FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Capital Day School librarian Mary Payne Coblin hasn't been able to keep a field guide on her bookshelf for more than two years — and she blames a group of eight boys.
The sixth-graders — Conner Jackson, Luke Bowers, Wyatt Strasburger, Sheldon Hanley, Afeef Shaik, Mathew Logan, Coleman Broaddus and Aidan Detwiler — impressed Coblin with their passion for reading and learning.
"These guys get hot on a subject like no other class," she said. "They've become so close and they just have to share what they're learning. They just go crazy over a subject."
After a unit on salamanders last year, Aidan sparked an interest in reptiles and amphibians among his classmates. The group practically memorized every field guide and book on the subject, and the boys were still asking for new material.
"Their love of these critters and every tidbit of information they can glean about these long-bodied beings is, I have observed, a boy thing and somewhat contagious," Coblin said.
She visited Paul Sawyier Public Library — which is often necessary to keep up with the boys' interests — and found a book titled "Amphibians & Reptiles of Kentucky" by Roger W. Barbour.
She renewed the book three or four times, but the boys were still not satisfied.
Coblin decided the book would be a good investment for the library collection, but she ran into a problem — the book is out of print.
It's available for purchase on Amazon for $362.77, though Lizz Taylor, owner of Poor Richard's Books, could get the book for $100. That price was still beyond the library's budget.
"I was flabbergasted and felt we could just as well go on checking it out from the public library," Coblin said. "When (Lizz) suggested other good and purchasable reptile and amphibian books, I smiled ironically to myself because obviously she hasn't taught these boys."
Which explains why Coblin was so flabbergasted when the book was anonymously donated to the school.
"It is instances like this, which include both generosity of spirit and a keen desire to learn, that give me the pleasure that has carried me through the years," she wrote in a thank you letter to the donor sent to The State Journal.
And the boys said they were just as excited.
"They're so much different than other animals," Conner said. "And now we can learn what kinds are in Kentucky."
The boys named off some of their favorite reptiles and amphibians, including the Red-eared slider and the Eastern Tiger Spotted Salamander.
Aidan said the books help him discover more in nature.
"I fell in a 4-foot-deep water hole looking for a salamander," he said, making his classmates giggle.
It's not just reptiles and amphibians that interest the Capital Day School sixth-grade boys — they like barbarians, architecture, science fiction, history and sports, too.
"When you have children like this, it pulls everyone else up," Coblin said. "They want to be a part of that conversation, that brilliance."
Information from: The State Journal, http://www.state-journal.com