I am still looking for the group of readers I belong to. I haven’t found any one person that I can call and gush over my recent picture book reads. I know they are out there, these people who go crazy when the release date of a new Mo Willems, Kate Dicamillo, Oliver Jeffers, Peter Brown, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Ame Dyckman, Tom Litchtenheld, Lauren Castillo, Drew Daywalt, just to mention a few, picture book is announced or is FINALLY HERE!, but I haven’t found them yet.
What to do if I am bursting with need to discuss, dissect, share my joy and-or pain when I have finished a book, one that just hangs around my heart for days? My father, is the one constant book lover in my life, he would recite Shakespeare at bedtime, read Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi over, and over, and over again, when I was a little girl. As I grew up he introduced me to Edgar Allen Poe, Somerset Maugham, O. Henry, Walt Whitman, Steinbeck, Hemingway, and reintroduced Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, and many other masters. I owe my love of literature to him, but sharing picture books which are my most read format, was asking a little too much, at least to the magnitude I need to share. Don’t get me wrong, he has sat through read alouds of Mo Willems and laughed his pants off, and most recently I sent him a copy of Abbot and Costello’s Who’s on first? picture book witch has had him in good spirits for days, even though he is recuperating from knee surgery; but listening to me go on and on about picture books he has not read and will not purchase (we live far away from each other), is asking a bit too much.
Enter my New Year’s Resolution for 2016 to read more YA…did I mention I am a Picture Book collector (*cough* hoarder *cough*)? Have I told you that the funnest, most thrilling activity for me as a librarian is reading aloud and having children mesmerized? Anyway, as a librarian I am no longer just introducing third and fourth graders to picture books and chapter books, I now service readers up to the sixth grade, so a YA commitment was of the essence.
I started my year with Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. OMG! Heartbreakingly beautiful has a new sheriff in town! While reading this story, I could feel hope for the true existence of magic growing in my heart, by the word. I wished I had a friend like Micah, so grown up and also so much of a child at the same time, just like I was. His belief in his grandfather’s stories, his total unwavering faith that grandpa had indeed been to Circus Mirandus and that all the magic he retold Micah was true, was a testament to Micah’s love for his grandfather and for the possibility that there is more in this world than just what the naked eye can see and the mind can fathom. It was also a story of friendship, of how it just happens, how one day you share something with someone and poof!, the connection is indestructible (the kind of friendship I always wished for growing up). It was also a story of how having unwavering faith challenged with wickedness can result in such heartbreak that you can never go back to the person you were, or have faith in the people and things you loved above all others. I needed someone I knew to read it so I could share all the wonderfulness, the magic, the hopes and dreams that grew within me while reading, the memories it brought back. I called my dad and begged him to buy Circus Mirandus and read it, I told him how much I needed to share this story that was now part of me…and he obliged. He loved Micah, Mirandus, grandpa and the Light Bender as much as I did; he hurt for auntie’s bad experience as a child that left her emotionally crippled for life, and he too admired Micah’s faith in grandpa and magic. I cannot express correctly how relieved I was to be able to talk about this story with someone who had read it, and someone I grew up with, besides all that we loved about the story, we reminisced about my circus experiences as a child, he as a first time (and only time) parent, and stories of his childhood that Mirandus brought back to life.
I was able to find closure in sharing Mirandus with someone who was affected by it too, and know it lies calmly as part of my story. Last weekend, though, I finished Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. I listened to the audio which included music accompanying the narration when a concerto was referenced, or the harmonica was played in the story. Music is tied to so many of my memories that I could feel how it affected each of the characters in the story, I could feel the beauty of it, the universal language it conveys, the healing and joy it can bring and felt the happiness and struggles of the characters as my own (I also cried quite a lot, I won’t lie.) Have you ever struggled with the uncertainty that the author just couldn’t have, wouldn’t have, BETTER NOT HAVE left this person’s life where it seems it has ended? This was my struggle throughout listening to Echo, I had the physical book many times in my hand, deciding to look ahead and put an end to my misery and impending sense of doom, it couldn’t have ended the way it had for Friedrich, for Michael and Frankie, for Ivy and her family, right? But I resisted, it would be disrespectful to Pam Munoz’s craft and storytelling genius so I patiently waited, looking at what percentage of the story did I still have to listen to before the end. I won’t share anymore of the story, because spoilers aren’t cool, but when I finished listening to Echo that familiar pressure in my chest begun, I needed someone else to share this story with! In Echo’s case, I needed someone to read it and tell me that yes! it’s true, that beautiful story exists, it was as wonderful as I felt it was. I called my dad again and told him to purchase the audio version of it, that there was no other way I wanted him to dive into this book. Again, he obliged. He downloaded it this morning and has listened to 80% of it so far. He is feeling the same way I felt about each of the characters’ endings, we lamented on how short lived their happiness was, and were grateful that they had at least experienced love, hope, happiness, in their lifetimes. The story so far, which is told in third person from the child’s point of view of the world, made him reflect on how much goes on in the lives, minds and hearts of young children, the fears, hopes and dreams, it was much more complex than what he had ever thought it could be. It was incredibly hard to not put an end to his pain, to let him know that it would be okay, but I couldn’t out of respect for Pam Munoz, and the journey she wishes the reader to join her in.
I can hardly wait till tomorrow when I will get a call from Dad telling me he finished Echo. I am anxious to start our conversation about the new people in our lives, Friedrich, Mike and Frankie, Ivy, Kenny, Nando and what we had hoped for them.
I am blessed to have my dad Still Be The One in my life that I can unburden the weight of an amazing, shocking, life altering story with. Knowing they not only live in my heart, but in his as well, and our lives are richer for it.