Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Every Book Has Three Stories

They are gone. All four of them are finally back to school. They have been home for 9 days straight...two weekend days, one holiday, three snow days, one teacher workday, two more weekend days...put it all together and you get one long break at home. I love snow days. I loved them when I was a kid, I loved them when I was a teacher, and I love them now. But it was time for the kiddies to get back into a routine. 

After dropping off the high schooler, I sat down at the computer, went through emails, wrote some activities into my plan book and then watched the ALA (American Library Association) Awards on a webstream. Today is the day they announced the Newbery Award and the Caldecott Award amongst a number of other awards. Yes, the nerdy book lady in me finds this exciting. It may not be the Golden Globes or the Grammys, but it is exciting none the less. I'm always anxious to see if one of the winners is a book that I have read during the year. Last year, The One and Only Ivan had won the Newbery and not only did I read it, but Molly, Ryan and Timmy had all read it as well. 

This year the winner is Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. I read this book when it first came out and fell in love with the story. I actually have read all of her novels. Molly read it after me, loved it, and gave it to a friend in her class so she could read it over Christmas break. I also told Molly's class about the book and how great of a story it was and then sure enough, I saw a library copy on one desk the next time I visited. Another little girl told me that she got a copy at the book fair. Book talks and word of mouth is one of the best ways to get kids to read. 

I haven't read to Molly's class since before Christmas break. We have had so many snow days and the class' schedule is getting fuller with more demands of things that need to get taught that there just hasn't been time to read. I needed to touch base with Molly's teacher about a new time that she wanted me to come in, so I stopped by the classroom at the end of the day to go over her schedule. I was only there for about 10 minutes as the kids packed up their backpacks and waited for their buses to be called, but it was the best 10 minutes of my day. I hadn't seen them since December, but as soon as they saw me, they were so eager to tell me what they were reading. One little girl had a whole list, "Mrs. Nealon, I'm reading One for the Murphys right now, but when I'm done with that one I'm going to read Gingersnap and then Counting by 7's." She had a plan. She had a to-be-read pile. They were so excited to tell me about the books they are reading and I was so excited to tell them that Flora and Ulysses won the Newbery. In just those 10 minutes, that time when they were packing up, that time that may be looked upon as wasted time, was filled with book talk. They asked me when I was coming back to read. I told them that I would be in this week and that I would read part of Flora and Ulysses. I told them that I already ordered them a copy of the book for the classroom and would bring it in as soon as it came in. I felt their excitement and energy and it just brought a smile to my face.

Today I read a post on the Nerdy Book Club blog that read, 

"Every book has three stories - the one it tells, the story behind it, and what happens when it connects with readers."

This is amazingly true. It was a light bulb, an "ah ha" moment for me. Of course, every books tells a story, but if I really love a book, I usually then google the author, see if they have a website, try to find out the story behind the story. This was true after reading The One and Only Ivan. I found out that there was a real Ivan that was the inspiration for the book and that he lived in the Atlanta Zoo until he died in August of 2012. I found the second story of the book. 

The third story, is my story. About me sharing the book with my kids. About dinner conversations about the book. About reading it to Molly's class. About how they were so excited on Thursday afternoons to hear what was going to happen next. About creating our own mural, one like Ivan had made it the book. This was our story, the third story.

The third story, the one that connects the book to the reader I think is the most important one. There is one story in the pages of the book, but there are thousands, millions of stories that can be told about how the book connected to all its readers. We all have our individual book story which then becomes our memories. I remember my mom reading bedtime stories to me. I remember The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew being a favorite and reading it over and over again. I remember her reading chapter books aloud to us when we got older, The Prince and the Pauper, The Black Stallion, and Black Beauty, usually during the summer time to try to keep the reading going while we weren't in school. I remember the first time a friend recommended a book to me and then loving it and then reading all the books in the series. I can remember reading certain books at certain times of year and where I was while I was reading them. I can remember which books I read on the beach in Kiawah, which books I read late at night snuggled in my own warm bed, and which books I read in carlines, dentist appointments and waiting at soccer practices.

Now my book memories are with my kids. I can tell you which books they loved to hear over and over again when they were little, and now that they are older, we talk about the books that we read. When I ask them, "What are you up to in your book?" They know not to tell me a page number, but a summary of what they just read, especially if they know I have read the book as well.

Molly and I especially have created our own book memories. After reading Matilda, we went to New York to see the show on Broadway. We went with my sister-in-law and Molly's cousin, memories were made. 

After reading From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see all the places that were mentioned in the book. Memories were made.

And sometimes just visiting a place that is in a book, creates a memory.

Right now, Molly and I are reading Boy by Roald Dahl. It is a memoir of his childhood. What's on Molly's and my bucket list is a trip to London. She has a thing for England. We just finished the third Mary Poppins book. She loves Roald Dahl books. I would love to bring her to England to see the places that are mentioned in the books we have read. I would love to bring her to the Roald Dahl museum and to see the  musical Willy Wonka playing in the West End. Ah, but to dream. It won't be happening any time soon, so we will just have to continue to travel there through our books. 

“When we read together—when a grandfather reads to a granddaughter, when a teacher reads to a classroom, when a parent reads to a child, when a sister reads to a brother, when everyone in a town reads the same book silently, together—we are taken out of our aloneness. 
Together, we see the world. Together, we see one another. 
We connect. 
And when we connect, we are changed.”
~Kate DiCamillo, Author of Flora and Ulysses

You can find all the winners and honor books from the awards here.

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