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In Pittsfield, a mighty hope for a great tale

Melville Melville

The children in Pittsfield teacher Karen McHugh's social studies class have never read "Moby-Dick." The fifth-graders don't know the American classic's first line, "Call me Ishmael," and they haven't had any deep discussions about the great white whale.

But they do know a little bit about Beacon Hill.

In a state that has an official folk hero and flower . . . almost everything, the entire class petitioned the Commonwealth to make "Moby-Dick" the state's official book.

Last fall, state Representative Christopher N. Speranzo visited Egremont Elementary School to talk about how government works, McHugh said. Afterward , Speranzo had a challenge for all 86 fifth-graders: "He invited us to join him sponsoring a bill that would make 'Moby-Dick' the official state book," McHugh said yesterday. The class agreed.

"The kids were really excited about filing their own bill," Speranzo said. And while the novel may be too much for youngsters to digest, they did know that the house where Herman Melville wrote "Moby-Dick" is a popular Pittsfield tourist attraction and is just a few blocks away from their school.

As for the bill's chances, Speranzo said, "That'll take some time, but I think it's a great way to show them how our government works."