So here goes my Monday offering – doing triple duty for all the blogging duties above. One of my most important jobs as a teacher is finding great books for my kids to read. I love my Saturday afternoon trip to our local library in search of new offerings, especially because we are fortunate to have an amazing library with a kids’ section full of the latest and best books. Our library is a warm and inviting place, and I am happy to say that I am a library aficionado.
As I wander through the stacks, I listen in on conversations – kids sharing titles they love, parents inspecting that hoped for book which will ignite a love of reading, librarians chatting here there and every where about what they’ve read, bought and are hoping to buy. Today I came upon a father and son choosing books about the planets for a school project – it was such a joy to hear their serious conversation: which planets? why these? how to choose which books? I could tell that this boy was a reader, his father was a reader, and that reading was already like breathing to him. He, too, was a library aficionado!
Sometimes, I confess, I pick up a book just because of it’s cover and title….just like some of my sixth graders do. Most times, I am disappointed – for all the reasons I tell them that they might well be disappointed for choosing a book on such a superficial level…sometimes, though, I find a real treasure this way. And this is exactly what happened with “The Forgiveness Garden” by Lauren Thompson:
Perhaps it was the flap cover copy that clued me in to the fact that this was going to be a memorable book:
“A long time ago and far away – although it could be here and it could be now – a boy threw a stone and injured a girl. For as long as anyone could remember, their families had been enemies, and their towns as well, so it was no surprise that something bad had happened.
Hate had happened. revenge had happened. And that inspired more hate and more calls for revenge. But this time, a young girl decided to do something different…”
Thompson’s story was inspired by the Garden of Forgiveness project in Beirut, Lebanon – so ravaged by civil war. Her story is truly a parable for our time, when conflict is every where, and hate and revenge wreak havoc in cities and countries across the world. Christy Hale’s beautiful collage and paint pictures do justice to this story, they make one pause and consider the actions and reactions, to connect the story with larger
Here is the founder of the Garden of Forgiveness project, speaking of what led her to create this idea, this space dedicated to forgiveness and peace:
Finding this book was such good luck – especially since I am reading “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” to my sixth graders now, and was looking for a book like this to share with them when we come to discussing themes and connecting historical fiction to the lessons we can learn from history. Thompson’s book will now be a wonderful part of that discussion
I also read “Anything But Typical” by Nora Raleigh Baskin:
This is the story of Jason Blake, twelve years old, funny, smart, an awesome sixth grader…and autistic. Jason has to navigate the world of the “neurotypical” – he does not understand it, but he has learned what to look for, how to act, how to figure it out. So much of what he must deal with every day is confusing, but deal with it all he must. Jason, however, feels most like himself when he can write – online. And that is where he meets PhoenixBird – his first true friend. Their on-line writing leads to an invitation to a writing convention – where Jason meets Rebecca. Things don’t do as Jason had planned – but Jason learns that, sometimes, that is just as well. I don’t want to say much more than that, since the power of the story lies in this part of the book, and it deserves to be discovered by the reader.
Baskin writes about Jason with affection and accuracy. Like Kathryn Erskine’s “Mockingbird” – “Anything But Typical” is a beautifully written depiction of what it must be like to be a kid on the autism spectrum. And, like “Mockingbird”, I know this is a book that my students will love. It will inspire meaningful conversations in our classroom, where we have two friends also on the autism spectrum.
Here is a book trailer to enjoy: