NEW GLOUCESTER — Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village on Monday, April 12, will present a live discussion and audience Q&A with Lois Lowry and Brother Arnold Hadd, who will discuss “Like the Willow Tree” – Lowry’s historical fiction book set at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village.

The live event will take place at 6 p.m. via Zoom, and is open for pre-registration at The talk is free and open to all age groups, and will be live-streamed on Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village’s Facebook page. Optional donations will be accepted.

In the book, when their parents fall victim to the influenza epidemic of 1918, 11-year-old Lydia Pierce and her older brother, Daniel, are taken by their uncle to live in the Shaker Community at Sabbathday Lake. Through Lydia’s diary entries we come to experience Shaker life and to appreciate her grieving, acceptance, and eventual appreciation for the community that was to become her family.

Hadd will talk about children’s life at Shaker Village and how being raised by the Shakers was a common practice at the time. Lydia’s experience was based on both written and oral histories passed from one generation to the next. Hadd will share many of those stories, and also share the perspectives of the Shakers that raised these children.

Lois Lowry

A tale of heartbreak and hope on both sides of the experience, Lowry’s poignant story of living through the Spanish influenza pandemic seems more resonant than ever before. In the face of COVID-19, readers are sure to draw comfort from Lydia’s journey to find and discover the sense of community that she longed for.

Lowry and Hadd will also discuss how Shaker Village functioned through the harrowing Spanish Influenza compared with the modern-day struggles of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst dozens of unplanned lambs being born on the Shaker farm, staff at home on lockdown, and the primary businesses closed, the Shakers are still finding ways to function as an expanded community.

A two-time Newbery medalist author, Lowry researched this era of Shaker history through primary resources in the Shaker Museum & Library archives as well as interviews with Hadd – a member of the Shaker Community since 1978 – to capture the oral histories. Hers is a fascinating and historically accurate contribution to Shaker storytelling and to the “Dear America” series from Scholastic Books, fictional diaries in the voices of young girls living history. Beloved for her many contributions to children’s literature such as “The Giver,” “Number the Stars,” and “The Willoughbys” which was recently produced for Netflix, Lowry says her “books have varied in content and style. Yet they all deal, essentially, with the same general theme: the importance of human connections,” according to a news release from the United Society of Shakers in New Gloucester.

Brother Arnold Hadd Contributed photo

“Like the Willow Tree” is available for purchase through Shaker Village at and includes a 2020 introduction reflecting on the current COVID-19 pandemic Lowry.

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