Updated: Jan 16
We've had a rough week coming on top of a rough year. Some have suffered or overcome more than others. Some we've lost. To be sure, there are many people in our communities, nation and world who have endured even worse in previous years, but 2020, generally speaking, was a doozy. 2021, so far, has given indications of improvement but also hints of worse things to come.
So, just as in any year, but perhaps especially in this moment, I'm guessing we can all use a little hope. A nibble of a reminder of something better, something to look forward to, something to strive for, something to inspire or comfort us, something to just make us smile, or smile-cry. Picture books, like music and dance and walks in the woods, can be good for that.
Here's one of my favorites, as an example: Rain Before Rainbows, written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and illustrated by David Litchfield. The illustrations alone make me feel better. I would so love to pop into them. Where's Inkheart magic when you need it?
Hope, the verb in English, has roots in old Germanic languages that actually mean "to trust" or "to have confidence." Similarly, the root noun means "confidence in the future." Over time, it came to mean "to wish for or desire" something, as in something better. I like the original shades of meaning, which closely overlay the concept of faith (not necessarily a religious sentiment, act or choice). Right now, in this moment, we can choose to hope, to have trust in a better future, to have confidence not that things will passively get better but that we and others can help make them better. Many among us, from med techs and nurses to doctors to EMTs to grocery workers to postal workers and delivery people to employees and volunteers manufacturing masks and face shields to teachers to social workers and counselors to, have already chosen that hope. Each day, they do things to push forward and to improve. We all can, too.
I like to think of musicians, writers and other artists and entertainers as hope professionals, too. Although their work often reflects dark and difficult themes, the act of producing, of putting it out there, signifies some small trust that what they are doing connects with someone else and informs or inspires or enacts change. Maybe I'm just feeling overly philosophical.
Anyways, I've been at it on Bookshop.com again. If you need a little hope, or some words and art to inspire perseverance or trust, maybe take a peek at one or more of these wonderful titles. Some are funny. Some are serious. I'd like to think there's something for everyone in there. If you think I'm missing a title, pass it along. I'm happy to add.
(By the way, perseverance is one of those words I always need to double check when I write it. Right up there with vacuum.)
A fellow writer shared the book Most People, by Michael Leannah, in our online group this week. I hadn't read it before, but I found a video read-aloud of the book. I'm surprised by how much I am struggling with the message on its pages. (I object to the connection between "bad" words and doing "bad" things, but that's not what really shook me.) I'm sharing the video because it reminds me just how much our own capacity to hope--to trust--can be damaged by the actions and words of others. I'm hoping, a little at a time, I will be able to embrace its message again without my stomach-heart-jaw clenching in doubt. I suppose, too, that it reminds me that it's up to us to make that message true.
To follow that one up, I'm adding a read aloud of a favorite hopeful picture book that a dear friend turned me onto: All the World, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee. Breathe in the pages if you will. Breathe out whatever might be holding you back.
Finally, here's the trailer for Oliver Jeffers' new picture book, What We'll Build, which our new pup tried to chew up (our copy, not the video) but we rescued it ... and we're so glad we did.
May you feel a little better, a little more hopeful about something today.
Challenge: Mary Oliver has a poem for every moment, I think. Can you think of one for this moment? Send it to me, please.
Also, apparently, I'm not the only one thinking about hopeful books. Here's a great list of MG reads from Brightly.