We often hear that there are two Maines: a prosperous one that starts in the south and extends up the coast, and a poorer cousin to the north and west.

The theory doesn’t stand up to very much scrutiny – plenty of Mainers in the south struggle to get by, and lots of economic vitality exists in the north. But the two-Maines concept is a standard feature of our political discourse, a wedge that divides one set of Mainers from others who are a lot like them, even if they live in a different part of the state.

Stephanie Heinz, children’s book manager and community coordinator at Print: A Bookstore, holds books that have been donated to replace those that were lost in the fire last week at the Dr. Levesque Elementary School in Frenchville. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

At a time when there are so many signs of division, it’s nice to be reminded that the map is correct: There is only one Maine, and at times the whole state can feel like a small town.

As is too often the case, this sense of unity follows a catastrophe.

On July 25, Dr. Levesque Elementary School in Frenchville burned to the ground. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the building was a total loss, including its 9,500-volume library, a collection that had been patiently assembled by librarians and teachers over years.

School librarian Tracie Boucher reached out to children’s book author Lynn Plourde, who lives in Winthrop but has family ties to Aroostook County and had visited the school a couple of times, to see if she could donate some of her books.

Plourde said she could, and then she did even more. She put the word out among other authors and among booksellers and publishers, letting them know about the need.

The response was quick and sure. On Monday, Print, a bookstore in Portland, posted on its website a “wish list” of the most-needed titles, which had been put together by Boucher, and invited customers to buy some books for the school. By Wednesday morning, all the books on the list had been purchased, and the bookstore was only accepting donations for the library.

Another book store, Bogan Books in Fort Kent, was selling $20 gift certificates (which can be purchased online) that will be given to teachers to replace the materials they lost in the fire.

The way people have responded to the Dr. Levesque School fire should look familiar: It’s the way Maine people are expected to respond when a disaster occurs in their community. It’s just that this time, the borders of the community are drawn more broadly.

You don’t have to live in the northern tip of Maine to understand how important an elementary school is to children and their families, as well as to the teachers and staff who work there. A library that can put just the right book in a child’s hands at just the right time in their development is as important in a city like Portland as it is in a town as small as Frenchville (population 1,000).

Plourde, Print and all the others who stepped up this week should remind us of something very important: There really is just one Maine.


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