One of the things that seems to be happening in many of the public schools, at least in my neck of the woods, is that there is such a focus on test scores, reading levels, and facts that we are spending less time encouraging our children to think and create. Childhood is a time where many children still believe in the power of stories and where their imaginations run wild. But between the presence of technology and the odd over-scheduling we can’t seem to escape from, kids often don’t get to experience the creative bursts that come from boredom. Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby’s story, Yokki and the Parno Gry, is a tale that highlights the power and wonder of a child’s imagination.
Yokki and the Parno Gry is a tale about the Romani people and the power of storytelling. In the same way Evan Turk’s book, The Storyteller, has the art of telling a story as the item that saved a people in their time of need, so too does Yokki’s story save his family. What sets this book apart from anything else I’ve seen is that it focuses ono the Romani culture and traditions, something we rarely see presented in books in a positive light. Continue reading →
“There is a unique kind of magic that comes from hearing a story told. With only the power of a voice, an entire world can be created. Suddenly, the audience becomes the hero, the villain, or the magic djinn commanding the desert sand storm.”
So says Evan Turk in the author’s note to his book The Storyteller. Apparently, it is also an old Moroccan saying that “when a storyteller dies, a library burns.” I thought that sharing this book on Read Across America day was especially important.
There is power in telling a story, especially to an audience. While we now have easy access to books, television, movies and so on, we have historically learned from tales passed down orally from generation to generation. Stories teach us the ways of our cultures and feed our souls. Evan Turk shows that feeling in a literal way through this vivid tale.
Long ago, the kingdom of Morocco was formed on the edge of the great, dry Sahara. It had fountains of water to quench the thirst of the desert and storytellers to bring the people together. But just like everywhere else, modernity came and people soon forgot their storytellers and the land soon became parched.
As a young boy walks home, searching for water, he is given a brass cups from a water seller in the hopes that he might just be lucky enough to find something. What he finds is an old storyteller who calls out to him, assuring him that his thirst will be quenched if he listens to a story. The storyteller spins a tale of the terrible drought and how one family always had enough water to share. The young boy is enthralled, and by the time the old man has finished speaking, the boy’s cup is miraculously filled with cool water.
Through the power of a magical brass cup and the voice of a storyteller, a young boy once again learned the history of his people and slowly brought water back for his own parched thirst. What he didn’t realize was that not only was he physically thirsty for water, he was spiritually thirsty as well.
At the same time that the storyteller is weaving the story for the young boy, a sandstorm is forming. Just as the boy is quenching his thirst with the power of the story, the sandstorm comes to destroy the city in the form of a djinn. He has the power to destroy the city because the fountains have run dry and the fountains have run dry because the people have stopped listening to the storytellers. The boy, realizing the power that the story holds, tricks the djinn into listening to a story before destroying the land. It takes him multiple days to tell the story, but through the power of his tale and the fact that he is telling it in front of an ever expanding audience, the boy refills the city’s fountains and quenches the physical and metaphysical thirsts making the djinn powerless.
As the author notes, “Morocco, like countries all over the world, including the United States, is at a crossroads where the future threatens to eclipse what is beautiful about the past.” Evan Turk gave us a beautiful reminder to keep the past alive through the power of a good story.
The Storyteller was a beautiful book with haunting illustrations. You can also get a sense of it from the following trailer. May we continue to shine a light on the power of the story.
We are obviously a house of book lovers. As such, we are also huge devotees to the public library. J devours books as fast as she can get her hands on them, so if it wasn’t for the library, our house would be overwhelmed by piles of books and we would have no money left for anything else. This is an inherited trait. I love my books and also rely heavily on the library to get my fix. I’ve actually been toying with the idea of getting my MLIS and becoming a librarian in some fashion once the girls have grown a bit.
So it made my heart smile when J came home from her first day going to media studies at school a few weeks ago (she is in year round), and she couldn’t stop talking about the book that the librarian read to them – The Library Dragon. Of course, that sparked my thinking about how great it would be to put together a post of books about the library and about a love of books. This of course is not a complete list, it is only a great jumping off point. Funny thing is, while I was prepping this post, the wonderful website No Time For Flashcards also did a post about picture books about reading. Some of our books overlap and some don’t. So right away, there is another great list for you to check out.
The Library Dragon, by Carmen Agra Deedy, is a wonderful book about Miss Lotta Scales, a thick skinned school librarian who doesn’t want any of the children to touch her library books for fear that they will get them dirty or put them back in the wrong place. Order is of the utmost importance to this dragon and she doesn’t care if the children stop coming into the library simply because they fear her and her outrageous rules. She doesn’t even believe in story time! Then one day a little girl wanders into the library looking for her glasses and starts reading a book that falls off the shelf. Children heard her from the hall and outside the windows and followed the sound like the children following the pied piper. Miss Lotta Scales took the book from the little girl, inspected it, saw that it was still in great condition and began to read it to the children herself. As she read, a magical thing started to happen – her scales began to fall to the floor until all that was left was Miss Lotty, librarian and storyteller. It’s a wonderful tale to start a conversation about how to treat library books, how to act in the library, and the power of storytelling. J absolutely loved it.
Library Mouse, by Daniel Kirk, might very well be one of our favorite books. Sam is a library mouse who lives in the children’s section of a local library. When the library is open, Sam sleeps, but when the library is closed he comes out of his hole and reads all of the books. One night Sam decides to write a book of his own and leave it in the library. So starts Sam’s foray into the world of being an author. When the librarians want to meet the elusive Sam he comes up with an idea to show all of the library patrons that anyone can write a book. It is a wonderful book about the power of reading and the power of storytelling. J says that she would like to be a library mouse because it would be amazing to live in the library! We also highly recommend one of the follow-up books, Library Mouse – A world to explore.
But Excuse Me That is My Book, by Lauren Child is another in the great Charlie and Lola series. In this book, young Lola wants to go to the library to get her most favorite book – “Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies.” Charlie tries to encourage her to pick out a new book since she has checked this one out over and over, but Lola is adamant. When they get to the library, however, someone else has taken that book off the shelf already. Charlie explains that this is how libraries work and that it isn’t her personal book. He shows her how the library is filled with books about so many topics, but nothing fits her. She finally tries another book and realizes that she loves that as well. We love Charlie and Lola and their unusual way of looking at the world and explaining things. This is a great view of how we pick books and use the library.
In Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t), by Barbara Bottner, the little girl telling the story is not a fan of books. Miss Brooks, the school librarian, tries to get everyone as excited about books as she is, but this little girl just can’t find one that she likes. When each child is supposed to pick their favorite book for book week, she just doesn’t know what to do. Miss Brooks supplies her with a wide variety to choose from, but she doesn’t like any of them. When her mother tells her that she is as stubborn as a wart, she finally lights up. “I want to read a story with warts!” So her mom finds Shrek! and she is hooked. I can’t imagine a reluctant reader, but this story really speaks to the fact that there are all kinds of books out there, you just have to find the ones that your little reader loves.
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum is Library Lily, by Gillian Shields. Lily loves reading. She loves it so much, in fact, that she forgets to do much else. When she first visited the library it was like going on an adventure. Her mom wanted her to have other adventures and took her to the park one day and encouraged her to leave her book behind. Rather than playing, Lily read the signs until she meets Milly who asks what she was doing. Milly explains that she hates reading and likes to do lots of other things like playing, climbing and exploring. Milly shows Lily that there is a world outside of books and Lily shows Milly that books can be fun too. The two become best friends and after they explore the world around them, Lily writes a book about their adventures. This is a great book for readers like mine who sometimes need a reminder that there are other things to do then read a book (gasp!).
In Beverly Billingsly Borrows a Book, by Alexander Stadler, children learn the importance of returning a book to the library on time. Beverly is super excited to get her very own library card and check out her first book. As she is finishing the book, she realizes that she kept the book one extra day. But she doesn’t know what happens to someone who is late with their book and she gets nervous and is afraid to return it. After having nightmares about the overdue book, her mother takes her to the library where the librarian kindly says, “it’s only a couple of days late, dear. We won’t worry about it. Just try to be more careful next time.” It is a very sweet book letting kids know that they can’t keep a book forever, but that they won’t lose their library card or go to jail for turning a book in late.
I.Q. Goes to the Library, by Mary Ann Fraser, is a book about a mouse who is learning about the library. IQ is the class mouse in Mrs. Furber’s class. One Monday the class finds out that it is library week and every day that week they will be going to the library. Each day, IQ learns something new about the library while searching for the funny book that was read to the class on the first day. Also peppered through the pages are “Mrs. Binder’s Reminders” – librarian’s tips for library behavior. IQ learns to love the library and not only finds the book he is looking for, but manages to get his own library card. A great book for showing all of the parts of the library – fiction, non-fiction, magazines , computers etc. while also imparting some important rules to follow.
The Shelf Elf, by Jackie Mims Hopkins, is a good book about learning library rules. Skoob is a Shelf Elf who is trying to win the Golden Shelf Elf Award. He earns it by taking care of the books in the library and encouraging children to behave to use proper library manners like being quiet, using shelf markers and treating the books kindly. Many pages have rules about library etiquette and Skoob himself is learning what is allowed to do in the library. This would be a great book to read to kids at the beginning of the year.
Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian, by Jessica Spanyol, tells the story of young Carlo the giraffe and his first experience at the library. When he first meets Mrs. Chinca, the librarian, he is a bit afraid of her, but then he is amazed at how much she knows about books. She shows him around the library, helps him find books and reads him stories. This book is a wonderful tribute to the awesome children’s librarians out there!
Speaking of awesome children’s librarians, Librarian on the Roof, by M.G. King, is based on the true story of RoseAleta Laurell who took to the roof of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, TX on October 16, 2000 to raise money for the children’s section at the oldest library in Texas. Ms. Laurell didn’t conform to anyone’s old notions of a quiet librarian and wanted to see people and children using her library. In order to raise money, RoseAleta Laurell camped out on the top of the library dome for a number of days to raise the money and her efforts got the community to come together and raise funds for the library. Now they have a busy children’s section and a fully utilized library so that everyone can share in the power of reading!
I love it when books show that librarians are not the mousy old ladies depicted by movies and television shows. Library Lil, by Suzanne Williams, introduces readers to a librarian who read her way through the library as a child and was destined to become a librarian, she also happens to have superhuman strength. Her speciality was storytelling, but when she started a storytime at her first library, no one came. She was in a town where everyone was glued to the television and didn’t take the time to read. Lil was determined to get people into her library and away from the television. When the power goes out one night, Lil brings her bookmobile to all of the townspeople and got them all reading. After 2 weeks without power, “the townspeople had solidly formed the habit of reading.” When some bikers come to town one gets annoyed that the local pool hall doesn’t have a TV. The bikers wind up losing a bet to Lil and get turned into readers themselves. This is a really funny story that highlights the “power” of reading.
Finally, Miss Smith’s Incredibly Storybook, by Michael Garland is a wonderful tale about a magical book that truly brings stories to life. It isn’t about a library, but it is a great book about books and the power of storytelling. Miss Smith is an unusual teacher whose storybook brings characters to life. Her classroom literally gets swept up in whatever tale she is telling. When she is late one day, the principal begins to read from her book is frightened by the characters that pop out. The children begin to read from the book and characters from a variety of stories come out as they skip from story to story not finishing any of them. Soon, the school is being overrun by storybook characters. Miss Smith returns to class and gets all of the characters back by finishing each of their stories. It was a really fun book. Even more, I had heard of this series before and have now just ordered Miss Smith’s Under the Ocean which I think might be even better!
Books are seriously magical. They whisk you away to other worlds. They teach you about new things and new people. They challenge the way that you think and encourage you to be creative. If you have other books about libraries or books, let me know. We are always on the lookout for something good!