Girls and dolls gather for tea, stories at Slater Library

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Mon., Feb. 17, 2014
(L-r) Keira and Haylee, both 7, share some girl talk as they wait for the Slater Library's annual tea party to begin. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
(L-r) Keira and Haylee, both 7, share some girl talk as they wait for the Slater Library's annual tea party to begin. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

As dozens of little girls in frilly dresses and their equally well-dressed dolls settled themselves on the floor of Slater Library for a story, a plaintive voice rose above the buzz. “I can’t really see back here,” said Emma, 5.

“Oh, yes you can,” answered storyteller Sara deBeer,” because we’re going to use our imagination to see.” Then she launched into a tale from Russia about a child made from snow who came to life with a magic kiss.

Nearly 60 girls attended this year’s American Girl tea party at Slater, an annual event that has been taking place for two decades. Girls from age 4 on up are encouraged to wear their best dress and bring their favorite doll or stuffed animal for a formal tea, a handful of stories, and doll-related door prizes for everyone.

Among the stories deBeer told was the Haitian tale of Tipingee, who was sold by her evil stepmother to a stranger. The woman told the stranger to look for a girl in a red dress, but the astute Tipingee thwarted the plan by enlisting her friends. “Wear red tomorrow – pass it on,” deBeer whispered to the girls in the front row, and sure enough, the children cupped their hands to pass the message back to the last row.

Batushka was the heroine of another story, from the Czech Republic, and deBeer encouraged the girls to imitate the action of spinning thread from flax as she told the tale.

The stories followed the tea party, during which the girls sipped punch and nibbled on cookies, seated at two long, tightly-packed tables. Library staff and volunteers circulated as well as they could in the tight quarters, pouring punch from china teapots.

“The girls love it,” said library board member Jan Demicco, who organizes the event every year. “The kids really appreciate it. They always say thank you – they’re very polite.” She said that the door prizes, which range from hand-stitched doll-size quilts to brand-new Barbie dolls, were donated by her friends and members of Friends of Slater Library, who also obtained the grant money for the storyteller. Even the flowers presented to each girl as she left were donated by Jewett City Floral, Demicco’s family business.

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