On June 22 at 4 p.m., the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) will partner with Somerset County Hope and Healing for a family-friendly, virtual program that delivers a message of hope and healing through storytelling, music, and movement. 

The program, which will be presented in both English and Spanish, will follow along with the interactive book “Penelope the Powerful Parrot,” written and illustrated by Brett Peppe, clinical supervisor at Somerset County Hope and Healing. 

Peppe was inspired to write the story based on his passion for working with children and families. The goal of the story is to “empower individuals to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic or other potentially traumatic events with children to lessen its effects.”

“I wanted to write about the pandemic and trauma in a family-friendly way,” said Peppe. “In the story, Penelope has this great life in her forest and she loves flying, playing, singing, and eating. Then, all these snakes come into her forest in pandemic proportions.”

He continued, “And neither she nor her family knows how they’re going to deal with this. As a result, she winds up no longer being able to see her colors. The rest of this story is about the journey she takes to get her colors back.”

The story has interactive features that aim to teach music and movement as resilience-building techniques. Interactive features include cues to get up and dance as well as QR codes that link the reader to songs on YouTube. The songs are written and performed by Peppe.

“Trauma stores in the body,” said Peppe. “This stress that we’re living through has impacted everybody in their own way and that music is one of the keys to letting some of that out – music and movement.” 

According to Peppe, the most important lesson that Penelope teaches is that “even when we’re faced with a challenge, the best parts of ourselves don’t go away.”

“COVID-19 has changed our lives for over a year now,” said Christine Jansen, manager of youth services programming and collaborations, public services. ”As a result, it is important to maintain hope for a brighter future. Penelope the Powerful Parrot, demonstrates how to be resilient and have hope during traumatic and stressful times. As one of SCLSNJ’s Strategic Priorities is to promote the library as an impartial platform for creating meaningful interactions and connections, we look forward to partnering with Somerset Hope and Healing.”

For more information or to register for the virtual program: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/4926700

This program is brought to you through Somerset County Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center and the NJ Hope and Healing Crisis Counseling Program (CCP). The CCP is provided in collaboration with the NJ Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services and is funded through a FEMA/SAMHSA grant. For more information contact: HopeandHealing@co.somerset.nj.us.