Coda: Silver Linings

Like many others, I’m sure, I seem to spend much of my time looking for silver linings.

After years of no travel, my husband and I have both started to travel for our respective work again – and the kids really aren’t used to it. They’re doing well, but it’s hard. So tonight I found myself reading picturebooks to both of them, the nearly 8 year old as well as the newly-minted 4 year old. And it was one of those silver linings.

The 4 year old chose two books, Nen and the Lonely Fisherman which I reviewed in my last post and Fiona’s Luck; and then the nearly 8 year old added Grace for President. What riches! All books I’ve reviewed before and all books that I love to read with them.

It was my son’s first time reading Nen, and it was a joy to see his quiet delight in it. He quickly spotted the repeating rhythms, ‘A gasp … A kick … A splash … Could it be …?’ echoing the earlier refrain ‘A ripple … A shimmer … A flicker … Could it be …?’  and then we looked together at the two pages where Nen dives down, first lonely, then searching. And we spent a while studying the illustrations – my son loves to draw, so we speculated on what James Mayhew had used, coloured pencils, perhaps pastel to give the stronger colours, the dashes of gold in Nen’s tail, the stormy water. My son is currently resolute in only using pencils, so perhaps he can be persuaded of the benefits of mixed media to produce the colour intensity he’s after.

It’s a long time since I reviewed Fiona’s Luck, but it’s a book that I always find great pleasure in reading – there is such satisfaction in Fiona’s quick-wittedness. With the Folk Tales in New Fiction course ongoing, of course I now notice the use of classic form and style to tell this story, the repeating patterns of three, the acceptance of magic. And I can see how reading children’s stories is teaching me more about writing and story-telling.

Grace for President is always a wonderful book to read – as I noted in my earlier review, this book conveys so much complex information in such a fun, inspiring story. Grace’s declaration ‘Where are the GIRLS?’ has become my daughter’s mantra for stories, a 4 year old’s version of a Bechdel or Mako Mori test.

Thank you, books and writers and illustrators of books, for these silver linings.

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