You never know what a day is going to bring. Yesterday, while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a tweet from an American teacher. She tweeted about her Grade 5 class receiving a “Mystery Box” as part of a literacy programme sponsored by a blog called @BreakoutEDU. She showed photos of her students using clues that came with the box to crack secret codes which, in the end, opened to reveal a book called, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Ballet. The teacher’s original tweet was aimed at the author, letting her know how excited her students were to begin reading Chasing Vermeer.
Being the supportive fellow that I am, I tweeted back to this teacher and told her that Leah and I had read this book aloud together a few years ago, along with the other two books in this trilogy and enjoyed them immensely. I went on to say that, in fact, Leah enjoyed the books so much that she had a framed print of the Vermeer art work mentioned in the story hanging in her bedroom as I typed.
Within a few minutes, I received a reply from the author, Blue Balliett, herself. Like all authors, she expressed her gratitude to me for informing her that her work had made a difference in some reader’s life. In turn, I sent her a photo Leah’s bedroom so she could see the print for herself. ***You can see the print on the right side of Leah’s bookcase, in the middle of the column of three framed works. The painting is called, Lady Writing. Blue Balliett replied that Leah’s room was “the bedroom her dreams”.
This got me thinking.
Leah and I have read together from the day she was born. As a result, we have read thousands of books together. That time we shared was very precious and has helped create many warm memories for us, both, of the books we read, the characters we came to care about, the conversations that occurred, the warmth of our snuggles and much, much more. Reading with your children is always about more than the words on the page. It is a bonding experience that is quite loving and profound. In time, as you read an author’s words, you start to feel the books in your hearts and minds.
For most of Leah’s early life, the books we shared were simpler in nature because her intellect was not mature enough for weighty concepts. But, with each book or book series read, her mind grew stronger and her inventory of literary experiences swelled. Soon she was ready for longer, more complex stories. The first series we read that made an emotional impact on us was The Little House on the Prairie books. We read all eight books consecutively. When it came time for Pa Ingalls to help Laura into Almanzo’s wagon and then, watch them ride off together, as husband and wife to their new home, I choked up with emotion. Leah and I both knew that scene was as much about us and how we will one day feel in that situation, as it ever was about Laura and her Pa.
We finished the final book in late Fall. Because of the emotional impact of the series, I decided to try and find something that I could give to Leah for Christmas that would serve to remind her of our time reading Little House together. My search took me to the Laura Ingalls Wilder website. There, for sale, was the china shepherdess doll that Pa had given to Ma Ingalls in their early days together. The same doll that had accompanied them across America. This doll was my gift to Leah that Christmas and has sat on a shelf in her bedroom ever since.
The commemoration of a shared experience with a story or series started with the china shepherdess doll and became a tradition that we continued with each subsequent book series. The Vermeer print was the piece chosen to remember the Chasing Vermeer trilogy. What follows are snapshots of other memorials to books that Leah and I shared.
A pencil drawing entitled, Lucy at the Lamp Post, hangs on Leah’s wall by her window. It says, “A Fairy Tale begins…” on it and serves as a reminder of our joy at reading The Chronicles of Narnia and how every epic adventure begins with a fateful decision and a leap of faith.
We read the entire How To Train Your Dragon series. This framed print was the first time I paired a quote from the series with art work. The quote was uttered by the main character, Hiccup and goes like this:
Because: Love never dies. What is within is more important than what is without. The Best is not always the most obvious. And, once you’ve loved truly, Thor, then you know the way.
One of my favourite book series was Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising books. There are those who claim that this is the series that most influenced J.K. Rowling when she was writing Harry Potter. In any case, the quest that 11 year old Will is on to collect six “signs” and help the forces of Light in their battle with the forces of Darkness, is summed up in this important poem from the books.
When the DARK comes rising, six shall turn it back;
three from the circle, three from the track.
Wood, bronze, iron, fire, water, stone,
Five will return and one go alone.
Iron for the birthday. Bronze carried long.
Wood from the burning. Stone out of song.
Fire from the candle-ring. Water from the thaw.
Six signs the circle and Grail gone before.
Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold,
played to wake the sleepers; oldest of the old.
Power of the Greenwitch, lost beneath the sea.
All shall find the light at last; silver on the tree.
Leah can quote this from memory.
Our memory from The Hunger Games trilogy was “Rue’s Lullaby”, as written in the book. If you have read the books or seen the movies then, you will know how poignant this scene was.
Deep in the grass, under the willow,
a bed of grass, a soft green pillow,
lay down your head and close your eyes
When again they open, the sun will rise.
Here it’s safe and here it’s warm,
Here the daisies guard you from every harm.
Here your dreams are sweet,
Tomorrow brings them true,
Here’s the place where I love you.
Deep in the meadow, hidden far away,
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam’s ray,
Forget your woe and let your troubles lay,
When it’s morning, they’ll wash away.
And here….is the place…where I love you.
From author Lois Lowry came The Giver trilogy. From that set of books, we opted for the following quote:
It is better, I think, to climb out in search of something instead of hating what you are leaving behind.
Finally, Leah and I are big fans of Phillip Pullman and His Dark Materials trilogy. I maintain that the final scene in the final book is one of the best scenes in Children’s Literature. From it, a speech of Love that spans the entirety of Space and Time.
I will love you forever, whatever happens.
Til I die and after I die.
And when I find my way out of the Land of the Dead, I’ll drift about forever, all atoms, til I find you again.
I’ll be looking for you, every moment…every, single moment.
And when we do find each other, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart.
Every atom of me and every atom of you…
We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams.
When they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one
They’ll have to take two; one of me and one of you.
Leah spends a lot of time on her own in her room now that she is becoming a teenager. But, as she does, I am still there; an inseparable part of who she is and who she is becoming. Her room is a museum. A museum of memories from a lifetime of reading wonderful books while surrounded by Love.
If you care to know more about how to read with your child so that they come to love books as Leah has, please pop over to my friend, Jackie Currie’s blog, Happy Hooligans. I guest-posted for her a while back. In that post, I told the story of Leah and I and the whole list of books we read together. The post is called, 75 of the Very Best Chapter Books for Girls between 5 – 13.