Book magic

Elisabeth recommended it, and Catherine had a copy. I committed to exploring graphic novels this year, so I read it. I liked Hey, Kiddo a lot – well enough to recommend it – but it didn’t knock my socks off. Still, I decided to book talk it in my class because many of my readers are either artists or are reading lots of graphic novels right now: It seemed like a good fit.

Hey, Kiddo

Some books get immediate love in my class – two or three sets of hands reach for them as I finish talking, and the kids have to work out who gets to read first; others languish – I set them near their intended target, but the book stays firmly closed; this book snuck away from me – a student picked it up when I wasn’t looking, and I had to glance around the room to see where it was.

I wish I could say that I was thinking of this student specifically when I gave the book talk, but truthfully, I had a few kids in mind. Only after I saw J caress the cover as he slipped the book into his backpack did it occur to me that this book might be the right book.

He savoured it over the next few days, lingering over some of the images, writing about it during a free write, rereading certain sections. The book was clearly speaking to him. At the end of the week, I swapped out my friend’s copy for a copy I’d picked up from the public library. After all, I needed to return the book to my friend. J was fine with this so long as he could keep reading.

This weekend, as I was returning the book, I told my friend Catherine – who is also a teacher – how much J loved the book. I told her about the journal and the careful attention. Her response was immediate: “Give it to him.” I was startled – graphic novels aren’t cheap – but Catherine insisted, “If it’s changing his life, he should have it. It’s too mature for my students anyway.”

I gave J the book today. Busses had been cancelled because of freezing rain so only three students made it to class. J was astonished when I told him it was his, “Really? For me?” He held the book tightly for a moment before slipping it carefully into his backpack. And then, he told us his story. Just us, in a small circle in our little room in the library, drinking tea and sharing truths because of a book that made someone feel a little less alone in the world. One magic book.

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26 thoughts on “Book magic

  1. What a wonderful post and story. Your gesture is something J will never forget. Books are so cool and can be life changing, for sure. I have a friend who once told me she gave her guitar to a homeless man who asked to play it on the city street. That stuck with me and I always wished to do something similar. You have 🙂

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  2. Okay, this one almost made me cry. It is a constant joy to see a book in the hands of a young person and to read about the moment of adoption, a connection made, is singularly precious. Thank you, Amanda.
    Also, you have illustrated yet another reason librarians (and teachers) are so important to a society that values freedom of thought.

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  3. Wow! What an amazing story. I just book talked this book to a group of HS students because I knew it would appeal to some. My hunch was that it could be “the right book” for someone. I love that your friend let J keep it. What a gift you have both given him. – Krista

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    1. Aw, thanks, Stacey. Much of my thinking about my at-risk students and reading has been reinforced by what I read at Two Writing Teachers and from my slicing companions. I’ve been teaching for 20 years & my practice has been transformed (again) in the past two years. Next year: focus on writing (in the at-risk high school classroom – heaven give me strength!)

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  4. A random act of kindness always brings such joy. I am glad that J found something important that has become his own. Small moments like the one you mentioned make for such fond memories that teachers cherish. Perhaps, this child will become a lifelong reader because of what you offered, Amanda.

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  5. I had a similar moment last week when a student who had arrived a month earlier checked out to move back to Utah. She came in to say goodbye and return a book. I told her to keep the book. “Are you sure?” She asked. I reminded her I’m retiring. She said, “You know me do well” and left with “Yaqi Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.”

    I haven’t read “Hey, Kiddo” yet. Maybe I should get it for a special student.

    May good things return to your generous friend and to you.

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  6. I love happy book stories! Thank you for sharing this one especially. There are so many ways to establish relationships with students and your example offers a few: offering your students a variety of texts to choose from, truly allowing and validating their choices, letting them share in their own time what their reading is offering them, making sure that this student would have continued access to a book he was enjoying, providing the warmth and safety in the small group for him to share his story. All those details and more add up and deliver an impact the extends far beyond the length of a school year. I am grateful not only for this student but for all the other ones who enjoy the benefit of your kind attention to their whole selves and their flourishing through reading and care.

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    1. Kids really do love them. I’ve been trying to get into graphic novels this year & I have to say that I’m better at understanding the appeal. I still prefer a book with all the words, but graphic novels are starting to make more sense to me… after reading a couple dozen… sigh.

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  7. Ooo… that moment. Makes me think of the books that disappear from our class library that I fret about briefly and then wish well in their new homes. To give gifts *intentionally* from the library when I notice a special connection made, now that’s got me musing.

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  8. I have a boy in my class who just doesn’t seem to “connect” with any book at all. He fusses over the whole process of finding one, then sits down and looks at it, and then tosses it aside…you know the drill. I really want him to connect with a genre, a series, anything at all. I’ve just realized that I haven’t given graphic novels the attention they deserve, but I also think he hasn’t discovered them. Your post makes me want to give them a chance in hopes of reaching this reluctant reader of mine. Thanks for always inspiring me!

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      1. Sorry haven’t been here in awhile! It’s 3rd grade, now going into 4th, of course! Would love recommendations!

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