I recently spent time with sixty-plus bright, kind, darling third graders. Their teachers told me they were studying figurative language, so the stage was perfectly set for some metaphor-simile-onomatopoeic-fun.
Our first book got us off to a rollicking start when we unitedly answered the question posed by three cartooned cows in the title, "Is Everyone Ready For Fun?”. And fun we had as we joined the bovine trio as they "plopped, danced, wiggled and (finally) napped on a sofa belonging to a rather irritated chicken.
At first glance, this gem of book seems so simple - four animals, one sofa and groups of basic words that repeat from beginning to end. But like all fine picture books, there is more than what appears at first look. Good books change us in some way. Our first book made us laugh. Our next one made us think.
Our second book was a visual feast of everyday objects used as clever illustrations depicting a typical family that was ripe with figurative language. Where else could one find a dad who is as jumpy as a spring or a dog that smells like dirty socks? A salute to author/illustrator Hanoch Piven for his fine work that left us all ready to make our own family portraits, punctuated with metaphors and similes.
Our first book made us laugh, our next book made us think, so we were primed and ready for a book to touch our hearts – “All The Places to Love” by Patricia MacLachlan. Her words are both beautiful and evocative. We lingered over phrases that included, “black crows that swaggered like pirates.” And Mike Wimmer's oil painted illustrations left us breathless – their realistic details are stunning.
It was hard for me to leave those third graders. That's how I feel whenever I'm with children - of all ages. They have so much to give us, so much to teach us, as long as we are willing to do our part. We must remind ourselves to stop and give them our time and attention. Their needs are different than ours as adults. They need more than a quick response and then be sent on their merry way. They need and deserve our time, attention and enjoyment. It’s the only way they’re going to grow into the adults our community and world need.
So to those sweet third graders and their amazingly talented, loving teachers, I say, "Thank you. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your day." It was exactly what I needed and deeply appreciated. And my invitation to you is always open ... come see me at the library. Let's spend some time together.