Books in Boothbay on July 14, 2018

**Meet me at Books in Boothbay 2018** Boothbay Railway Village

July 14, 2018 from 9:00-1:00

A lifelong educator and daughter of a librarian and a reading teacher, Julia M. O’Brien-Merrill has firsthand knowledge of the power of reading richly illustrated children’s books to teach about the world. She has had the good fortune to teach children in Maine, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and China. Born in Boston, now living in Maine and retired from teaching English as a Second Language, she has time to play her violin in the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, practice yoga, downhill ski, study Spanish, travel by land and by sea with her husband David, and visit with her westward-ho grown sons. In her first book illustrated by Caitlin Marquis and published by Applewood Books, Commonwealth Editions in July 2017, Charlie on the M.T.A. Did He Ever Return?, she has fulfilled both her own and her father’s dream of honoring his commitment to social justice through a book that will teach future generations about a piece of Boston history.


Visit to Boston Public Library and Book Talk at the Boston Athenaeum

While in Boston, I visited Boston Public Library to see that my book Charlie on the M.T.A. was included in their collection. I had expected to see it in the Children’s Library, but was surprised to find it in the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. Here I am with the book after spending the afternoon in Boston with my friend and tour guide, Evan.

On Saturday June 2nd illustrator Caitlin Marquis and I had the honor of doing a Book Talk in the Long Hall at the Boston Athenaeum. Children’s librarian Dani Crickman and the staff at the Athenaeum paid attention to so many details regarding getting our presentations set up and were very gracious hosts for this special event. My brother-in-law, Frank Hartig, and his band “East of Yonder”, were a welcome addition to the event as they provided the musical magic of the original lyrics of the song. The audience, young and old, were all enthusiastic singers as we all ended singing a rousing edition of “The M.T.A.” Thanks to all who made this event so special.

Sharing Charlie on the M.T.A. with students at 826 Boston

Sharing Charlie on the M.T.A. in Boston at 826 Boston in late May was a lot of fun. When I entered the building with my friend Evan, I was approached by many children asking, “Are you the author? Can I have your autograph?” After some tutoring time, the students gathered to listen to the story, sing along with the chorus, and ask pertinent questions.

The staff at 826 Boston were as fascinated by the backstory as the children. Here are comments from Annie Dade who coordinated my visit:
“Thank YOU for your lovely author visit! The kids really enjoyed your story and singing along with the chorus! The singing brought kids of all ages together to celebrate this fun piece of Boston history. We thought it was so lovely how you made the historical artifacts available for perusal afterwards. We also thought you did such a great job working with a group of varying ages and confidence levels. You were fantastic navigating kids who were calling out and engaging others who were perhaps a bit shy.”

Spring has brought new book events for Charlie on the M.T.A. in Boston

I had an amazing day for an author’s visit at Prospect Hill Academy in Somerville at the end of March. I visited each second and third grade classes to share my book , to answer insightful questions from the students, and to have a rousing sing-along at the end of the day.  The students had created posters for the M.T.A. Timeline in order to learn about a piece of Boston history.  Now that the students know the song, I urged them to sing it whenever they ride the T! Special thanks to all of the teachers and to  Principal Nancy Alach whose mother was the Massachusetts Progressive Party secretary with my father in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. A bonus to the day was a wonderful visit with Anne Alach who is still sharing stories.

I am more than excited to be heading to Boston this week for a couple of events to share Charlie with some more readers. Thanks to my friend Evan, I will be volunteering at 826 Boston orgin Roxbury on Wednesday May 30th.  After helping at each of two tutoring sessions, I will be reading Charlie on the M.T.A. Did He Ever Return? to students involved in the program. I feel like I am going back to my roots, as I attended kindergarten and first grade in the Roxbury Public Schools in 1954 and 1955. http://www.826boston

Then on Saturday June 2nd at 1:00 I will be sharing my book at the Boston Athenaeum where there will be a reading along with some singing with my brother-in-law Frank and possible some of his band-mates in a rousing rendition of The M.T.A.Harvard Bookstore will be there with books that I will gladly sign.


Stratton School Author’s Visit and Book Talk in Carrabassett Valley, Maine

Walter A. O’Brien, Jr. in 1949
Arriving at the Carrabassett  Public Library for the Book Talk
I was a guest with Greg Powers on WSKI TV to talk about the book.







I am excited to be visiting Stratton School on Friday morning February 9th to share Charlie with the Pre-K to fourth grade students there.  On the following day, February 10th, I will give a book talk at the Carrabassett Valley Public Library at 4:30, perhaps together with some singing along with the signing.  Spreading the word about the book and the history behind it continues to be an adventure, and I am sure my father would be delighted that I am telling part of his-story!

The Journey Continues….

A lot has happened along my life-long  journey with Charlie on the M.T.A. Did He Ever Return? since the book’s publication in July.  Little did I realize how many doors and windows would open in the quest to get the book into the hands of readers.

Caitlin Marquis, Illustrator and Julia M. O’Brien-Merrill, author at Maine Historical Society with display of M.T.A. ephemera in case

The event with illustrator Caitlin Marquis at the Maine Historical Society in November was a huge success, with the bookshop there selling out of the books! Now that the Walter and Laura O’Brien Collection is safely in the Brown Research Library, I hope that inquiring minds about the historical, social, and political lives of my parents and other progressives in the forties and fifties will find some interesting primary sources.

As I begin to get my feet wet as an author, I have enjoyed reading the book and having discussions with students at a few schools in Maine including:

  •  In a first grade classroom at Coffin School in Brunswick as a “Celebrity Author-Reader” reading a copy of the book I had donated to the school library in memory of my dear friend and mentor Beth Bartlett for many years when I taught English as a Second Language in the Brunswick Schools.
  • In a fourth grade classroom at Great Salt Bay School in Damariscotta where the students formed a human timeline of the history of the MTA song and its history.

  • In a second grade classroom at the Howard C. Reiche School in Portland in my childhood neighborhood. Mr. Reiche was the principal when I attended Portland High School (1965-1968). It was a delight and thrill to share the book with the very curious  young students. According to their teacher, Kristen Fox, a student even brought in a CharlieCard the following day.
    “My students enjoyed and learned a lot from Julia’s visit to our classroom.  They loved meeting an author, and they were intrigued by
    the story of Julia’s father.  They sang the M.T.A. folk song and passed around an authentic Charlie card.  Julia easily connected with the children, and was able to effectively communicate this rich and complicated story while keeping the students engaged.
    Kristen Fox, 2nd grade teacher
    Howard C. Reiche Community School
    Portland, Maine

Stay tuned for more book events in Maine and Boston.


Special Edition of the Children’s Hour

WHAT?       Join author and illustrator at this special event

WHERE?     Maine Historical Society  489 Congress Street  Portland, Maine

WHEN?       Saturday, November 11, 2017 at  1:00 pm

Family Program – Charlie and the M.T.A.

Family Program – Charlie and the M.T.A.

Do you know why the transit fare card in Boston is called the CharlieCard? Readers of all ages are invited to join us and find out (and don’t worry, you won’t need an extra nickel to get in on the fun)! Join MHS for a very special edition of The Children’s Hour with author Julia M. O’Brien-Merrill and illustrator Caitlin Marquis as they share and read their new book Charlie on the M.T.A.: Did He Ever Return? Inspired by the beloved folk song composed for her father Walter A. O’Brien’s 1949 mayoral campaign and made by famous by the Kingston Trio, O’Brien-Merrill uses both history and the original “M.T.A.” song lyrics to take us on a trip beneath the streets of old Boston. The city and the song come to life in Marquis’ fun and colorful full-page illustrations. The program will feature a special exhibition of artifacts from MHS’s Walter A. O’Brien collection, as well as arts and crafts inspired by the story for the whole family, and maybe even some singing!

Program is free and open to the public. Children must be accompanied by a caregiver. All ages welcome!

Join me at Boothbay Railway Village for a reading of Charlie on the M.T.A. Did He Ever Return?

Family Harvest Days

September 30 @ 10:00 amOctober 1 @ 4:00 pm

CELEBRATE FALL WITH US!  Music, sheepdog demonstrations, butter churning, cider pressing, hayrides, blacksmith, weaving, spinning, and lace-making demonstrations, pumpkin decorating and more!

This year Castlebay, the music duo whose performances of Celtic and Maine music combine rousing dance tunes with the magical world of tall tales, will perform at 1:00 pm on Saturday.  Throughout the day on Sunday, Two Coves Farm of Harpswell will give sheep dog demonstrations.  On both Saturday and Sunday White’s Farm of Winterport will be selling their hot dogs and sausage, and author Julia O’Brien-Merrill will read her delightful children’s book Charlie on the M.T.A. Did He Ever Return? about the real Charlie from the famous song about a man stuck on the Boston subway.  Make your own apple or pear cider with our apple press!  Bring your own fruit – make sure it has been washed –  and your own containers, and use our press (see safety instructions here).  On both days there will be farm animals from Lyric Meadow Farm, hayrides, blacksmith, weaving, spinning, and lace-making demonstrations, barrel-train rides, and pumpkin decorating.  Hand-sew your own journal at the craft table.  Watch butter being churned and taste the fresh butter on New England brown bread baked according to a 100-year-old recipe.  There will be cider and homemade cookies for all.  The Museum’s pair of resident goats as well as some special guests will be on hand.

pumpkintrail logo

Take a hayride to a pumpkin patch where for a small additional fee you can take home your own pumpkin!  You may decorate your pumpkin at our craft table.

Family Harvest Days is just one stop along Maine’s Pumpkin Trail, a partnership celebrating history, art and giant fruit along 50 miles of what we think is Maine’s most beautiful coastline! Follow Maine’s Pumpkin Trail on Facebook to discover great ways to celebrate fall with friends and family of all ages.

Special thank you to our event sponsor, Flagship Inn & Suites!

And thank you Jim Kearney for loaning us your cider press!

Admission is free for Museum Members and included with Museum Admission for non-members.

When you work with children you never know what is going to impact them….

This came by email from a friend of a friend today:

When you work with children you never know what is going to impact them, and most times you never learn what impact you have had on them. But sometimes you get a surprise. 20+ years ago I began singing and playing my guitar once a week with the 4th grade at Pemetic. It started when my Jenn was in 4th grade and they kept asking me back. I took it as a challenge to find songs that the boys would sing along with. There was no show choir then, so singing wasn’t as “cool as it is in our schools now. So I taught sea chanteys and “Charlie on the MTA”, and other fun or silly songs. I was asked back to sing with several 4th grade classes. I really have no idea how many. Today, a mom from one of those classes brought me this brand new book, published July 25, 2017, and told me about how I taught a generation of SWH kids about Charlie. Thank you Marjory Russakoff! You totally made my day. It may be time to dust off the old guitar . . .

BTW ~ The Author’s father was the man for whom the original song was created. He ran for Mayor of Boston and the song was a protest about the increase in fares (from a dime to 15 cents) which in 1949 was substantial Today, the Charlie Card honors Walter O’Brien. He never became mayor, but he will never be forgotten!


Fight the fare increase

In 1949 citizens of Boston were faced with a fare increase from a dime to fifteen cents. “Charlie” was created in a song by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes to help fight the fare increase as one of Walter A. O’Brien’s campaign issues.