A woman from a local book store once told me that not everyone likes every book and that sometimes we just need to put a book aside and try again later. Well, I have found this to be true quite often.
Several years ago when I heard that The One and Only Ivan had won the Newbery Award I was disappointed. I don’t remember what book I wanted to win but I remember that it wasn’t this one. It was just too darn sad. I even gave the book away. I wanted nothing to do with it. Then this year I read Katherine Applegate’s Home of the Brave and fell in love with her prose and story. I then read Wishtree and fell in love again. I began to wonder if I was too hard on poor Ivan. Then, as things often work out, The One and Only Ivan crossed my path again. It was on sale through Scholastic for $1.00. I reluctantly bought one for each of my students. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I figured this book was better than nothing. “At least it’s a book they can have,” I sadly thought.
When the books arrived I held onto them. I didn’t even want to pass them out. Finally the right time appeared and each child got a book. I must admit that there is something pretty special to witness a child who doesn’t have books get a book to keep. This was only the third book this year that I gave to each of my students. I have learned something by this. When you give a child his or her own book, they are much more excited and willing to read it! Note to self. Give kids books.
As a class we began to read, The One and Only Ivan and slowly the magic began. The questions, the conversations, the wonderings were deep, insightful, beautiful, and yes, they were sad. Day after day we shared how sad we thought the story was … but we also agreed that we couldn’t stop reading. We had to find out what happened to Ivan and Ruby. They agreed that the pull on them was weird yet strong and that they wanted to read this sad book.
Before we finished and found out what happened we spent some time in class reflecting on ourselves as readers and writers. Parent teacher conferences were coming up and so end of trimester portfolio reflections had to be made. I enjoy watching kids think, write, and then share their reflections as readers and writers. Reflection is good. It’s good for teachers and it’s good for kids.
As I meandered my way around the room giving guidance and support I stopped by the desk of my most reluctant reader and watched as he wrote. He stopped and without looking up he asked, “Is open minded one word or two?” I told him two and asked him why. He was flustered. He didn’t know how to get what was in his head onto the paper. I encouraged him, “Just tell me what you are thinking and I’ll help you put your thoughts into words you can write on your paper.”
“I just want to be open minded,” he said. Wow, that’s what The One and Only Ivan did for this child.
“Read, read, and keep on reading,” I told him and as I said those words that I realized that I need to get a library of books into his home before summer comes. (More on that idea and action at the end of this post.)
As I finished the book I read through a part of Katherine Applegate’s Newbery Award Acceptance speech that was at the back of the book. It’s moving. Here is a link to that speech. Start at 11 minutes to hear what I feel is the most magical part of her speech, well really that part starts at 13 … https://ww.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaeWvSQw3tY
or if you prefer, here is her speech write up: https://alair.ala.org/bitstream/handle/11213/7972/2013-newbery-speech.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
“Children know all about sadness. We can’t hide it from them. We can only teach them how to cope with its inevitability, and to harness their imaginations in the search for joy and wonder. . . . Nothing, nothing in the world, can do that better than a book. Let’s keep our kid’s love of reading alive.” Catherine Applegate, Newbery Award Acceptance Speech. I found her words as moving as the words she writes in her stories for our children.
Sometimes sad stories awaken something that has long slept deep in our soul. So we must keep on sharing our love of reading with our children, sad or not.
**Action – If you would like to donate to the creation of a small home library for a bright and reluctant ten year boy please comment to me and I’ll get information to you or send a book to D.H., care of Mary Dunn… Albert S. Hall School, 27 Pleasant Street, Waterville, ME 04901. It doesn’t need to be a new book. Feel free to write an encouraging note inside to him. He needs to know that he is braver than he believes, is stronger than he seems, and is smarter than he thinks (taken from A.A. Milne) and that reading will get him to where he wants to be and open his mind to the unlimited possibilities before him. Thank you so very much. This could change his life, so much for the better.