Over the course of the last year, I’ve watched the discourse around the global refugee crisis expand.
I’ve watched as we’ve divided ourselves onto tidy teams.
I’ve shared my opinions and perspective, on more than one occasion, and will continue to stand in solidarity with those seeking refuge from unimaginable horrors.
I’ve listened, really listened, as those on the other team explain their fears when it comes to welcoming refugees. I’ve come to understand that many who disagree with me share my compassion for those in crisis, but differ in opinion on how to help. Unfortunately, I’ve also come to understand that others don’t share my compassion at all, but that those voices are the minority. I refuse to cast a broad stroke over those with whom I disagree – that kind of thinking is at the root of most conflict.
So, I’m not writing today to try and recruit more members to my team (though, if you want to join, there are no try-outs and an unlimited number of spots).
I’m writing today to speak directly to my teammates. Consider this a pre-game pep talk.
Team – if you aren’t already aware of the tremendous work that the Compassion Collective is doing, please start here. And if you are aware, and have donated to this effort, read the update and see how you are making a difference.
The refugee crisis will not be solved by a singular government agency, or a non-profit organization. It is too big (but, unlike a bank, not considered too big to fail). It will be solved by a collective of individuals, agencies and political policies, and it will require small actions from large numbers of people.
And it’s working. Right now, the funds raised through the collective are feeding 6,500 people. Providing tents. Lanterns. Cell phones. Water. These funds are literally saving lives. Funds raised by people like you and me in no larger than $25 donations.
This past weekend, I attended a SCBWI conference on writing for children. I had the privilege of listening to Linda Sue Park, Newberry award winning author of A Single Shard, talk about the importance of story in transforming lives. She shared the story of Salva Dut, a lost boy of Sudan who came to the United States as refugee and orphan, was adopted, received an education and went on to found the agency Water for South Sudan. Linda Sue Park’s book, A Long Walk to Water, shares his story along with a fictional character, Nye, who represents the children in South Sudan. It’s a beautiful book, and one I recommend you share with your kids. I sat through her presentation blinking back tears, but when she shared that since the book’s publication, children around the US have collectively raised more than one million dollars for Water for South Sudan, they streamed down my face. Children all over this country, including those living in socio-economically depressed situations, were moved to action for their fellow humans. This is the power of story.
Please read the stories of refugees. Don’t turn away. I know it is painful to imagine, but it requires our collective imagination to solve this problem.
Image from Momastery
The Compassion Collective needs our help again. They need our small acts of great love. In the next hour or so, Glennon Melton and her team of love warriors (hint- that’s our team too) will be announcing a new initiative and we get to be a part of it. Are you ready?
And let’s talk about that $25 donation, because I know for some of you, that’s not pocket change. It may require sacrifice. Skipping a meal out or a night at the movies. Or adjusting the meal plan for the week to include a couple nights of rice and beans. A couple less shirts for the summer wardrobe. I think those things are worth saving a life. I hope you do too.
I’ll be back to share the link right here as soon as they announce their goal later this morning. But in the meantime team, let’s get ready for the game. It’s not going to be a short one. This isn’t a nine inning kind of deal. In fact, if you decide to be on the team of those who stand alongside refugees, you’ll be playing this game as long as you live. You may never see a final score. But you’ll see some home runs. You’ll see folks crossing the plate. And that has to be enough for us. It has to be enough to hold our own children tight, grateful that we don’t have to leave everything we know behind, and then take that gratitude and turn it into action for those who do. It has to be enough to get to play at all.
“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.” – Warsan Shire, continued here…
My very first post at All the Wonders is up today, and it’s been such a joy to work with this team of talented and creative people who love to talk about children’s literature as much as I do.
Today, I’m on the site exploring the theme of courage in Kate DiCamillo’s newest book, Raymie Nightingale. I adore Kate DiCamillo’s work. For me, she is right up there with Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume when I think of authors who authentically capture the heart of children in their writing. Her latest book is no exception, and I’d encourage you to pick up a copy to share with your kids. It’s a perfect summer read.
Raymie didn’t even have to think about the answer to this question.
“Yes,” she said.
Raymie Clarke is certain that absolutely everything depends on her. Everything having to do with getting her dad to come back home where he belongs, that is. And she has a plan. She is going to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, and when her dad sees her face in the newspapers, he will realize he has made a terrible mistake and come home.
Please visit All the Wonders to continue reading …
I love introducing readers to new books for kids, and today, I’m excited to introduce you to someone whose own love of children’s books inspires her music. Meet Emily Arrow!
Emily Arrow is a music educator, singer, and songwriter who has carved out her own musical niche she calls kidlit tunes. You already know how I feel about children’s books, and many of you have seen the plentiful ukuleles that adorn the walls of our home. So, when I first heard this talented, ukulele-strumming artist singing a song about Be a Friend, I became an immediate fan.
I had a chance to catch up with Emily and ask her a few questions about her music. She had some great things to share about her sources of inspiration, favorite books, and more.
What artists/singers/songwriters influence your music?
Music is a huge part of our family’s life. I started singing to my kids before they were born, and this blog is named after the Bob Dylan song that was our morning anthem all through their preschool years (though we usually sang the Elizabeth Mitchell version). Now our home is filled with instruments and music of all kinds. How do you encourage families to incorporate music into their daily lives? What about parents who don’t feel particularly musically-inclined themselves – any tips for sneaking more music into the day?
What was your favorite book or books growing up? What are some of your favorites now (that aren’t featured in music on this album)?
What’s your favorite part of performing for children?
Emily’s debut album, Storytime Singalong, features songs based on some truly delightful picture books including Louise Loves Art, The Curious Garden and The Dot as well as several original pieces. The sweet and memorable songs are a great way to extend the pages of picture books for your youngest readers.
It’s voting day in Missouri. In a couple of hours, I’ll head up to the polls to cast a vote in the presidential primary, after what felt like the longest campaign on record. And it’s not over yet. The behavior of the some of the candidates on the campaign trail has most of us ready for the finish line. I can’t open Facebook without seeing a parent bemoan the behavior of the current presidential candidates, and with fair reason. The content and conduct at the debates has been embarrassingly less than presidential, and the rhetoric off stage far worse. I’ve seen teachers say that their kindergartners have better manners and parents compare the tantrums of one candidate in particular to those of their toddlers.
So, of course, this made me think of children’s books. Wait, stay with me for a minute. Think about it. Our children learn so much through the books they read. As Kathleen Kelly so famously said in You’ve Got Mail, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” I believe this is true, and it also makes me wonder what kind of books a few of our candidates read as children.
Maybe they need to go back to the basics and pick up a picture book. They might learn a few valuable lessons they missed the first time around. Here are a few that come to mind:
“It’s okay to change and grow.”
The classic narrative arc of a picture book features a character who changes or grows over the course of the story. Maybe they change a previously held belief, or grow to unearth something they had within them the whole time.
In Julius, the Baby of the World, Lilly is unimpressed with her new baby brother Julius, but when another family member makes fun of him, she finds a fierce sisterly loyalty exists within her.
Without these character changes, we’d end with Max living with the wild things forever (and possibly being eaten up) or Lilly perpetually spiteful to a new sibling. It’s the characters’ capacity for change and discovery that makes them memorable and relatable.
Yet, in current American politics, to admit to a change of heart or policy in the face of new information or experiences is considered a weakness. We end up with a candidate doubling down on racist speech rather than owning mistakes. We end up with candidates refusing to confront their own past rather than admit to being a normal human being, capable of new ideas and discoveries.
Be like Max. Be like Lilly. Embrace change and growth.
“Show, don’t tell.”
Sometimes, our candidates do express a change of opinion, but it still rings untrue to voters. This is because they told us, but they didn’t show us.
The best children’s books let the readers come along for the ride of discovery. Rather than page after page of past tense narrative, they offer readers a chance to see the growth and change in the characters through their actions rather than their words.
In Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Mr. Tiger is tired of the way things have always been. He’s ready to leave behind convention and get a little….wild. The readers get to travel with Mr. Tiger as he sheds some of his formal self and heads into the wilderness on a path towards discovery. He doesn’t just say, “I’m tired of the way things are. I’m ready for them to change.” He changes himself, and in turn, the town is inspired to get in touch with their wild side too.
When candidates say they stand for something, but nothing in their records or personal history or even present behavior demonstrates what they say, it reads false. And we don’t believe them.
Be like Mr. Tiger. Show, don’t tell.
“Give the reader a reason to turn the page.”
Voters are looking for a leader who casts a compelling vision for the future and invites us to join in that course of action. Anyone can stand at a podium and talk about what they believe, but it is harder to cast a vision that is both inspiring and achievable.
In One Word From Sophia, Sophia wants a pet giraffe more than anything, and she has a plan to get one. She casts her vision to every member of her family, using the stories and language she knows will resonate with each of them. It’s a lofty goal, yet we keep turning the page and rooting for Sophia the whole time. She makes the readers believe in her vision by telling us exactly how she can achieve it, even if it seems a little too big to accomplish.
Our candidates could learn something from Sophia. Tell us what you want. Tell us how you plan to accomplish it. Spend less time explaining how someone else won’t be able to accomplish his or her vision and instead invite to us to come with you while you get the job done.
Be like Sophia. Cast a vision that keeps readers turning the pages.
There’s still six more months until the general election. Plenty of time for the candidates to pick up a few children’s books and learn something. Because President Squid, though a wonderfully funny read for our bookshelves, does not belong in the White House.
Some of you may remember when my oldest son Ronan became my first guest-blogger last year with his Ten Books for Ten-Year-Olds (Recommended by a Ten-Year-Old). I’m excited to welcome this voracious reader back again to share eleven books for eleven-year-olds, now that he’s a year older and hundreds of books deeper in his reading repertoire. Ronan recently started his own (private) blog in which he writes about cats, books, D&D, video games, and as he puts it, “all things geek.” I’m excited to have him here today!
Also, keep an eye out next week for my youngest son Liam’s first guest post – you guessed it – Nine Books for Nine-Year-Olds!
Hi, I’m Ronan and I’m here with a post that introduces eleven books I recommend for eleven-year-olds, or anyone of any age willing to expand their literary palates. Here they are, in no particular order.
The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak
by Brian Katcher
When an academic girl meets a fun-loving, nerdy boy at a comic con on a quest to find her lost brother, a series of strange events follows. A great book that references a lot of geek culture, including Star Wars, RPGs, trading card games and other geek stuff.
by Christopher Paolini
If you do not read this book you are missing out on a good portion of life. I named my cat after this book. Also, here is my cat:
The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker
The Age of Miracles is about a girl who faces the side effects of a world-wide catastrophe that effects the entire population. An awesome, if sometimes confusing book that is a must read for anyone that watches Doctor Who.
See You at Harry’s
by Jo Knowles
A very sad book about a girl named Fern who feels alone in a busy family managing a struggling ice cream business. When a family tragedy happens, Fern wonders if her family will ever find happiness again. Don’t forget your tissues!
by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
There are only two books so far in this series and I’m waiting for the next book. These are amazing books about a boy with an injured leg who is accepted into a school of magic. But it’s NOT Harry Potter! (Harry Potter is also awesome though). The books have a powerful plot and a surprising twist.
by Randall Munroe
A hilarious book in which web comic author Randall Munroe explains complicated stuff in simple words, like cells (“tiny bags of water”) or ISS (“shared space house”).
The Amazing Spider Man (the new version)
by Dan Slott (writer) and Humberto Ramos (illustrator)
Following an already dramatic story line, the Amazing Spider-Man learns new things about the spider that gave him his powers and the future of all of the Spider-Men in the world.
Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan
A beautiful book where a girl genius named Willow faces emotional struggles when her parents die. Again, with the tissues.
The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
A dystopian novel about an evil future in which the president has split the population into twelve districts. Every year, two children from each district must face each other in a fight to the death as a punishment for an earlier rebellion against the wealthy Capitol. When the main character Katniss learns that her sister has been chosen for the games, she volunteers to go in her place, setting off an unexpected series of events.
The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
This book has an amazing author and story in which a boy raised by ghosts tries to understand the world outside of the graveyard that is his home.
The Chronicles of Narnia
by C.S. Lewis
When a group of children find a wardrobe in a mansion where they are staying during the London Blitz, they are surprised that it leads to another world filled with magic and mystery. The children become unlikely heroes aided by a mystical talking lion who travel to stop villains from corrupting the magical land of Narnia.
“And then my doctor told me that this is just one of those things that happens to you when you are middle-aged,” my friend said, staring wide-eyed at me and our other friend, “Middle aged!”
We all took a big drink of the wine we were holding. I don’t think the fact that we were out celebrating our 37th birthdays was lost on any of us. And while I certainly don’t think or feel that 37 is old, it’s also fair to describe it as nearing middle-aged. It’s nearing half of the US life expectancy. Mid-life.
And boy, does our culture have some things to say about mid-life. Mainly, that mid-life results in crisis.
“Did you hear that Jerry just sold all of his belongings to go travel the country in an RV for year? He’s clearly having a mid-life crisis.”
“Nancy quit her job and became a teacher. A teacher! She just walked away from a fifteen year career for a fifty percent pay cut to hang out with five-year olds. Total mid-life crisis.”
“All Greg does when he gets home from work is paint things. These like, giant paintings of, I don’t even know what they are. He probably needs a therapist, not a paint brush.”
“Mike joined an a cappella men’s chorus. Seriously. He wears suspenders and goes to concerts on the weekend to sing for other people. For free. I mean, if he were really talented and getting paid, that would be totally different. He’s obviously having some sort of mid-life crisis.”
You’ve probably heard the whispers. Or maybe in your family or circle of friends, they aren’t even whispers, but loud and shameless proclamations. Either way, it seems that some of us stand ready to label the less than conventional choices of any human being between the ages of 30 and 60 a crisis.
I think it’s time for a little rebranding.
The problem with the word crisis is that we’ve long misused it in our culture. Crisis means “ “a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention.”
When we gossip about someone’s so-called mid-life crisis we are usually considering the new choice to be the situation that needs serious attention.
The truth is, most of these choices do in fact stem from a situation that needs serious attention, namely the state of the person’s life or heart or soul before they make the decision that is being labeled the crisis.
The situation that needs serious attention is that so many of us are buried under the daily requirements of adult life – the job, the bills, the parenting and the planning. It happens slowly, like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, until one day we wake up and realize that we may have just reached the halfway point, and there are still some things we’d like to to do. To make. To see. Or that we’d simply like to live the rest of our lives more awake.
There’s this beautiful line in Joe Versus the Volcano (Wait… keep reading! Don’t leave just because I love Joe Versus the Volcano!) in which one of the characters says, “My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”
|Seriously, give Joe Versus the Volcano another chance. It’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and there’s a volcano and a ukulele. What’s not to love?|
I think that’s true. I think few of us manage to hold onto wonder throughout our lives. I think we wake to glimpses of it, and some can grab onto those glimpses and stretch them into seasons. Some even turn seasons into years. But to live awake is a laudable goal, one we should applaud, not condemn. When our friends and family members make choices that allow them to shed some parts of their former selves, or societal expectations, or even self-imposed ones, in order to live a life that is more fully aligned with their gifts, their joy, their wonder, that is something to celebrate.
Now, I realize that some mid-life crises are in fact true crises, particularly when they result in the emotional ruin of another human. I’m not talking about celebrating someone’s mid-life affair or mid-life gambling addiction. But I am suggesting that we pipe down a bit about choices that look different than our own, choices that result in someone living a little differently than we live, or choosing to make less money than we make, or spending free time differently than we’d spend it. Before labeling these things a crisis, maybe we should take a moment to reflect on what that person might be waking up to, and what we’re sleeping through in our own lives.
To the couple who sold their belongings and spent the last year working from the road in an RV – you are not in crisis. You are awakening to your sense of adventure.
To the man who left his job to work for a start-up non-profit bringing water to those in need – you are not in crisis. You are awakening to the need of the world, and your own capacity to meet it.
To the mama who joined the roller derby team – you are not in crisis. You are awakening to a need for novelty and friendship, empowerment and strength. Also you’re a badass.
I think we need new name here. I’m not much of a marketing strategist, but crisis just doesn’t do it for me. Mid-life awakening? Mid-life adventure? Mid-life reboot? Help me out here readers. What have you got?
In the meantime, I’m eagerly awaiting my mid-life “crisis.”
I welcome it with big, wide, open arms.
As long as it doesn’t involve running marathons. Or jumping in volcanoes. And I wouldn’t complain if it involved living at the beach.