I had a few thoughts about this week’s post, but then a student sent me this picture from his travels in Germany:
In response to my comment about his beautiful picture, the student wrote: “Feel free to use in your blog. Rooftops are a great theme with lots of meaning!” Clearly, he needs a break from my class where we search for meaning in everything. But he has a point. Rooftops are a good place to take a look around.
Here are seven books that encourage us to get up a little higher, look down, and realize (in the words of Hamilton) “how lucky we are to be alive right now.”
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (Rundell’s middle grade novel is a few years old, but the rooftop scenes are still vivid in my mind. The story centers on a young girl named Sophie – who everyone thinks is an orphan who survived in a cello case during a shipwreck that claimed the life of Sophie’s mother. Convinced her mother may have lived, Sophie goes to Paris to find her. It’s in Paris that she meets Matteo and his friends who live high above the city. This is a magical novel – best read at night, perhaps overlooking the twinkling lights of a city!)
Architecture According to Pigeons by Speck Lee Tailfeather (A fun and quirky book – that “flew” under the radar! A pigeon’s-eye view of famous structures around the world. An excellent introduction to architecture.)
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein (the story of Philippe Petit’s 1974 walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center. Obviously, the book has a special poignancy because of what happened to the Towers in 2001, but that adds to the power of the book; it becomes a tribute not only to Petit’s incredible feat, but also to the lives lost that day.)
Albert by Donna Jo Napoli (This picture book is not technically a rooftop story. Albert lives in a tall apartment building, but the action takes place outside of Albert’s window. Published in 2005, Albert is about a man who is a bit of a recluse. He stays in his apartment and only puts his hand outside to check the weather. It’s never a good day to go out. But when a cardinal decides to build a nest in Albert’s outstretched hand, Albert is forced to watch the life happening on the streets below. This is kind of a quirky story, but it’s one I find myself returning to again and again – it’s a perfect book to introduce symbolism to young readers.)
Home by Jeannie Baker (I have used Jeannie Baker’s books, Home and Window, every year since I started teaching – with elementary age students and middle school students. Like the viewpoint in Albert, we have window views rather than rooftops, but the shift in perspective is equally affecting. Baker’s wordless picture books are powerful warnings about the impact we have on our environment. Teachers – to spark a discussion (with older students) about overdevelopment and our changing communities, pair Home with The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.
ABC: Alphabet From the Sky by Benedikt Gross (As it turns out, if you look down, the alphabet is hiding in plain site!)
The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest by Steve Jenkins (Everything Steve Jenkins done is amazing, but this is my favorite of his cut-paper collage works. The closest many of us will get to views from the top of Mount Everest!)
I didn’t get a rooftop view of Scituate’s new library, but the view from the inside is lovely. The library was closed for nearly two years for major renovations. It was worth the wait….