Books Lead to Hope

It was been a strange year and a half.  I don’t think anyone can argue that.  There have been many challenges ~ I’m getting used to the isolation … he’s so stressed … she’s a little more clingy, but I guess that’s predictable … I’m just so weary.  There have also been many opportunities ~ I’ve had time to slow down and think … she’s discovered a new passion … he’s spent lots of time adventuring in the woods … I have different options now than I had before.

Reading, “I don’t know if I can begin again” in my friend’s email last week made me think more closely about recent past, and what the future will offer.  I tried to think of ways to share HOPE with her.  Of course I thought of book….  How can books help?  Where can we find glimmers of light and sparks of joy to lighten our burdens and change our perspective.

Amanda Gordon was certainly a beacon of hope when I first “met” her at the inauguration.  Her new book, Change Sings, illustrated by Loren Long is a call to action.  Each step and action, no matter how large or small makes a difference.  We can change the world as long as we don’t “fear change coming” and choose to “sing along.”  This gorgeous book celebrates hope, music and care.  Each time I read it I discover something new.  What will you find when you read it?  What will you hear as you listen to the music of change?  How will this book lead you into your future?

I discovered the positivity of Chloe Wade in her books  Heart Talk and Where to Begin a few years ago.  When I learned of her new picture book, What the Road Said, I suspected it would be a good one.  It is. This book, all about life’s choices, is for readers of every age and every stage of the quest.  We are all on a road and in every second of our journey there are myriad options to take.  What can we do?  How will it go?  This book is hopeful, encouraging and realistic.  Each page offers advice and comfort.  Here are two:

WHICH WAY DO I GO?  That is your choice to make, said the Road.  BUT WHAT IF I GO THE WRONG WAY?  The Road curved a little, almost as if it was giving me a hug, and said, Do not worry.  Sometimes we go the wrong way to the right way.  WHAT IF I GET SCARED?  That is okay.  You are brave, said the Road.  BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BRAVE? I asked, The Road guided me through a very gloomy forest.  Even though I was frightened, I trusted the Road, and as I took one step, and then another step after that, the Road gently whispered, Being brave is when you are afraid of doing something, but you do it anyway.  Do not let what scares you keep from continuing on your path …

Be Strong by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hall looks at strength from many different angles.  Strength climbs rock walls.  Strength helps others when life is tough.  Strength keeps promises.  Strength makes things happen.  Strength can guide you toward making your world a better place.  “Together we can be strong.”

Finally, I Am Courage ~ A book of Resilience by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter Reynolds is an exploration of bravery.  The end flap shares: “…real courage comes from feeling scared and facing what challenges us anyway.  When our minds tell us “I can’t,” we can look inside ourselves and find the strength to say, “Yes, I CAN!”

These books have all been published in the last six months.  It can’t be a coincidence.  Clearly we are searching for words of encouragement, sparks of joy and glimmers of hope.  What books add light to your life?  If you don’t mind, share them in a comment so we can grow this list.  Books like this are a comfort.

Happy Reading! 📚


After reading Six Crimson Cranes, I decided to reread The Six Swans collected by the Brothers Grimm and Birdwing by Rafe Martin.  The Six Swans is an odd tale.  I wondered about that lessons that could be found in it and I discovered there were many.  Be mindful of those you are with.  Value collaboration over competition.  Trust your gut ~ if it doesn’t feel right, pay attention.  Dedication and determination have their own rewards.  A curse, or a blessing ~ it’s your choice.  Girls, small and unnoticed have remarkable strength and capabilities.

I noticed those themes in Elizabeth Lim’s wonderful book, and I found them echoed in Birdwing.  This is the story of Ardwin, the youngest brother.  The one whose shirt remains incomplete as the six-year curse comes to an end. Because of this, he alone, remains part swan.  The other princes and the princess – his brothers and sister – go off to lead their parts of the kingdom and thrive.  Ardwin’s wing causes him to be seen as a freak.  He is bullied and shunned by some in the court.  Ardwin is different and he has many challenges.  With the bad, comes some good.  The wing allows Ardwin to experience nature more fully and understand the ways of animals more completely.  While his brothers want nothing more to do with their swan past, Ardwin remains connected to the flock.  As he grows, Ardwin seeks to understand his place and purpose.  He begins a journey to discover his personal truth.  On the way he loses his life-long friends and gains new understanding of the human race. He is rejected completely by some and accepted fully by others.  He discovers that leadership is not rooted in power and authority, but in service and wisdom.

Reading Birdwing made me wonder about hope, longing and our human tendency to consider “what-if.”  Have you ever considered magic – how did it come into the world and why did it leave?  Ivnuk’s the walrus parting words  struck a chord, “You never know how things will come out once you start, do you?”  It seems to me that starting is the important thing. What journey can you start today?


Six Crimson Cranes

I know it’s not good practice to judge a book by its cover, but I did.  This cover art intrigued me.  And what’s better, the gorgeous cover is a clear nod to the writing inside.  In Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim has deftly woven East Asian folklore, dynamic characters and suspenseful adventure creating the vibrant Kingdom of Kiata.  Lim’s writing filled my senses and captured my heart from start to finish.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

“The bottom of the lake tasted like mud, salt and regret.  The water was so thick it was agony keeping my eyes open, but than the great gods I did.  Otherwise, I would have missed the dragon.”

So begins our journey with Princess Shiori’ama.  She is fiercely independent, dedicated to her family, impulsive, rebellious and … magic?!  How can this be?  Magic in a kingdom where magic is banned?!  Will her secret be discovered? Will  she be cursed and exiled, discovered and burned, safe and hidden?  None or all?

Silently Shiori travels across her kingdom to discover what fate has in store.  What can be completed?  What can be undone?  What is yet to finish?  Six Crimson Cranes is a joy you won’t want to miss… or to end.  Be patient.  The next part of the tale is planned for 2022.  I can’t wait!

Beginning Again

“Hi!”  It’s been a long time since I have written on this blog.  Ten years ago I learned about blogging when one of my students, a fellow book lover, asked me if I’d join him in beginning a book blog for kids.  I was game and so we began meeting twice a week to learn about blogging (with the support of our awesome tech teacher, Meghan Wyman) and to share books.

When we began in 2011 we wrote this on our About page:

We’re a teacher (teaching grade 3) and a student (6th grade) writing book reviews. We started reading books together 4 years ago and have been sharing ever since. We thought it would be great to have a place to go to find out about books and get recommendations. Historical Fiction and Realistic Fiction are our favorite genres right now. But we like to read all types of books too. Right now we are reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book Two – The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood. We LOVED the book The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. (We’re HUGE fans of the series!)

Ten years later in 2021 I added:

I’m a retired teacher who loves how reading adds to life.  Reading expands my life and helps me become a better person.  Reading teaches me about the world and the people in it.

I always have a book (or two or three…) with me wherever I go.  In the last few months, I’ve longed to share what I’m reading with others.  Books are better when shared and discussed.  So here goes…again.  If you find your way to this blog, let me know by subscribing or leaving a comment.  If you’ve got a book to share, please do.  Reading brings me joy, deeper understanding and renewed curiosity.  What does reading do for you?     Brenda

It’s been a wearying year for a number of reasons – all the ones you know from experiencing the trials of 2020/21, combined with my own.  I’m not in the classroom anymore.  I’m caring for my recently widowed, 90-year old mom and my 3- and 5-year old grandchildren .  I’m busy but, thankfully, I still have time for reading and journaling.  

Luckily, I’ve been able to stay connected to past students.  We write letters (no internet at mom’s). One recent note made me pause.  The writer told me he was feeling stressed. I thought, “Oh, you too?!”  I wondered what I could do to change that.  “Maybe,” I thought.  “I’d find myself smiling more, and sighing less if I started sharing books more often.  It’s what I love.  Maybe reading and sharing would reduce the worry and the weariness.”

So, here I am revamping the blog Matt helped begin 10 years ago.  Let’s see how it goes!

Good Books, Good Times!  poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins is the book that first came to mind with this blogging idea.  I keep these poems “in my pocket.”  I read them so often with my classes, they are a part of me.  “I met a dragon face to face…”  “Books to the ceiling, books to the sky…”  “Good books, good times, good stories, good rhymes…”  This collection shares the joys and comforts found through reading.  They share how books and reading transport you to new places, fill you with new ideas and support you as true friends do.  Savor them all and enjoy!


Happy Reading!📚