We are plugging along through our novels, but the picture books in Round One of the Eyre Battle of the Books have all arrived and are being snapped up by everyone. They really are wonderful.
One in particular grabbed me and I can't stop thinking about it.
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers:
This book is about wonder and creativity—how essential it is for each of us to regularly do something intoxicatingly inspiring or creative, even something as simple as reading a book.
The story begins with a little girl listening to her grandfather read aloud. The picture cleverly shows the grandfather picturing what he's reading about quite literally (the solar system, plants, trees, flowers), while the girl is imagining the impossible (a ship falling off a flat world, a whale saying hello while she's taking a swim).
And then the girl's grandfather dies. The girl takes her heart and puts it in a bottle. Her curiosity, her imagination, her desires to think about the world around her fade away, and she grows into an adult without much inspiring going on inside her at all.
Until she meets a little girl, who, through her impulsive questioning, helps the woman take her heart out of the bottle. The curiosity returns. The last spread is amazing, and I am risking ruining it for you all by describing it, but I have to. It shows the woman, sitting in the chair her grandfather sat in while reading to her. Interestingly enough, she is not reading a book to the little girl or to any child. She is reading a book to herself, and her imagination is going wild. She has found herself again. (I am not doing this book justice in my cursory summary. You must read it for yourselves.)
The picture could have shown the woman reading to a child, giving us the message that, as adults, we can regain our curiosity only through our children, that curiosity and wonder do not belong to the old.
But that is exactly the opposite of what Jeffers is trying to say. Curiosity and imagination belong to us all—and what is one of the best ways to make our curiosity grow and our imaginations soar?
Here are three links I love that show how important creativity is for children—and for us all.
This is a link to a story about ten-year-olds in New York composing incredible music for the New York Philharmonic:
This is a link to a wonderful two minute video about our creative potential:
Watch it and be prepared to be inspired.
And here is a music video that pokes fun at our current system of testing, testing, testing in the public schools—to the detriment of the arts:
My favorite verse in this song goes like this:
Thinking's important, it's good to know how
And someday you'll learn to, but someday's not now
Go on to sleep now; you need your rest!
Don't think about thinking, it's not on the test
Sam and I were having a discussion the other day about the strategies being taught to kids to prepare them for the test. When looking for the main idea in a passage, for example, they are taught to look over the words in the passage and see what words are used most often. This sounds very logical—very astute—but I picture a child not even reading the passage. I picture a child just running their finger down the words, looking for the words used most often. They may get the answer right on that standardized, multiple-choice question, but have they thought about what they read? Have they grown from it? Have they learned anything? Are we teaching our children how to think?
Teach your children how to think. Give them the courage to do so, and even more importantly the desire!
Here are three other picture books from our first round of Battle of the Books that are also great imagination starters:
Ten Birds by Cybele Young (This book is sooooo clever and funny and brilliant.)
The Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton
That's How by Chris Niemann
Have any of you decided to join us? Let us know your picks and we'll put them in Round Two!