Friday, February 7, 2014

lessons from the snowy day

Friday, February 7, 2014
Ezra Jack Keats pictured with Madeline L'Engle-they won the Newbery and Caldecott awards in 1963.  What an auspicious year! 

I'll be the first one to tell you that the joys and pleasures obtained from reading a good book are not exclusive to that age of adulthood when you can truly comprehend its value.  I've written before on my mother's tendency to hold back certain books from me until I was deemed "ready" to read them.  Most of the time, this had little or nothing to do with the book's more mature content, but rather my mother's desire that I be at a point in my life when I could really appreciate it.  Of course, she was right, 100% of the time.  I am quite sure that I would not have given Lonesome Dove the proper respect had I devoured it when I first heard about it, for example, and I'm certainly glad that I never met Pat Conroy's novels until I was an actual adult.

Though books and literature hold great significance in my life, and I happily tout the importance of exposing children to good books at a young age, I never dwelled much on the idea of being "ready" for a children's book.  I am well-versed on the classics, and I can probably list at least forty Caldecott and/or Newbery winners from the last century.  There is no elementary classroom library in which I wouldn't feel completely comfortable.  Yet, I have neglected to consider some of these wonderful books as instructive and meaningful to me now, in my current state of life as a youngish mom of a boisterous toddler.  It took, of all things, a special anniversary edition of The Snowy Day to inspire me to pay a bit more attention when I am reading to my little one.

Granted, the story itself, with its beguiling, simple watercolor illustrations was not in and of itself what inspired this post.  It was this quote, which appeared in the special section at the end of the book, that really captured my attention.

I realize now that we have so many levels of experience that even when we are despairing and we feel cut off and alone, other, life-saving forces are working through the sadness.  Like strata of water in hard rock.  Where do they come from?  Sometimes I would feel that life was one vast desert, relentless, remorseless, and I could pick up a stone and water would spurt out.  Hidden fountains of feeling we carry inside us, and we don't know it.  I wonder what ripples of laughter and joy and love are buried-to surface one day just as the meaning of Peter's pictures had finally emerged for me.
Isn't that beautiful?  I loved the notion of "hidden fountains of feeling" and the idea that hope and joy and wonder are present even in the midst of the harder times of our lives that will inevitably come.  I suppose it's that idea of wonder that comes across so eloquently in The Snowy Day, which  depicts Peter's day in a slow, quiet fashion, yet never strays from giving the reader the strong sensation of how each little moment of his day, even something as simple as tapping a snow-covered tree with a stick, filled him with awe.

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