Leon’s Story

Leon's Story101 page autobiography

by Leon Walter Tillage

When Matt and I moved together from second grade to third, I decided that if I was going to ask my class to record their reading, I should do it too. And I should do it in a thorough enough way that I would feel comfortable sharing it as a model of reading records and what you can learn from them with my class.

I began recording my reading in earnest that year.  I have ever since.  It is fun to look back at the summary and consider a “reading year.” I sort by genre – adult and children’s.  The first year I noticed I was I was missing poetry.  I set a goal to fill that hole, but I didn’t.  I don’t read books of poetry.  Maybe I don’t know how – more likely I haven’t taken the time.

For four years I’ve been recording every book, choosing favorites for each year and considering how reading added and changed my life.  I felt fairly balanced as a reader until last year.   I read 78% fantasy combining both the children’s and adult books I’d read.   Fantasy?!?  I decided that I needed to focus on other genre, slow down and think.  My first move was to read Yes Chef a memoir by Marcus Samuelson.  Next I read The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro.  These books challenged me to think in new ways about my world – chasing flavors, creating rich exotic combinations to satisfy every palate; building layer upon layer upon layer of paint until the light and luminosity of the color radiates from the canvass.

I read to know myself better, differently and to understand our world more fully.  So my goal is to be more aware of what I read and why…

I read Leon’s Story, a collection of memories from his life growing up as a sharecropper’s son in the 1940’s.  Everyone should read this book. Can you imagine seeing your parents run down on the road?  Can you imagine seeing them run over and the only thing that happens to the driver is that his daddy forces him apologize the next day?  That’s it because the driver is white and Leon, black.  “Boys will be boys.”  Can you imagine walking home from school always listening for the sound of the bus, always ready to run, always ready to shield the little kids? Always feeling fearful because the bus driver of the white kids’ bus might drive by so they could throw stones at you or even stop so they could chase and  beat you.  I knew things were not good, but I never could imagine those things.  Leon’s stories add depth to my understanding in a way that only someone’s real story can.  Racism is a terrible thing – made worse without real understanding.   Leon’s Story reveals this with gentle grace that will fill you full of wonder and determination to make kindness and appreciation of people a priority.

A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Salva Dut, an eleven year old boy, lives in southern Sudan, in the Dinka tribe. A revolutionary war rages throughout the country, and on one very sad day, the war hits his home village while he is at school and he gets separated from his family. He has no choice to walk away from the fighting with a group of unknown people, and from there he runs into numerous obstacles and barriers, but he also triumphs in small ways.

Linda Sue Park makes this a dual novel, adding in the story of a young girl named Nya, her family, and their troubles with water in 2007 – while Salva and his journey starts 1985.

Do not be fooled into thinking that this is a beginner’s read by it’s length of 115 pages. It is a quick read, but it is a boom that makes you keep thinking about it for days after, especially after the very special and fitting ending.

Based on Salva Dut’s real story, Linda Sue Park makes you think and think and think. I hope you read this incredible novel.

Linda Sue Park’s Website is here: www.lindasuepark.com. Ms. Park is a writer of a few different types of books, and you can view them all in the ‘books’ section of that website!

The Plant Hunters

The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the EarthTrue Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth

by Anita Silvey

The Plant Hunters begins: “One got eaten by tigers in the Philippines: one died of fever in Ecuador: one drowned in the Orinoco River; one fell to his death in Sierra Leone. Another survived rheumatism, pleurisy and dysentery while sailing the Yangtze River in China, only to be murdered later. A few ended their days in lunatice asylums; many simply vanished into thin air.” From that beginning you simply have to read why and how all those things could happen to people how love plants. Plants!? Well, that was just in the past – in the beginning when people were exploring the world and mapping things out you think, and then you keep reading. Yes, it was in the past, but perhaps not as far back as you think and it is still going on. Not with such dire consequences, but still with risk and danger and sacrifice.  I love plants and am very interested in them. It is interesting to think about the role of plants in our world’s development and history.  We might take them for granted, but their importance to our survival is clear.

It is interesting to learn of how plants were identified in the past and how they were named and catalogued. It is even more interesting to know how they were valued and smuggled and secreted from place to place for pleasure, profit and gain. You can visit arboretums to see how these collections have developed and been cared for all these years.  It makes you wonder about the plants that still wait to be discovered today. Silvey tells us: “Today’s ‘plant geeks’ share the traits of those who came before them: a love of the natural world, the thrill of discovery and travel, and a dedication to botany and science.” They are going on exciting adventures in search of the “beautiful, unusual, useful or rare plant.” It could even be you.