QUINCY -- The NEA Big Read: Quincy and the Little Read will kick off Thursday with special events at Quincy Public Library.
A program, slated from 4 to 6 p.m., will feature a introduction from Alderman Jeff VanCamp, Shakespeare performances by Square Peg Group-Troupe, a violin duo from Quincy Symphony Orchestra and the opportunity to pick up free copies of this year's books -- "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel for adults and teens, "The Big Dark" by Rodman Philbrick for upper elementary students or "Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin" by Lloyd Moss for the youngest readers.
"It's an event for the whole family," said Ruth Cuthbertson, QPL marketing and events librarian.
The keynote speaker will be Betsy Perabo, a professor of religious studies at Western Illinois University, who teaches "Station Eleven" in her classes.
The story follows the "Traveling Symphony," a band of thespians and musicians making their way 20 years after a global pandemic decimates 95 percent of the Earth's population. Despite dark themes, the author describes the book as ultimately, and intentionally, hopeful.
"The Big Dark," told from the perspective of a middle schooler tells the story of life after a solar event knocks out all electricity on the planet, and "Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin" highlights musical instruments and orchestras.
A month of activities for all ages at QPL and in the community is designed to bring the Big Read book selections to life and spark discussion.
Offerings include movies and book discussions, art exhibits and a family-friendly scavenger hunt involving the Quincy Museum and the History Museum. Six businesses in the District also will offer Big Read Specials through Oct. 13.
"Each of those activities is a way to enter the story and become part of the discussion -- and a way to engage people who may not be frequent library users and get them interested in some of the things going on here at QPL," Cuthbertson said.
Area schools already are interested in the Big Read.
"We provide resources for area teachers if they want to be part of the Big Read and bring it into their classroom," Cuthbertson said.
"Station Eleven" is a "very rich book. There's a lot of different topics that can come out it," Cuthbertson said. "There's a lot of opportunity to think about what holds us together as a society, whether it's technology or art. I think when I read the book she makes the case for art."
The NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. QPL participates in a competitive grant process to bring federal dollars to the community to provide Big Read events. The federal grant is matched by many local donors who make it possible to offer the Big Read.
"The interest from the teachers and community members shows this is a valuable part of programming at the library," Cuthbertson said. "All the donors who step forward to make this possible to give away such a great number of books is an indication this is important. We appreciate everybody's efforts on that."
A complete list of NEA Big Read: Quincy events is available online at quincylibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/BR-Events-062018.pdf.