity to hear from Montgomery.

Parents Kenneth and Cleo Hutchinson heard about the All Henrico Reads program because their son plays in the Tuckahoe Middle School Chamber Orchestra that performed as people arrived at the event. Reading is a passion the whole family shares.

“We chase authors not actors,” said Cleo Hutchinson with a smile.

Clarissa, the Hutchinson’s second grade daughter, was excited to buy another of Montgomery’s books – The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood. She loves animals and said that she likes to read more than the 45 minutes assigned to her for homework.

“I am making my own book,” said Clarissa as she flipped through the pig photographs in her new copy of Montgomery’s book. “It is going to be fiction and is called Two Steps From Never.

Montgomery signed books after her talk. Attendees could purchase copies from a local bookstore (bbgb books), at the event. Jill Stefanovich from bbgb books said the store had sold approximately 100 books – “a great turnout and a great sale," she said.

Henrico Public Library Community spokeswoman Patty Conway was pleased with the event and with Montgomery's message.

“She refers to animals as someone instead of something,” said Conway. “I felt like it was such a significant verbal cue. It re-orients your relationship to animals.”

“My book is an invitation to all of the people who read it to know how much the world loves you back,” said Montgomery, near the end of her remarks. “I think some of these animals can change our lives and inspire us to protect this sweet, green and blue planet that is dying so fast.”

At the end of the evening, Henrico Library officials announced that the 2018 All Henrico Reads book and author would be The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande.
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Rock on!

The painted rocks craze is thriving in Henrico, as a walk around the grounds of local libraries and parks will demonstrate. This rock was spotted near Libbie Mill Library, and there's a slideshow of many more uniquely-painted stones on the RVA Rocks Facebook page (

Painting and hiding rocks is a family activity appropriate for all ages, and parents especially like the way it fosters creativity and gets kids outdoors. > Read more.

Goochland man arrested at RIC with gun

A Goochland County man was arrested at Richmond International Airport July 19 after Transportation Security Administration officers found a loaded semi-automatic handgun in the traveler’s carry-on bag.

A TSA officer detected the 9 mm caliber handgun inside the man’s carry-on bag as it entered the security checkpoint X-ray machine. The handgun was loaded with 12 bullets. > Read more.

Kansas man struck, killed while crossing West Broad Street

A 54-year-old Kansas man was struck and killed by a car while attempting to cross West Broad Street near Bethlehem Road in the Near West End at about 10:30 p.m., July 19.

Julius A. McBride of Overland Park, Kansas, was struck by a car traveling east on West Broad Street. > Read more.

Henrico Police warn citizens to ‘Take it, Lock it or Lose it’

Eastern parts of Henrico County have witnessed a recent increase in larceny from automobiles, so Henrico Police officials are spreading the word to encourage citizens to lock their vehicles.

Police are handing out and posting fliers and putting message boards in neighborhoods to educate residents.

There usually is a rise of larceny from automobiles during Christmas, spring and summer break, said Henrico Police Officer James Bupp. > Read more.

Glover to be inducted posthumously into Babe Ruth Hall of Fame

Late Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover will be inducted into the Babe Ruth Southeast Region Hall of Fame during a ceremony Aug. 14 at RF&P Park at approximately 6:30 p.m., prior to a 14-and-under Babe Ruth World Series game. The Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association, which is hosting the World Series, made the announcement July 18. > Read more.

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July 2017

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The Henricus Historical Park’s Discovery Day Program Series continues with “Food of the 17th Century: Learn about what breakfast, lunch and dinner might look like for a Powhatan Indian or English colonist.” The program, designed for children ages 3-10, is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Activities will include a story, short tour and activities in the historic site, and a make-and-take craft. Stay as little or as long as you like. All children must be accompanied by an adult. The series concludes Aug. 24. Admission is $10 per child and $7 per adult. Registration is required by calling 318-8797. Full text

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