Like everyone I know, my head is spinning: hurricanes, Las Vegas, and Santa Rosa – along with all of the news from Washington. Friends recommend taking a news break, and I know they’re right. But I’ve been addicted to news and reading analysis of current events since college; it is the water I swim in. Every day I dive in again with the heightened awareness that I am also responsible for putting words and ideas into the minds of our students.
With that in mind, I participated in a day-long conference at Moses Brown in Providence yesterday. The subject of the conference was how to help students discern truth in an age of polarization and “fake news.” Moses Brown is a Quaker school, dedicated, in their words, to: “….advocating and standing up for a society that is fair and just.” Their philosophy was the starting point for a day of thought and honest discussion. Every teacher, when asked what brought them to the conference, expressed a commitment to helping kids discern truth, but as one participant said, “there is no longer an agreed upon truth.” We each have our own, and we can select our own echo chambers to confirm our beliefs. We began to ask if, as a society, we can agree on ethics and morals. We looked at websites and tried to check our biases. We asked challenging questions for which there are no easy answers. I drove home with more questions than answers, but I appreciated sharing the day with teachers who challenged me with new questions to consider.
I’m also thinking about a new picture book called Shelter by Celine Claire. I read it yesterday and again this morning. Shelter is a sweet and beautiful story about kindness and generosity. The story opens when a big storm is approaching, and all of the forest animals are safely in their homes when “two figures emerge from the fog” and ask for help. The animals don’t want to help the strangers, but there is a turn of events that makes things more interesting. Shelter is an absolutely essential book for parents and teachers who want to start a conversation about empathy and about what truly matters. I remember years ago hearing that some of Leo Lionni’s picture books have been used in philosophy classes. Shelter could be added to the syllabus.
I’m also thinking about yesterday’s StoryCorps segment on NPR’s Morning Edition. Every Friday, I look forward to hearing this short uplifting piece among the many other stories that aren’t as uplifting. This past Friday’s was a good reminder of the power of libraries. Here’s a link:
I’ve also spent a few days looking at the cover of this middle grade novel:
I absolutely judged The Secret of Nightingale Wood by its cover – and the wonderful reviews I read quickly during Inly’s recent book fair. The art was done by Helen Crawford-White, a British illustrator and graphic designer.
“Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.”
― Maggie Nelson, Bluets
It’s the blue of the book cover I’m drawn to, a color that is taking more space in my thoughts these days. I’m drawn to it everywhere, sometimes catching my breath at its beauty. The blue of Mary’s robes in Italian paintings, the blue of the sky, and in the blues I see in photographs or book covers.
Here are some of my favorite blues:
In Morocco, there is a city called Chefchaouen that is known for its blue walls. I had never heard of it until I saw this photograph on Instagram:
Little Girl in Blue by Modigliani
The Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal
The roof of an outside room at Naumkeag, a historic house in Stockbridge
The blue of this Azurite stone I saw in a display at Amherst College
The blue in Botticelli’s Madonna of the Book
The blue in this detail of a watercolor by John Singer Sargent
It’s a treasure hunt with no end, and I am continuously surprised by its very existence. I am a collector of blue.