Tuesday, December 9, 2014

doodle swapping

One of the great miracles of fiction is that it allows us to occupy the heart and head of someone else.
Kate DiCamillo, Library of Congress’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

I recently took a really long drive to buy a rug.  I arranged to meet with a woman I had never met in a parking lot.  Together, we lifted a very heavy rolled rug out of her car, placed it in the parking spot between our two cars, and unrolled it.

There was no body in it, I swear.

Taking a careful look, it was obvious the rug was dirty and had a few stains.  And I noticed a slight smell.  But I had driven a really long way.  And the price was very good.  And the pattern of the rug was the exact same pattern as one we already had at home that needed a friend in order to more completely cover our bedroom floor.  And I know how to get my hands on a rug shampooer.  So I bought it.  We rolled it up together and lifted it into my car.  And I handed her the roll of cash I had in my pocket.  And I hopped back in my car, turned back on my audiobook, and headed back north.

In the end, I got myself a $2,000 rug for $200.  It is airing itself on the porch and soon we will wrestle it inside and give it a washing.

But the real gift? I got three hours to myself alone in a car with an audiobook.  That I had chosen myself.  I sometimes find connecting to online audiobooks in the car difficult and therefore had taken two audiobooks on CD out of the library.  That day I listened to Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, by Chris Bohjalian.  I am a fan.  And I am a bit traumatized by the book, and for me, this is a good thing in an adult read.  And by that I mean I can't stop thinking about it, am troubled by it.  That it has affected the way I look at people this week, made me think about their lives as I drive about town chauffeuring children, doing errands, and doing some holiday shopping.  I find myself looking a bit more into the eyes of some of the people just outside my car windows, or around the public library where I ran in to get Julia a few options for her next independent reading book.  But everywhere, really.

And so, it has been a week of reading.  Reading books and reading faces.  With the pain and suffering that I was listening to in the car when alone, I needed a lighter read before bed, so I finally got to The Swap, by Megan Shull.  Julia had read it months ago and wanted me to read it.  As I threw myself into the minds of those around me, due to reading Close Your Eyes, The Swap was a perfect, less disturbing, but just as wonderfully thought provoking a read.  Especially since I knew Julia had loved it, had been heard giggling uncontrollably from the back of the minivan on a road trip while reading it, and she has asked me every couple days since to read it so we could talk about it.  And so, as I read The Swap I found myself trying to put myself in Julia's mind, reading it in order to discover a bit of why she had loved it so.  That is a wonderfully rich way to read a book as well, not just putting yourself into the characters, but also into a reader, seeing the story through her eyes.

Back to my trip to the library.  I searched around and got Julia a stack of possible books for her to choose from.  And had the stack on the counter for her to look through when she got home from school.

In the end she chose Nature Girl, by Jane Kelley.  We had a little adventure of our own this summer related to the Appalachian Trail, and this book appealed to her because the trail is central to the story.  She snatched it from the pile and climbed under a blanket on the couch and started reading.

For myself that day I had snatched this book, photographed on my new rug.  In which I am reading information and stories and scoops about children's book authors.  Reading the stories behind the children's books written by the authors featured in it.  It's another layer of reading a story, another perspective that can be taken to make the story richer.

That day at the library I had also grabbed the last of the Flying Beaver Brother's books that Elliott had not yet read.  Thank goodness there is a new one coming out in a few months.

I keep holding my breath, hoping that nothing is going to take away his pleasure in reading graphic novels or detract from the visual literacy that is such a strength for him, something these books allow him to enjoy and develop.  I am going to plow forward and will likely take on anyone who might try to steer him toward text-only reads.  His reading journal is becoming a graphic novel itself, with his doodles of the books holding just as important a place as the log entries on each page.

We started with Bird and Squirrel.

And then moved on to the Flying Beaver Brothers.

As I watched him work on the white board while I made dinner that night, I realized this book inspired doodling is just another way of throwing yourself into the book.  Just as I am doing with characters in my own books and putting myself in the place of Julia the reader as I read her books, Elliott is putting himself into the visual part of the story.  By recreating the scenes and their styling and color palette, he is also putting himself into the hands of the illustrator.

Julia watched him work for a bit and then couldnt stand it anymore and grabbed his book and jumped into the story herself.

Elliott and I have plans to work through the Lunch Lady series next, having tried the first Amulet book a few weeks ago but finding it to be a bit less joyful and a little more arduous that we had hoped, the text reading part of it for him.

The next morning, as I packed up his reading log for school I took one more look and realized this swapping of ourselves into the characters and readers and stories and illustrations is contagious.  

I noticed that Elliott's teacher was beginning to respond not just to his text information in his log, but also to the doodling.

And so now I am also getting the chance to read the story of their growing relationship as she reads his reading, too.

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