Great Halls & Great Spaces in the Pioneer Valley

Mash Notes to Paradise by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Mash Note No. 21: On Great Halls and Great Spaces

Photo credit: Sarah Werthan ButtenwieserThe day after Christmas, my daughter Saskia and I took the grandparents to the Eric Carle Museum. For the most part, we followed Saskia’s lead: a juice box and pretzel snack in the cafeteria, a book perusal session in the library, and a puppet show. In turn, she gave us a few minutes in the galleries—and about five minutes longer than she wanted in the shop.

But when I go to the Carle, the truth is my favorite spot to spend a little time is in the Great Hall. I love the way the light comes in if it’s sunny and the way it feels light if the day is overcast (and let’s face it, many prime museum days are predicated on the fact that it’s overcast, if not worse). I like the expansiveness that space offers, not simply a physical spaciousness, but also the imaginative leap of faith that was required to dream the museum and to find the land and to create the plan and to break ground and on. Ten years after it opened, I still can feel the promise when I walk through that particular hall. I still feel exhilarated by its trajectory.

That my daughter feels entirely comfortable there is icing on the cake. Or shine on the apple. Or something.

❥ Everyone’s Valley has these places, the ones that just slow you right down to happiness. I have more, like the stretch from science buildings and boathouse past the pond at Smith College when I take the loop uphill. I like that I watch seasons change across the water and into those woods and that when students have morning classes, I always am reminded about what 18 year-olds look like.


Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah is a writer, who lives in Northampton with her husband and four children. She contributes to Preview Massachusetts Magazine, as well as other publications and writes a parenting blog Standing in the Shadows at the Valley Advocate. She moved to the Valley to attend Hampshire College—and found the Valley such a nice place, she stayed!

Elska Comes to Western MA! Win Tickets!

Win a package of tickets and museum passes for a family of four…

Elska Performs in Amherst
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Sunday, October 21st @ 1pm

Hilltown Families was delighted by Elska’s performance at Kindiefest in Brooklyn, NY this year. We’re excited to announce her debut performance in Western MA on Sunday, Oct 21st in Amherst! Elska’s live performance is both sophisticated and whimsical, a winning combination for families!  Deadline to enter to win a family package of tickets and museum passes is 10/17 by 11:59pm.

Called “the next big thing in toddler entertainment” by Red Tricycle New York, Elska brings her live show to a very special performance at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst on Sunday, October 21st at 1pm… and Hilltown Families has two family 4-pack of tickets and two family passes to the museum to giveaway!

Elska’s performance at the museum is part of her tour to support her critically-acclaimed new album Middle of Nowhere which has just received Parents’ Choice Foundation and NAPPA Awards! Details on how to enter to win are below.  Deadline to enter: 10/17 by 11:59pm (EST).


Who is Elska and why is she blowing the minds of concert-goers and promoters alike? Elska is the imaginary character performed by Brooklyn-based singer/actress Shelley Wollert. The character of Elska is a modern pioneer who discovers a newly formed volcanic island off the coast of Iceland where she lives a life of beauty and wonder amongst a cast of unusual friends, including a pensive Winter Bear, a very friendly Goobler, a mysterious Arctic Fox and a vast colony of Lost Socks.

In the live show, Elska has traveled from her amazing island all the way to the museum to tell her story. A blend of theatre, storytelling and musical performance, Elska whisks away children and families on a musical tour of her Arctic home and introduces them to the island’s wonderful inhabitants.

To create Elska and her fictional world, Wollert worked closely with New York City-based record producer Allen Farmelo (The Cinematic Orchestra, Mikael Jorgensson/Wilco). Combining the whimsy of Winnie the Pooh and the otherworldliness of Dr. Seuss, Farmelo and Wollert very intentionally set out to create a new classic in children’s music and entertainment. –


We’re giving away two packages (valued at $50 each) of tickets and museum passes! Your chance win a family 4-pack of tickets and family pass to the museum to see Elska at the Eric Carle Museum on Sunday, October 21st at 1pm in Amherst, MA is easy & simple! To enter to win simply:

  • CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting the Facebook icon below
  • TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES KEEPS YOU CONNECTED WITH YOUR COMMUNITY   below (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, Oct. 17th, 2012 at 11:59pm (EST).

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Arts is located at 125 West Bay Road in Amherst, MA. Admission to the museum is $9/Adults, $6/Youth, $22.50/Family. Tickets to Elska are $7 and may be purchased in advance at the Museum Admissions Desk or by calling 413-658-1126. Find out more about the museum at

“The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats” at The Carle this Summer

50th Anniversary of The Snowy Day

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats pays tribute to award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916–1983), whose children’s book,The Snowy Day,was the first modern full-color picture book to feature an African-American protagonist, published in 1962 at the height of the civil rights movement in America. The exhibition marks the 50th Anniversary of The Snowy Day which paved the way for multiracial representation  in American children’s literature.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art presents a new exhibit – The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack KeatsOpening on June 26th, 2012 the exhibit is made up of over 80 of Keats’ works, including sketches, collages, and drawings, photographs of the author, and some of his less well-known Asian art and haiku, and will run through October 14, 2012.

Keats’ work is significant not only in that his children’s books (The Snowy Day, Whistle For Willie, and Peter’s Chair) have been read to and loved by many families, but is important also in that it features African-American protagonists in run-down urban settings.  In fact, The Snowy Day was the first full color children’s book to feature an African-American protagonist.  The settings depicted in Keats’ work reflect the environment in which he grew up, and the stories portray African-American characters in environments representative of urban life during the 1960’s.

By visiting the exhibit, families can begin a group dialogue about civil rights, urban life, and racial politics.  These themes are best for older students, who are beginning to learn about or have some background knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement, but Keats’ illustrations can be appreciated by kids of all ages!  Older students can also use the exhibit as a means of learning and thinking about how art is used to convey big ideas – not only does Keats provide effective illustrations for his stories, he offers a truthful portrayal of urban African-American life. For more information visit

Illustration Credit: Ezra Jack Keats, “Peter, Archie and Willie crept out of the hideout.” Final illustration for Goggles!, 1969. Paint and collage on board. Ezra Jack Keats papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

The Story of Negro League Baseball at the Eric Carle Museum

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
At the Eric Carle Museum on Feb 7th – June 10th, 2012

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is opening its latest exhibit,“We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” on Feb 7th and running through June 10th, 2012.  The exhibit features oil paintings by Kadir Nelson, which were created to illustrate a book of the same name.  The intention of the book is to preserve the history of the Negro League and to offer information in a format that is easily accessible.  Nelson conducted huge amounts of research while creating his paintings- he interviewed former Negro League players, searched through old photographs, collected memorabilia, and even tried on and took photographs in old league uniforms.  His images accurately capture the spirit of the league.  The players faced intense racial discrimination and social inequalities, and were forced to take lower salaries than their white equivalents.  Despite this, they played on, and the determination and dedication that created the spirit of the league is conveyed by the paintings.

A visit to the exhibit can be not only a study of art but a study of American cultural history- it would fit well with a look at the civil rights movement or a discussion or unit on racial inequality.  For more information, call the Eric Carle Museum at 413-658-1100 or visit

Dancers & Puppets Bring Picture Books to Life in Amherst

Picture Book Theatre Performs at The Carle in November

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art presents Picture Book Theatre featuring Eric Carle’s “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth and Rooster’s Off To See The World, Saturdays, November 5, 12, 19, 26 and Friday, November 25 with 45-minutes performances at 2pm & 3pm.

Eric Carle’s classic children’s books are coming to life this month!

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is hosting a series of puppet shows based on various Eric Carle stories throughout November.  The first of the shows, “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth,” is set to music created by a local composer and includes many local puppeteers!  Families will receive a copy of the book to read and follow along with while they watch.

The second show performed is “Rooster’s Off to See the World,” which features local dancers from the Amherst Ballet.

There will be multiple performances of each throughout the month.  More information is available at

Ticket Giveaway: Family Concert with Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem @ The Carle

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem
Saturday, June 19th, 2010
At the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA

The music style of Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem is described by the Boston Globe as “neo old-timey with cosmopolitan splashes of contemporary pop and jazz.” - Your family will LOVE them!

Hilltown Families and the Northampton Community Music Center have partnered up to offer a chance to win a family 4-pack of tickets to see Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA on Saturday, June 19th at 1pm. The proceeds from the concert go to benefit the Northampton Community Music Center!  Deadline to enter to win is 06/16/10. Find out how to enter to win below.


Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem is a rootsy, Americana-style string band of four musicians — all parents — who have played and toured together for 10 years. Their grooves are deep, their four-part harmonies are rich, and their adventurous, eclectic song selection serves their debut family CD Ranky Tanky well. Family music is a new endeavor for the band, but they have longstanding reputation for performances that are, as the Boston Globe put it, “playful and profound. Ranky Tanky sticks with that equation: it’s uplifting, danceable, playful, sometimes silly, sometimes wistful, and never sarcastic. Rani Arbo fires up the fiddle; Anand Nayak plays electric and acoustic guitars; Andrew Kinsy is on upright acoustic bass (and ukulele and banjo), and Scott Kessel pilots the Drumship Enterprise, a percussion rig made from cardboard boxes, tin cans, water jugs, and a vinyl suitcase. Together, they create a joyful, musical fusion of sounds both old and new — and a great soundtrack for family time.


The Northampton Community Music Center is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is “to foster the love and pursuit of music within the community through quality musical education, performances, and activities that are accessible to all.” NCMC’s talented 50+ faculty members offer a diverse range of musical programs to more than 750 participants a year—both adults and children—and bring concerts and other musical events to hundreds more in our surrounding communities, uniting people of all ages and backgrounds through the shared experience of music. NCMC is the only music school in Hampshire County that offers financial aid: no qualifying student has ever been denied scholarship.

This family concert is the fifth concert in the Kids Concert Series sponsored in partnership by the Northampton Community Music Center, the Eric Carle Museum, and 93.9 The River.  The Eric Carle Museum is located at 125 West Bay Road in Amherst, MA. Admission is $6, with all proceeds benefitting the Scholarship Program at NCMC.


Your chance to win a family 4-pack of free tickets to see Rani Arbos & daisy mayhem at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA, is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  1. POST A COMMENT BELOW (one entry per family) and be sure to tell us your
  2. FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  5. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 06/16/10 @ 7pm (EST).

If you don’t win you should still go! Tickets are $6 and available at 12:30pm the day of the show.  No advance reservations. – For more information about the Northampton Community Music Center, call 585-0001.

Museum Pass Giveaway: The Carle’s 3rd Annual Children’s Book Festival

The Carle’s 3rd Annual Children’s Book Festival
Celebrates Dogs in Children’s Literature

“This event allows a unique face-to-face experience for children’s literature fans and an opportunity for our artists to celebrate their work in a wonderfully festive venue,” said author and illustrator Diane deGroat, one of the event organizers.

Over the next couple of weekends, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art will play host to two great family activities. This coming Saturday, June 12th is The Carle’s 3rd Annual Children’s Book Festival: Celebrating Dogs in Picture Books! And the following Saturday (June 19th) is a kids concert with Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem.

For this coming Saturday, June 12th, The Carle is offering 4 free museum passes to our readers to come be a part of their Annual Children’s Book Festival. Each pass allows for 2 adults and up to 4 kids! Deadline to enter to win is 6/10/10 by12Noon (EST). Details on how to win are .below


This year’s event is a celebration of dogs in picture books and the artists and authors who created them. Meet authors and artists, including Jules Feiffer, Jeff Mack, and Patricia MacLachlan, watch service dog demonstrations with young pups in training, and enjoy book-signings, readings, presentations, special art studio activities, a raffle, face-painting, and an original art show and sale. Guests can also hear music by Putumayo World Music recording artist José Gonzalez and Banda Criolla. There will be treats from Atkins Farms Country Market and appearances by a variety of costumed canine characters.

Featured artists and authors include:

  • Karen Beil
  • Nick Bruel
  • Stephanie Calmenson
  • Eileen Christelow
  • Corinne Demas
  • Diane deGroat
  • Jules Feiffer
  • Patricia MacLachlan
  • Jeff Mack
  • Barry Moser
  • Katy Schneider
  • Laura Vaccaro Seeger
  • Shelley Rotner

Local friends from the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society and Canine Companions will be on hand to answer pooch-related questions. Stuffed animal dogs are welcome but please leave your real dogs at home!  Click here for a full schedule of events.


Your chance to win a museum pass (2 adults/4 kids) to The Carle’s 3rd Annual Children’s Book Festival on Saturday, June 12th, 2010 is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  Four winners will be selected. To win simply:

  1. SHARE YOUR FAVORITE TITLE BY ONE OF THE FEATURED ARTISTS/AUTHORS BELOW (one entry per family) and be sure to tell us your
  2. FULL NAME and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) PLEASE include your town and state to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  5. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Thursday, 06/10/10 @ 12Noon (EST).

Raspberries with Jay O’Callahan at the Carle this Saturday

Jay O’Callahan and Will Moses Present Raspberries at The Carle

Storytelling at the Eric Carle Museum on Saturday, April 1th, 2010. Free with museum admission.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art welcomes Raspberries, an exuberant and hilarious hour of storytelling by renowned storyteller Jay O’Callahan, and artist Will Moses on April 17, 2010, at 1 p.m. The event, which is free with museum admission, is geared towards school-age children.

Editor and author Patricia Lee Gauch will introduce O’Callahan who will share several of his best-loved stories, including Raspberries, as Moses presents the beautiful artwork he created to accompany this timeless tale, now a picture book. The story features Simon, who was born to bake. His treats are famous until his bakery closes and everything he makes falls flat, that is, until a young girl gives him some raspberry seeds. What happens next will have everyone in the audiences yelling “Rasssspberrrrrieees!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Create a Butterfly for Batches of Butterflies

Batches of Butterflies
February 10 – May 30, 2009

HFVSLogo-Butterfly.jpgThe Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA invites friends, families, and schools throughout the country and abroad to create their own butterflies to flutter in the Museum. Celebrate the caterpillar, who for 40 years has crept into the hearts of millions of readers through his journey of hope from “a tiny and very hungry caterpillar” to a “beautiful butterfly.”

How it works:

  • Create your butterfly out of 8 ½ x 11 card stock
  • Design your butterfly using color, shape, and/or messages of hope
  • Mail to The Carle:
    Batches of Butterflies, The Eric Carle Museum, 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, MA 01002

All butterflies received by March 15, 2009 will flutter throughout our Great Hall from March 20 to May 31, 2009.

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