The days are grey and cold. I am sad that someone who is remarkably incurious lives in a house where there is beauty and history in every room. The list of things that frighten me is overwhelming. I am looking for sparks of light. There are many of them – friends and family, books and art, my students and colleagues, and groups of committed and patriotic citizens who are finding ways forward.
Here are ten things that may shine light on the week ahead…
- A book tower! During library class last week, a first grade student created her own work of public art:
2. The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduck by Timothy Basil Ering. A lovely and gentle picture book that celebrates friendship and hope. Ering’s art is beautiful – his two-page spread of fog looks exactly like what you see while driving through a foggy evening. When we first meet Alfred Fiddleduck, he is in an egg waiting to hatch. The egg is being carefully ferried by Captain Alfred who is carrying it in his fiddle case – a gift for his wife who is waiting for his return in their little house by the sea. But a violent storm sends the fiddle case into the sea, and “far offshore, deep in the fog, alone and drifting, the egg cracked.” There is a happy ending, of course, but the journey is beautiful.
3. A poem by a 2nd grade student and printed here with her permission:
Winter by Ana
Winter means snow,
winter means fun,
winter means ice, and rarely sun.
Winter means snowmen, chilly toes,
winter gives you a red nose.
Dull grey skies predict more snow,
while you’re inside with the fire aglow.
4. Elephant and Piggie! These two are always guaranteed to make you smile. This week’s New Yorker includes an article about their creator, Mo Willems. Here’s a link:
5. Kid book reviews. As all school librarians know, it’s challenging to convince kids to take a risk on a new series. Most of them prefer to check-out books their friends are reading. But if you can find one student to trust your guarantee that they will like the book, a new series may catch fire. That’s what happened with the Billy Sure: Kid Entrepreneur, a series by Luke Sharpe. For weeks, I unsuccessfully tried to get a group of boys who enjoy light, fast-paced chapter books to try them. And then – success! Oliver, a student who was perhaps tired of the same recommendation, checked out Billy Sure #1. After we displayed his review, we can’t keep the books on the shelf! Oliver’s review reads: “This is a really funny book. I like how Billy is an inventor. I like how he tries to build stuff and he goes on TV! This is a really good book if you like inventing things.”
6. The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli. I finished it this morning and closed the book thinking about the kids I will recommend it to tomorrow. Like many of Spinelli’s novels, this one takes place in Pennsylvania – this time in the late 1950s when kids are watching American Bandstand. The Warden’s Daughter is Cammie O’Reilly, a 7th grader whose mother died when she was a baby. She so desperately wants a mother that she tries to turn her “Cammie-keeper,” as she refers to the woman who cares for her, into a mother figure. Meanwhile, Cammie’s best friend appears on American Bandstand – representing the change Cammie and her friends are experiencing on the cusp of becoming teenagers. This is a thoughtful and moving novel for mature 5th-7th grade readers.
7. An origami boat made by an 8th grade student who read Around the World in 80 Days.
8. There is a box of books under the library check-out desk. It’s where we keep new books for Inly’s older elementary students – 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. It started simply enough: a place to hold new books I plan to share with them or books put aside for specific students. Last week, three girls stopped by, and asked if there was anything special in the blue box. I pulled it out for them, they sat down, and began pulling books out. Spontaneously, one of them said – “this is the best plastic box I’ve ever seen!”
9. The Mothers by Britt Bennett. I’ve been listening to Bennett’s debut novel since reading a glowing review in The New York Times this past November. It’s a story about secrets, about friendship, about leaving and returning, and the hold our past has on us. The book mostly takes place in Southern California, but there were times, listening in my car on cold days in January, I was tempted to roll the window down.
10. The Snowy Day on Postage Stamps! 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Peter’s creator, Ezra Jack Keats. I’ve been asking about the stamps at every trip to my local post office. I will buy some to use and some to keep!
Happy Reading – and keep your eyes open for flashes of light!