Monday, October 17, 2016

never truly gone

Over the weekend I read Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier. My kids absolutely love anything by Raina Telgemeier, but I knew this particular book came with some controversy. Ghosts uses the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebration as a way for two sisters to explore their Mexican heritage and as a way to find solace in the younger sister's diagnosis of cystic fibrosis. It is a beautiful story of sisters and family.

The watered down version of the Day of the Dead used in the graphic novel, Ghosts, is there as an attempt to understand death, to honor the memory of ancestors, and to celebrate death the way we celebrate life... that when someone we love dies, they are not forgotten.

If Ghosts has done anything, it has made us as readers question how we use and absorb other cultures' celebrations (sometimes without cultural sensitivity) to tell our own stories. And I believe, when you know better you do better.

With the coming of Halloween, there will inevitably be some party goers who wear makeup and face paint to look like sugar skulls. Sugar skulls represent a departed spirit. Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of the dead to help support their spiritual journey. Families of the departed clean and decorate graves with ofrendas (altars). Perhaps this fall, we can honor Dia de los Muertos more authentically and not attempt to bend it to our idea of Halloween.

Young readers will love Ghosts. And hopefully it will start a conversation in your home about honoring those who have passed and knowing that when each of us does die, we are never truly gone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Some Writer!

"I wonder what I am going to be when I grow up?"

This week I read Some Writer! by Melissa Sweet. It's the new and wonderful, illustrated biography of E.B. White. Young readers and adults will absolutely love this book; it is a work of art. 

E.B. White was a compassionate person and an amazing writer. Where children have found a hero in the fictional Wilbur, so will they aspire to the originality of E.B. "Andy" White.

"I have discovered... that writing of the small things of the day, the trivial matters of the heart... was the only kind of creative work which I could accomplish with any sincerity or grace." - E.B. White

Melissa Sweet provides a beautiful glimpse into the life of a beloved author. Who doesn't remember reading the final chapter of Charlotte's Web, Last Day? I still can not get through this paragraph without tears:

"Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."

Young readers and writers will benefit from the handwritten manuscript pages included in this biography. The importance of iteration and editing, of word choice and simplicity is ideal.

"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

"There you have a short, valuable essay on the nature and beauty of brevity - sixty-three words that could change the world"   - from The Elements of Style 1959

This book could almost be called the perfect biography, as it encourages and entices the reader to dig around for more. If you haven't read Charlotte's Web or Stewart Little or The Trumpet of the Swan, you will be compelled to. If you have, a re-read feels in order. The Letters of E.B. White, Elements of Style fourth edition, Essays of E.B. White, In the Words of E.B. White, and E.B. White on Dogs will all find a place onto your to-be-read pile of books.

Get this book for every young reader you know this holiday season. It is the perfect gift for every E.B. White fan you know... or perhaps it is the perfect gift to give to make E.B. White fans of your dearest friends.
"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing."

"All I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world. I guess you can find that in there, if you dig around." - E.B. White