We all have sweet picture books that carry us back to the innocent days of early reading and childhood. Mine are:
My parents instilled a love for reading from an early age, settling all doubt in our minds by setting the example themselves. Merely seeing these books casts visions in my memory of freshly bathed little girls clad in footsie pajamas scrambling to be the first in mama's lap for bedtime stories. The books themselves had a place of influence in our young, impressionable minds.
Mama was determined that Ernie Gets Lost would keep us from ever leaving her sight in the vast abyss of department stores. As the competitive, sly middle child that I am, I remember relating to the egocentric behaviors of the rotten red cat, Ralph. Our own mother's favorite children's picture story is Are You My Mother?. To this day, I fight back tears as I rejoice with the little bird when he finds his true mother at the end of the story. Just as the little bird discovered: no other animal, machinery, or thing can ever replace my mother. Lastly, the beautiful illustrations and sense of warmth that comes with reading Miss Rumphius brought my eager child's mind back to it time and time again. (It's also a longer story, so reading it meant prolonging lights-out time. Deceptive middle child...told'ya.)
So what's with the trip down memory lane?
You can imagine my sense of nostalgia when I recently came across a copy of Miss Rumphius in a reader I have for teaching. If you have never read the story, it's about a young girl, Alice Rumphius. She has two dreams for her life:
1. to travel to faraway places and
2. to live by the sea.
Her wise, old grandfather tells her that those things are good and nice, but she must do one more thing:
3. make the world more beautiful.
Miss Rumphius moves away to live by the sea, working at a library. Working at the library reminds her of her dream to travel to faraway places. She lives on a tropical isle and sees the vast mountains and deserts of the world. Illness forces her to settle back by the sea. In her misery she remembers that she still has to fulfill her dream of making the world more beautiful. Through chance and happenstance, she remembers her love for lupines and decides that the best way to make the world more beautiful is to spread lupine seeds throughout her little corner.
As I read and reread this beautiful story of adventure and kindness to my students, I couldn't help but think about the relation in my own life. I have traveled to faraway places, and I live by the sea. As for making the world a more beautiful place...more on that later.